Monday, April 11, 2016

Jessica Jones: Season One

I wanted to watch Jessica Jones mostly because David Tennant was in it. Same reason I watched Broadchurh or Gracepoint. The fact that it's a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just a bonus.
I've been a fan of Marvel Comics for a very long time, but Jessica Jones wasn't a character I was particularly familiar with back when I was still reading comics. I knew a bit about her husband, Luke Cage, and her (MCU) best friend, Trish Walker, but I didn't know much about her. After watching the first season, I might have to go back and learn more about the character.
The show has a pretty interesting setup. The titular character is a super-powered Private Investigator with a mysterious past and an obvious drinking problem. Spoilers inbound.
The season begins with Jessica taking a job from the Schlotmans' who are looking for their daughter, Hope. Throughout the course of her investigation, Jessica discovers that the man who kidnapped Hope is the same one who had kidnapped her in the past. A man named Kilgrave (Played by David Tennant) with the power to control peoples actions. She wants to flee town, but she winds up rescuing Hope and bringing her back to her parents. Unfortunately, the girl still has orders, and she kills her parents.
Jessica's next order of business is to try to prove that the girl was under mind-control when she killed her parents.
This brings me to a massive plot-hole I overlooked while I was watching the series. Nobody believes that Kilgrave can mind control people even though Loki mind-controlled loads of people in The Avengers. We live in the age of the internet, there would have been pictures and video, and stories about that plastered on the internet within seconds. Literally seconds. If people didn't believe the first claims of Loki mind-controlling people, by the time the hundredth, or the thousandth story came out, even if the government didn't comment on it, there wouldn't be many people who thought it was fake, especially after a big green man, a dude in powered armor, a literal Norse God, a walking flag with a shield and a pair of gimmick soldiers fought off an alien invasion coming through a freaking wormhole above New York City. And you know something? That's not even half of what's happened in the past four years. A building disappeared, an army of robotic men dropped a city in Europe, SHIELD was disbanded, helicarriers crashed around the world, Tony Stark's house was destroyed by an army of terrorists, people were literally blowing up all over the world, a man with a silver arm rampaged through a city blowing up cars, Inhumans and mutants have been popping up left and right around the world, and a man in a devil suit has been running around Hell's Kitchen beating up gang-members and taking down a city-wide conspiracy to rule New York. Literally anything is possible. People should know this by now. For how well Daredevil used and acknowledged media coverage of events from the rest of the MCU to affect the story. This is especially odd, since the characters make use of the internet on multiple occasions to obtain information. I know that some of the points the characters make about how people will literally make up any excuse to try and get away with crime, but they shouldn't be dismissing the idea offhand, especially people who know people who have superpowers. 
Jessica convinces her sometimes-boss who's a lawyer, Jerri Hogarth to take the case in exchange for digging up dirt which will let Jerri divorce her (No, the character was not a woman in the comics) wife without giving her any assets.
Meanwhile, Jessica begins a relationship with local bartender and superpowered invincible dude, Luke Cage (Played by  Mike Colter). While Jessica was under Kilgrave's command, she killed Luke's wife.
Eventually, Jessica figures out that Kilgrave's major weakness is being put to sleep, so she steals a bunch of heavy-duty anesthetics to knock him out with. She also teams up with one of Kilgrave's former minions, a cop named Will Simpson to capture him so she can get a confession out of him and clear Hope's name. After a few trials and errors, they manage to get Kilgrave into their trap and on-camera. They locate and bring in his parents to try and talk him into confessing, but that and Jeri disabling the electro-shock system in the cell allows Kilgrave to escape.
Kilgrave commandeers Jeri's car and makes her take him to a doctor to patch up his gunshot wounds from the escape, so she takes him to her wife. Eventually, Kilgrave makes Jeri's wife try and kill her, but Jeri's mistress shows up and kills the wife.
Despite this and other setbacks, Jessica manages to finally catch up to Kilgrave after the situation with Hope is made moot and kill him. She is then left in a position where she may eventually be defended by Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock.
Aside from the aforementioned massive plot-hole (Which I can only presume must have been a massive oversight on the part of Marvel) this season was pretty good. I didn't even notice it at the time because it's only brought up by a caller on Trish's show and barely mentioned at all later.
I will say this however. The show has no idea what it's going for in terms of plot at times. Will gets hospitalized at one point and starts taking Super-Soldier pills to keep him going after Kilgrave murders a bunch of his friends. The pills wind up driving him crazy and Trish is forced to help Jessica take him down. This is after Will and Trish became intimate, and bonded over their mutual ideals. After they deal with Will, the people who gave him his pills take him away and this is never brought up again.
Then there's Kilgrave. Kilgrave is a great villain, and his moral ambiguity combined with the characters tendency to be a magnificent bastard makes him incredibly entertaining to watch. David Tennant is part of the reason the character is so great. His charisma helps sell the role like nothing else. It's just awesome to see him playing a villain again, and some of his quips are just so freaking funny. The problem is that they couldn't seem to figure out how they wanted to portray the character. They go from mildly sympathetic, childlike woobie who never learned any better to irredeemably purely sadistically evil at multiple points in the season. Almost like there were two writers fighting over how they wanted to characterize him and they didn't have anyone stopping them from mucking up the tone of the show. There's an entire episode dedicated to Jessica teaching Kilgrave how to be a hero, with him taking a liking to it before she betrays him and captures him. This seems to be setting up a situation where she's at least partially responsible for his reign of terror afterwards, but Jessica never appears to care about this, despite feeling responsible for the death of Luke's wife despite being under Kilgrave's control.
At one point, Jessica and company find a bunch of videos of Kilgrave as a child being experimented upon and tortured by his parents. After Jessica finds his parents, they give a story which not only contradicts what Kilgrave told her about them, but also what she'd seen in the videos. Yes, they're pretty much terrified of him, but we have no reason to believe that their story or Kilgrave's is the correct one. Supposedly they were trying to cure him of the virus that made him able to control people (Yeah, that's totally something that could happen. That's not less believable than actual telepathy) but the things we see in the videos make them seem like they were actively trying to encourage this, and Jessica, who's supposed to be one of the least trusting people in the whole MCU, just believes them right off.
That's before we come to Jessica and Kilgrave's relationship. Kilgrave brings up a lot of things he'd done for Jessica while she was with him, and she basically dismisses it as him projecting. He also brings up times when he's let his control lapse to see what she'd do, and rather than going straight with his version of the story, thus making their relationship more complex and interesting, they make it so Jessica actually did try to escape and Kilgrave made her cut her ear before stopping. This seems like a bit of a cop-out when the season so far has done its best to try and make the actions of every other character seem morally grey as opposed to black and white, yet they seem almost determined to make Jessica seem like the put upon hero and Kilgrave the unequivocal villain. I know he's not supposed to be totally sympathetic, but they did their best to make the audience like him without actually paying off his character-arc. I was expecting to see something along the lines of Jessica actually being a willing partner to Kilgrave up until he made her kill Luke's wife and then convincing herself that he was always controlling her all of the time. It would have made for a nice angle on the psychological end, since Jessica is obviously a bit unstable already thanks to the death of her parents and her abusive step-mother. This would have also placed more responsibility onto Jessica's shoulders to justify her sheer levels of self-loathing and guilt. Aside from that though, I don't mind how it turned out. The characterization of Kilgrave and Jessica became massively unfocused by the end of the season, but overall it's still a pretty good show. The other characters however are pretty consistent, which is good.
This brings me to the amazing cast. Jessica is played by Krysten Ritter, who brings across the characters sarcastic self-loathing perfectly. Then there's David Tennant, who's awesome as Kilgrave for all the reasons I've previously mentioned. Mike Colter really manages to sell the "retired hero" sort of thing that I think they were going for with this version of Luke Cage. Wil Traval is good as ex-soldier and current cop Will Simpson. He's a tough son of a gun and seems like he genuinely feels bad about what he did while under Kilgrave's control. It's just a shame he had to be written out of the show.
Rachael Taylor works well as Trish Walker, the former child-star with a traumatic upbringing she'd like to forget. I'm not really sure what else I can say about most of the other members of the supporting cast.
However, there is one specific stand-out that I want to bring up. Eka Darville is in this series as Jessica's Neighbor Malcom Ducasse. Eka Darville is one of my very favorite actors. For those who don't know, Eka Darville played Scott Truman, the Red Ranger in one of my favorite television series of all time, Power Rangers RPM. Eka Darville, like the others in the RPM cast is a tremendously talented actor, who has been criminally underutilized. He's got a great range, and at this point I'm almost convinced that he can do anything and make it great. The sheer gulf between Scott and Malcom is astounding, with Scott being the confident leader type who tries to find the best approach to a situation, and Malcom being this formerly bright and sunny character with noble ideals who was drug into the Kilgrave conflict against his will, forced to become a drug-addict and subsequently forced to overcome it. Malcom does dark things that he knows is right, but it eats himself up inside to the point where it actually causes Jessica's team some trouble, while Scott was the moral center of his team, not because he wanted to be or because he was just there to fill that role in the ensemble like some Rangers are, but because he knew what Corinth needed, and was able to fill that role better than almost anyone else could. For that reason, the characters are basically polar-opposites, as they display different emotions in different ways. Not even just emotions, but also entirely different body-language, tones of voice, method of speaking, gait, and everything. Where Scott had a confident stride, Malcom has a nervous sort of shuffle.
All in all, the story is pretty good and the characters are good as well. While they could have done with a lot tighter characterization of Kilgrave and Jessica, the show is still entertaining to watch, and interesting as they try and unravel the many mysteries within.
In the end, I give the first season of Jessica Jones an 8.1* rating. It has some troubles towards the end, but if you look past them you've got a dang good Neo-Noire series.

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