Marvel’s Jessica Jones – it’s pretty good


(Cross-posted from my Tumblr)

Score: 9/10

Jessica Jones has been on Netflix for a few days, and I made it halfway through already, mainly because “just one more episode” is one of the biggest lies people tell themselves. Anyway. Have a review.

Of course, as always, there are people who don’t like it, which is also completely fair. But probably the most hilarious bad reviews of Jessica Jones are the ones that claim the series is “unoriginal”, and that Daredevil was “refreshing” and compared to DD, JJ is boring.

Okay then.

I’m not bashing DD, that show was okay, but it wasn’t more than just that precisely because it was fairly unoriginal in its choice of protagonist! Jesus, how many “change the world, do good, and with great power comes great responsibility” heroes have we had these past few decades? Marvel’s franchises are full of them, starting with Captain America and Spiderman and ending with freaking Iron Man and Black Widow, who may have started out as a bad guy (in an origin story we never got to see because reasons) but ultimately is trying very hard to be a goody two-shoes hero like the others.

Jessica Jones is pretty much the first Marvel hero who isn’t behaving like all the other heroes before her. She is super-human, but she is also completely human, a quality that many Marvel heroes sorely lack. This is the first time in god knows how long that I have seen a hero I can really relate to because she isn’t depicted as some paragon of justice and virtue. Even Tony Stark, alcoholism and all, is always ultimately portrayed as A Good Guy. In Jessica Jones, we finally get to see the other side of having superpowers. People not trusting you, others expecting too much, and then the ones that just want to use you, all portrayed in varying shades of grey. No-one is completely perfect, and so far, also no-one has been shown as being irredeemably evil (though I have only watched until episode seven, so not sure how they will ultimately handle Kilgrave).

Maybe this surplus of “good” heroes took some enjoyment out of Daredevil for me. If there hadn’t been so many like him before, it wouldn’t have felt so boringly familiar. On his own, he’s an idealist who had terrible things happen to him but who wants to use his gift for good, to protect and defend his home, and I can totally get behind that sort of motivation. But after years of heroes just like him, I’m getting bored of that archetype. It was time for something new, and from what I’ve seen, both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage will have different sorts of heroes.

JJ isn’t perfect, either. For one, Luke plays a big role in the first half of the season, and if it turns out that Jessica (or someone like her, anyway) won’t be in Luke Cage in the same way, I will take it was what it probably is, yet another sign that Marvel thinks women can’t carry a show on their own, and that will impact how I watch both subsequent seasons of JJ and Luke Cage.
It’s also a bizarre-but-unsurprising example of Hollywood diversity, which is basically “add white women + black men”. Even I see that, and I live halfway across the globe from where the show is set. The extras and minor roles are a little bit better, I guess, but the main cast is weirdly uniform, in that almost all women are young, white and at least decently attractive, right down to Jessica’s weirdo neighbour, and if there are men who aren’t white guys, they are black and that’s about it.

All in all, though, I like the casting choices, and they managed to avoid the most obvious stereotypes.

The characters are refreshingly distant from the usual roles women get to play in superhero franchises. Of course there is the titular Jessica Jones, who gets to play a brawler with a traumatic past and a severe drinking problem who still manages to make a somewhat decent living for herself by using her powers in her job as a P.I. to have an advantage over the competition. And then there are Trish and Hogarth. God, I love Hogarth in all her self-centred, no-nonsense glory. I admit I didn’t know at first who Hogarth is in the comics (might have read that name somewhere, but couldn’t really place it), but with the way she’s written on the show, I immediately thought “They wrote that role for a dude, didn’t they?”. Turns out the original Hogarth is indeed a guy. I think I read somewhere that they wrote the role for Moss first, then added Hogarth’s name and Hogarth-ness as an afterthought, but it works. Breathes some new life into the archetype of her role. It adds a role where Moss can shine, and it adds a female character to the show who is allowed to be just as complex and complicated as the male characters that usually occupy this role. They didn’t even adjust her age (although she doesn’t seem to have kids, like comic-Hogarth does, but I suppose that would be too “radical”, right?). They also didn’t change the role of Hogarth’s wife into Hogarth’s husband, and she still has an affair with her female assistant. I’m still not entirely sure how the writers got that past the Marvel executives, but they did, and it’s amazing.

Trish is great in that she is both a badass and elegantly feminine. She wears dresses and skirts and also has an affair with a dude she barely knows and can hold her own in a fight (as long as that fight doesn’t involve one-sided tasers, which is just unfair to begin with). She isn’t one single thing, character-wise, and she’s also a perfect counterpart for Jessica. Where Jessica just wants to be left alone and use her powers to make a living, Trish wants to be a hero badly but is just a regular human being, so she has to work around that limitation.

Oh, and of course, David Tennant is brilliant as Kilgrave. Terrifying and suave and a perfect fit for the way the role was written for the show. A great villain in the same vein as Loki, but a lot scarier.

Overall, I already love the show. It’s something I have been waiting for for years, and now Marvel finally delivered. It’s still just one female-centric franchise among many regular dudebros, but with it’s solid 9/10 rating on IMDB and 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the upcoming Luke Cage, I have some new hope for more diverse superheroes in the future, casting-wise and character-wise.

As for my own rating. I’m going with IMDB here. Nine out of ten bottles of Whiskey.


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