To say that Marvel and Netflix’s latest joint is great would not do it justice Jessica Jones is one of the best shows on TV right now and possibly Netflix’s greatest creation yet. Yes I’m not pulling any punches here Jessica Jones is better then Daredevil and it’s not even close. Jessica Jones can easily be considered equals to the first season of True Detective or Breaking Bad for it’s power to bring you in.
In many ways Jessica Jones plays from the same playbook as it’s predecessor Daredevil however unlike Daredevil which at times felt constrained by its premise and setting Jessica Jones positively revels in it. The noire style of the story fits Jessica more then the dark and gritty crime drama ever did with Matt Murdock/Daredevil. This is the new shows first great advantage over its predecessor it’s hero is just plain better, with Jessica’s biting wit and harder edge she is a more believable and relatable a character then the low key and perpetually brooding Matt Murdock ever was.
Furthermore Jessica is played to near perfect by Kristen Ritter who I’ll admit I was skeptical at first. However her performance is sure to quite any fans wondering if she had the chops to carry a series. If this was any other genre then a Marvel superhero show Ritter’s performance (along with David Tennant’s Kilgrave) would be on any Emmy watchers short list and perhaps may yet garner some attention.
However beyond Jessica herself the show is filled with amazing characters equally performed with great skill. What is great about many of these characters is they don’t fit into the standard archetypes you associate with the genre at hand. Carrie Ann Moss’ Jeri Hogarth is a perfect example despite being allied with Jessica for the majority of the show she is shown to be a morally bankrupt and thoroughly untrustworthy woman, always looking out for herself more then anyone around her. Indeed in almost any other series she would have been a villain. On the other side of the aisle we have the introduction of Luke Cage an unbreakable man with a shattered heart.
Without getting into any major spoilers Luke and Jessicia’s relationship provides the heart of the series. However like everything in this series it is a sick and dark version of what it could be. This is because unlike Daredevil that never really fully embraced it’s darkness aside from gratuitous violence Jessica Jones dives right in head first. It takes itself to places far worse then Daredevil ever did where issues such as substance abuse, child abuse, and rape are not exceptions but the norm and unlike its predecessor refuses to lighten things up with a random ninja attack. No when Jessica Jones starts going dark it only gets worse until the end. The shows wholesale embracement and non-judgmental take on its horrible reality and less then heroic heroes gives it a humanity that Daredevil was sorely lacking.
This is because at Jessica Jones core is a villain that unlike Daredevils kingpin is always present even when he’s not on the screen. Unlike Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin who dominated his scenes with raw emotion David Tennant’s Kilgrave doesn’t even need to be on screen. One of the great feats of Jessica Jones early episodes is how little Kilgrave is shown with how big a presence he has in the series. It’s truly a masterwork of story telling.
Looking back it’s strange I simultaneously feel that Tennant’s Kilgrave is both and better and Inferior villain to D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. As Kingpin’s performance was clearly the superior one while Kilgrave was the more menacing and influential villain. Perhaps its to do with the structure of the story however this is one area Daredevil nominally comes out ahead. That being said though Kilgrave is still the second best villain in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed it just speaks to the power of these Netflix series creative teams that they dominate in an area that MCU movies are generally so lacking in.
Beyond that is as Jessica Jones moves on the stakes she is playing for become increasingly high. This is because Jessica doesn’t hide behind a mask, right from the start is was Kilgrave vs. Jessica and anyone she is connected to is a potential dead body waiting to happen. Unlike in Daredevil there was a palpable sense anyone can die and likely somebody will end up dying. This granted Jessica Jones the ability to ramp up the tension without needing to up the spectacle of the whole thing. It was a narrative balancing act the creative team pulled off admirably.
Finally in many ways Jessica Jones was just more fun to watch, by setting up the stakes early and raising them every step of the way the show was engrossing. It pulled you in and never let you go; for me Daredevil took about four perhaps five episodes to “click” Jessica Jones did it in 50 minutes. Even with twists and turns sometimes as many as two an episode Jessica Jones always made perfect sense and never really stretched the realm of possibility. Despite the potential of Kilgrave falling into a very cartoony villain role any anime fan has seen a million times (“I planned it all along, muhahahaha”) he never did instead evolving into a very complex, despicable, and kind of a pitiable and even sympathetic character.
In the end Jessica Jones was just better. Better stories, better characters, better acting, this doesn’t take away from Daredevils accomplishment it just shows how strong an show Jessica Jones is. However even if you disagree with the central premise of my post you have to be as excited as I am for what comes next. As Luke Cage promises to be as an intense ride as anything we have seen before. For me Hell’s Kitchen is quickly becoming the best corner of the MCU.