With the final reels of Marvel’s first episode of Netflix’s Jessica Jones, the audience of nearly 5,000 people at the New York City Comic Con went silent. Having just entered the world of Jessica Jones, viewers traveled down a road of a former superhero, now private investigator, as she made a futile attempt to overcome the darkness of her past through alcohol, sex, and visits to a therapist. Krysten Ritter, no stranger to creating fully developed characters in series such as Breaking Bad and Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23, is able to fully flesh out the titular character here, delivering hard hits and even harder quips. Jones attempts to wade through the dark and gritty streets of Marvel’s New York City, taking jobs from law firms, distraught parents, and anyone who is willing to pay her fees as a private eye.
The world presented to us here is bursting with ancillary characters who are able to weave an intricate web around the proceedings, making sure that not a minute of story is wasted. It’s an admirable feat to see Marvel attempt to create a setting so mired in darkness and apprehension, while also remembering that Tony Stark is putting on a red and gold suit or armor, and Thor is hitting frost giants with his hammer worlds away. Jessica is joined in her “adventures” by another Marvel superhero, Luke Cage (Mike Colter), whose series from Netflix will follow Jessica Jones and the second season of Daredevil. The two certainly have a relationship here similar to the one they had in the Marvel Comic series, Alias (the original title of Jessica Jones’ first series), though there are enough questions presented here that viewers may not know exactly where it is headed by episodes end.
On the villain front is David Tennant’s gloriously horrific portrayal of Zebediah Killgrave, aka the Purple Man. Tennant is no stranger to being a villain, as he played the role Barty Crouch Junior in the Harry Potter series, but here, you can almost paint him as the Marvel Universe’s Freddy Krueger. His shadow claws across the episode. Like a ghost in the night, his name is mentioned with a hushed terror by every character who knows of him. His powers are downright scary, especially considering the character himself and how he utilizes them. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has always had difficulty creating villains that had the same lasting power as their heroes, acting mostly as obstacles at best and stepping stones at worst for the heroes in their paths. Here though, expect to see Tennant ascend to the same level as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Vincent D’onfrio’s Wilson Fisk as one of the cornerstones of villainy in the MCU.
Aside from Tennant and Colter, Carrie Anne Moss of The Matrix fame joins the cast as Jeryn Hogarth, a leading attorney at one of New York’s most prestigious law firms. Moss is on a similar level as Jones, able to keep pace with her sharp wit, and her character is draped in enough mystery to keep you guessing while also holding your interest. Rachael Taylor also joins the cast as Trish Walker, New York’s leading talk radio hostess. In the comics, she patrols the streets as the superhero, Hellcat. Her character acts as a nice foil to Jones, as she is almost a representation of Jessica if everything gone right in her life.
Without delving into spoiler territory, the show has twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Jessica’s past being dark is an understatement, and her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the major cruxes of the series. Granted, Marvel attempted to cover this topic somewhat in the case of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 as he dealt with the events of the “Battle of New York” from the first Avengers, but with Jessica Jones, it seems so close to reality that you can’t help but feel uncomfortable as you watch it. When certain events happen in the episode, causing Jessica’s world to spin out of control, her PTSD flares up to unbearable levels, with the camera style following suit as the lens seems to film everything in vertigo. It’s a neat effect and it works wonders to drag you kicking and screaming into her head.
In terms of comparing the show to the Marvel comic in which it originated, there are scenes ripped directly from those pages. Of course, certain events are made different to accommodate for what’s happened so far in the MCU vs the comics, but the spirit remains unchanged. Jessica Jones marks another amazing notch in the belt of Marvel’s Netflix deal, exploring a world that few comic book movies and television shows have dared to enter. Without a doubt, this premier episode will reel you in hook, line, and sinker, leaving you gasping from the surprises it has in store. This fall, Jessica Jones may be the show to beat!
★★★★★ Excellent — One of the best pilots ever.