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TV Review: Marvel's Jessica Jones - Season 1 Episode 1 "AKA Ladies Night"

11.15.2015

EPISODE 1: "AKA Ladies' Night"

SYNOPSIS: After a tragic ending to her short-lived Super Hero stint, Jessica Jones is rebuilding her personal life and career as a detective who gets pulled into cases in New York City.

BREAKDOWN: (The following is a spoiler-free review of the first episode of Marvel's Jessica Jones. Beginning November 20th, we will post one review each day for every episode of the first season of the series).

Marvel and Netflix have done it again. After the stellar debut of Daredevil earlier this year, Marvel Studios continued developing their street level superheroes with the female-led Jessica Jones. With the benchmark set very high by the Drew Goddard-created series, Jessica Jones not only had to forge it's own identity and voice but deliver a main character who is not nearly as recognized by mainstream audiences as Daredevil. But, creator Melissa Rosenberg has put together a series that avoids being just about a female superhero. In fact, the gender of the main character becomes a non-factor as you watch this pilot episode.

Set in the same Hell's Kitchen as Daredevil, Jessica Jones exists in a world where superheroes are referred to as gifted or freaks. Humanity knows those with powers exist in the world but those that are not Avengers are just below the surface of what common people accept or believe in. Jessica Jones is one of those superpowered people. Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where powers are explained as being the result of alien artifacts and technology, Jessica Jones was just born with superstrength. But, like Tony Stark and other more recognizable heroes, Jessica is broken and troubled and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and drinks excessively. She has a smartass attitude and doesn't seem to care about anyone.

If that makes the character seem incredibly unlikeable, the quieter scenes showing how she functions alone and deals with the trauma of an event from her recent past, Jessica becomes a far more human and realistic character than we have seen from most Marvel Studios efforts. She has problems with relationships, professionally and socially. Her voice-over narration through the episode hints at her disregard for the feelings of others but also balances out the excellent performance from Krysten Ritter. Ritter imbues Jessica with a strength that could put her on par with Thor or Captain America and a qucik wit that would rival even Iron Man. Her actual super abilities are only hinted at in this first episode because this series is truly more about the woman versus the hero.

The supporting cast here is very good with Carrie-Ann Moss as Jessica's part-time employer Jeri Hogarth, Mike Colter as bar owner and love interest Luke Cage, and Rachael Taylor as Jessica's best friend (and potentially future Hellcat) Patsy Walker. Each of them adds more layers to Jessica's character and her recent run-in with Kilgrave. David Tennant is, like Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin, more of a lurking shadow. The comic book character of Kilgrave, known also as The Purple Man, has the ability to control the minds of people to do his bidding. That power is showcased in this first episode and hints at just how Jessica ends up running a private detective agency.

Unlike other Marvel films and series, Jessica Jones does not serve as an origin story. Rather, this show puts us right into her tale and we have to catch up as we go. It is a risky move for a show about a character unknown to most audiences, but it also helps rookie viewers enjoy this as a series of it's own rather than a conenction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. The showrunners could have easily filled this show with references and callbacks to Daredevil but they instead wisely allow this show to exist as it's own creation. Make no mistake, Jessica Jones is clearly a comic book series but it is a series unlike any you have ever seen.

Jessica Jones is the definition of street level. We see New York City through the dark alleys of Hell's Kitchen, the dimly lit fire escapes, and the glowing skyline of the buildings. This is not a pretty show but it is incredibly atmospheric. The jazzy soundtrack sells this like a noir straight out of Hollywood's golden age with the narration from Ritter giving the impression that this could have been produced fifty years ago and not felt out of place amongst the works of John Huston, Otto Preminger, or Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, if this series debuted with no mention of Marvel Comics, I would still be praising it equally as I am now.

Jessica Jones also is notable for presenting more sexual content than we have seen in any previous Marvel property. The level of profanity and violent content is on par with the first season of Daredevil, but the sexual nature seems to be more explicit without featuring any actual nudity. The nature of Jessica's relationship with Kilgrave as well as Luke Cage means that this show has to focus on the carnal nature of the characters. It is done in a way that works for the show's purpose while still feeling like you saw more than you thought you did. The first hour of the series also closes with a gut-punch of a twist that will definitely tell you just how intense the showdown between Jessica Jones and Kilgrave will be by season's end.

Viewers are going to be very divided by Jessica Jones. Existing MCU fans looking for something similar to the big screen offerings featuring The Avengers are going to find something the polar opposite of those movies. Fans of Daredevil may also find themselves watching something unlike that series. But, Jessica Jones is here to tell the world that Marvel has delivered their first project led by a female superhero and she kicks serious ass. This is a superhero series for people who don't like superheroes. It is dark, gritty, and all sorts of great television. I cannot wait to see more.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: None.

Final Verdict:

NEXT ON JESSICA JONES: Episode 2 "AKA Crush Syndrome" - Review to debut November 20th.

Source: JoBlo.com

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