Sunday, January 17, 2016

I Just Finished Jessica Jones.



I know what you're thinking, "Congratulations Dave, we finished it weeks ago."

What can I say I'm an old school TV watcher.

I pretty much did the same thing with Daredevil.  I'm just not a binge watcher.  I like the episodic feel spread over several days or weeks.  Not that I haven't done it.  I caught up on the first season of "Penny Dreadful" a year ago in a weeks time basically because I couldn't stop watching it!

That's not to say Jessica Jones wasn't compelling.  It was.  In fact there was a string of episodes near the middle-end I refer to as it's "Golden Age."  (More on that later.)

Jessica Jones definitely is a different type of "Superhero" show.  First of all, it has a female protagonist.  That's hardly rare but at first blush I can only think of Supergirl with the lead hero as a female.  (These two shows are polar opposites.  Supergirl is slightly saccharine and full of sunshine while Jones is all about the angst and definitely dark.)

I had my trepidations about Jessica Jones too.  Respected critic, Joanna Robinson, comment on her Thought Bubble podcast that Jones "Just wasn't her type of superhero."  (To paraphrase Ms. Robinson.)  That set off alarm bells with me.  Also, I'm not much of a "street level" fan of that particular sub-genre of the comic book form.  I'm more of a Thor or Captain America guy.  What would call that level, world class? (Avenger class?)

Yes, I have familiarity with that "level."  I did grow up in the Frank Miller Daredevil era and I absolutely loved those comics.  I eagerly awaited that Netflix adaptation.  Sadly, I had to look up to see who Jessica Jones was.  Sorry!

So what did I think of Jessica Jones?





I thought it was pretty good and I give it a B+ overall.  (Somewhere Terry Matalas is slapping his forehead and sticking another pin in his Inter-dimensional Dave voodoo doll. I gave his freshman effort, 12 Monkeys, a B+ too.)

I noted earlier Jessica Jones is full of angst and to say they deliberately colored this show with a noirish palette would be an understatement.  That can be off-putting but if your into gloom, well,  you just won the lottery.




The embodiment of that great dollop of sorrow is Jessica herself as portrayed by Krysten Ritter.

The entire premise for season one is built around the guilt, shame and yes, sorrow as personified by Jessica Jones.  Jones has been pitted against an antagonist who literally has her in his thrall and compelled her to participate in some unspeakable acts including her own rape and the murder of an innocent.  To make matters worse, she was fully aware of her misdeeds yet she was wholly incapable of acting against them.

That's a pretty painful start and maybe that's what turned some people away.

"Jones" doesn't stop there either.  Jessica sets out to atone for her sins by taking a case (she's a P.I.) from two desperate parents only to locate the principle involved (their child) who ends up murdering the parents Jessica gets involved with in the first place.  The icing on that cake is it's all been arranged by the fiend that had Jones in his thrall to begin with.  Because he feels he has been wronged by her! (A stunning and clever plot twist that really pulled me into the series.)

Now would be a good time to speak of that "Golden Age" I referred to earlier.




Episodes 8, 9 and 10 are some of the best TV I've watched in the past year.  The truth is, the stakes that have been so carefully set up in the previous 7 episodes, many that some may have found too grim or a bit slow, explode in a 3 piece arc that set the entire series on it's ear.

They are brutal, shocking and ultimately fulfilling.  Sure the series slows down a bit as it reaches it's final conclusion and it is a little hamstrung by the set up for season 2.  

Don't let that stop you from watching "Jessica Jones."




It's also worthy to discuss the major characters of the show and by doing so I thought I'd grade them just for a little fun.

Krysten Ritter AKA Jessica Jones

A-

This one was tougher than I thought.  My original thinking was to grade Ritter on a "B" level.  How hard can it be to sulk all the time?  Then it occurred to me the dynamic that existed between the Jessica character and some of the other major players in the show.  It's actually pretty fascinating.

Yes, Jessica can be pretty dour (24/7) but how do the other characters interact with her and how does it define their own character arcs?  In asking this, I found out how, childhood friends, lovers, strangers, and even foes develop in the most captivating ways.

I credit Ritter in bringing the best out in her compatriots and or fellow characters.  It if wasn't for Jessica's laser focus, bulldog mentality and struggle with being a hero I don't think the rest of the bunch would have been half as interesting.




Rachael Taylor AKA Trish Walker

A

Thoroughly impressed with Rachael Taylor.  I was stuck where I had seen her before then it came to me she was in Transformers way back in 2007.   Guess I missed the rest of her career which is pretty sizable when it comes to her TV work.  My loss.



I was a bit mystified to start at the nature of the relationship between Trish and Jessica.  My mind spun wildly out of control and I considered all possibilities.  As the series unspooled we learned they shared a common childhood and and a traumatic past to boot.  This served to add a heartfelt depth to their relationship and it obviously continues into their adulthood.

It was great to see Taylor work off that dynamic.  Especially when there was a little role reversal and Trish got a chance to put on the hero boots on and bail Jessica out. I found their relationship to be tender, sincere and fiercely loyal.

There's talk Trish might eventually evolve into the hero, "Hellcat."  I hope not.  At least not for a while.  There is such a thing as superhero saturation and I think Jessica would be better served with a friend than another crime fighter.




Mike Colter AKA Luke Cage

A

(Sensing a trend here?)


What a bear of a man.  Seriously, this guy is a human boulder.  Which make the tender/sensual moments with Jessica all the more remarkable.   There was one line that stuck with me as Luke learned of Jessica's earlier perfidy, "You let me inside you."   The heartbreak of betrayal with someone you've been intimate with was achingly palpable.  Contrast that with the wrecking ball mentality Colter adopted when he also fell under the spell of Jessica's arch nemesis and you have a superb performance.

Okay, enough waiting, let's get to that arch nemesis.




 David Tennant AKA Kilgrave

A+

Man child, psychopath, jilted lover and stand up comedian.  David Tennant was them all.  In a word, brilliant.  (And I thought he was great in Broadchurch.)

Tennant's ability to transition from petulant child to shrill murderer was pitch perfect.  He made the ultimate antagonist for the perpetually morose Jessica.   He traipsed about with juvenile glee leaving a trail of human destruction in his wake .  No one was immune.

Well, except Jessica eventually.  And, aye, that's the rub.  Kilgrave's "power" was one of mind control and he used it with brutal efficiency.  If I understand it correctly, it was viral in nature and something he could emanate in close quarters.  (Which eventually grew wider and wider in scope.)  Jessica eventually became immune (not sure how, overexposure?) and turned the tables on him in the most touching and cleverest of moments.

Tennant was in 11 of the episodes (out of 13) but it still didn't seem enough.  His brief flirtation with being a hero was a delight and left you wanting more.  But sadly he will not be in season 2.   We'll have to look elsewhere for our fix and until then I remain firmly under his spell.


 

 Carrie Ann Moss AKA Jeri Hogarth

A

Is everyone yAAAwning at the A's I been handing out?  Sorry, they are well deserved.  

If there was ever a shark in the water it was Moss' Hogarth.  Just look at the above frame and you can get a sense of her character sizing up Jessica for a future meal.  Confident, self assured, hand on hip and dressed to the nines.  Moss takes measure of Jones likes something she wants to devour.

That's not a comment on her sexual proclivity but one never knows.  Her sexuality was one of desire but also opportunistic in nature.  If Hogarth could could take advantage of a situation to suit her needs she would do it with a flick of her shark skinned tail.

Moss' acting agility is reminiscent of physical work from the Matrix trilogy but her real acuity in the field dates back as far at Memento.  Her ability for deception, duplicity and naked treachery seemed chameleon in nature.  Even at the very end when exposed for her true self she turns that persona to her advantage and literally bails out Jones much to Jessica's stunned relief.

Hopefully Moss will make it back for season 2 of Jessica Jones.  She has a credit on IMDB for the first episode of Iron Fist so that is a good sign.


 


Eka Darville AKA Malcolm Ducasse

A

Screw it, everyone gets an A.  I'm always impressed when someone can replicate the ravages of drug use.  Darville was exceptional at this but it didn't end there.  When his character escaped the thrall of Kilgrave he became the sensitive peacemaker.  He brought the survivors together and showed a lot of heart.  He remained fragile yes, but at the very end showed the inner strength needed to, well, pick up the phone and decide to enter the fray.

Frail, valiant and courageous, Darville covered them all.  Welcome to the team Malcolm.






It won't be long before we see Jessica again.  She returns when she is added to the Defenders slated to come out on Netflix sometime in 2016.  Will she wear the skin tight costume Trish hilariously brought out for her?  Not if Jones has anything to say about it!

 

  















 











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