Here’s something different: a superhero series with wit, imagination, intelligence and style. An impressed ANDREW JOHNSTONE reviews Jessica Jones.
CAPSULE COMMENT: Great cinematography, a taut screenplay and some of the best one-liners since forever, Jessica Jones is tension on a stick and a superior addition to the stories that define the Marvel Universe. And as for Jones (Krysten Ritter), she’s a triumph – a difficult and complex character whose battles are as much with herself as they are with the villain at play here, Kilgrave. Played with delightful alarm by ex-Dr Who David Tennant, Kilgrave is 2016’s best screen villain by a country mile. Between them they make for one powerful season of television.
Private Eye Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a burgeoning alcoholic possessed of unwanted super powers. After surviving a car crash that took the lives of her parents and brother she is adopted by a talent agent who views Jessica as the perfect public relations gig. She escapes the grasping ambitions of her foster mother only to end up in the clutches of a psychopathic monster who goes by the name of Kilgrave.
Suffering from profound post-traumatic stress disorder, she is self-medicating with Scotland’s finest (and when she can’t afford that, any old bourbon will do) and it is here in the warm security of an alcoholic haze she considers the problem of her captor.
Like Jessica, Kilgrave is the product of medical experimentation. Hers – a mysterious event not properly addressed in Series One – resulted in superhuman strength. His – by way of his scientist parents – resulted in the power to control minds, an ability that has corrupted him beyond redemption. Not only has he forced Jessica to love him in the ‘biblical’ way, he also made her carry out a murder.
“You are a murderer!” she screams at him. “No, you did the killing,” replies a smug Kilgrave, but semantics aside, he is delusional enough to probably believe his own warped version of the events that lead up to Jessica leaving him, and here is the rub: he can’t quite get his head around how this might have happened. She was after all under his complete control, but nevertheless she is gone and he wants her back. Jessica has her back to the wall and fearing his power sees only one way out: Kilgrave must die.
British actors have a knack for psychopathy, and former Dr Who David Tennant is delirious as the cold, remorseless and sneering Kilgrave, a man-child who has never had to contend with the word ‘No’. Everything he wants he takes, and his powers make him an almost impregnable fortress. Almost.
Despite her tendency for self-destructive behaviour, Jessica’s underlying nature is a decent one that attracts loyal friends, and with their support she acquires the mental and physical resources she needs to confront her nemesis.
Season One of Jessica Jones is one long story-arch as she takes on Kilgrave, and frankly, it’s a hopeless game as episode after episode we watch our heroine and her valiant crew chalk up defeat upon defeat. But we hang on because Kilgrave is so appalling that we want to see him suffer and die horribly, and we want to revel in the act. Well at least I did.
Great cinematography, a taut screenplay and some of the best one-liners since forever, Jessica Jones is tension on a stick and a superior addition to the stories that define the Marvel universe. And as for Jones: she’s a triumph, a difficult and complex character whose battles are as much with herself as they are with Kilgrave, who is 2016’s best screen villain by a country mile. Between them they make for one powerful story arc. Season Two is on its way, though apparently 2018 is the earliest we can expect it.
Jessica Jones also provides us with our first look at Luke Cage who proves to be an engaging and mysterious interloper whose good heart offers something of a lifeline to Jessica’s embattled psyche. The Luke Cage series itself is built from exactly the same formula, and despite having the best soundtrack of 2016 and a cast of characters that answers to no-one, the plotting is less cohesive, losing momentum at crucial narrative junctions and making for an uneven flow in what is otherwise a fine series. Of the two, Jones is the real winner.
* The Internet and ‘TV on Demand’ has revolutionised the way we watch TV shows. No longer beholden to television networks and their programming whims and scheduling, we can watch back-to-back episodes of new and old shows to our heart’s content without those annoying advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. TV viewing has suddenly become more accessible, democratic and a hell of a lot more fun. ANDREW JOHNSTONE scours the available channels and finds the best of the best, so you don’t have to.