Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!
Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.
Jessica Jones: Season 1 Episodes 01-06 (2015)
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Jessica Jones should work – and yet, at the time you’re reading this (I’m currently half-way through the first), the first season of Jessica Jones might actually be the best of the Marvel/Netflix seasons.
Based primarily on the comic book series Alias, by legendary writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones is a superhero – enhanced strength and endurance, limited powers of flight; Jones describes it as jumping long distances – who gives up the superhero life and opens a detective agency, Alias Private Investigations.
This is where we meet Jones in the show: the opening episode finds her hired by the parents of Hope Shlottman, a young girl who started behaving oddly and disappeared. Eventually, Jones discovers that Hope has been taken by Kilgrave, a sadist who uses mind control to force others to do his bidding – and who had previously kept Jones as his slave. After Hope kills her parents while still under the control of the evil Kilgrave, Jones decides to track down her nemesis and stop him for good.
The show is obviously more complex than that – Jones meets and has an affair with fellow Marvel hero Luke Cage, the former husband of a woman Kilgrave forced Jones to kill; she cautiously confides in her best friend Trish, a former child star who now hosts a popular radio show; takes cases for top-notch lawyer Jeri Hogarth; attempts to rehabilitate her neighbour Malcolm, who was also unwittingly a Kilgrave victim; and accepts help from New York cop Will.
The entire show hinges on those characters and performances, from Mike Colter’s introduction as the near invincible Cage – a character who eventually gets his own Netflix series – to Carrie-Ann Moss’ brilliant turn as get-shit-done lawyer Hogarth.
But it starts with Jones and Kilgrave, played by Kristen Ritter and David Tennant.
The pair – a comedic actress coming off a lead role in Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23, and a former Doctor Who currently voicing a cartoon duck – are probably not the first people you would think of for a gritty comic book series, but holy hell does it work. Ritter and Tennant are riveting in the lead roles, making their characters two of the best in the MCU.
Ritter’s experience in comedy is perfect for some of the notes she has to play here. Yes, Jones is a PTSD sufferer who finds herself tangled in a recurring nightmare, but there is a sassy, sarcastic side to the character, and almost a lightness at times. In Episode 6 “AKA You’re A Winner!”, Jones calls a suspect and puts on an overly fake voice to trick him into responding; it’s the kind of beat that requires the versatility of an actress who can do both comedy and drama, and Ritter excels.
Tennant, meanwhile, gets to show a side of himself that he rarely gets to explore. Doctor Who and Broadchurch allowed Tennant to play the hero – albeit the unwilling hero at times, especially in Broadchurch – and he could do it with aplomb, and his resume is full of comedic and voice roles. But Kilgrave is the exact opposite, a nefarious, sadistic character who revels in the pain he is causing, and abuses his power for his own ends – whether forcing the players in a card game to hand over their cash, or yelling for everybody in a café to be quiet.
I have to give special mention to Eka Darville as well; as drug addict Malcolm, Darville becomes a highlight in the series, an occasional helper for Jones and a vibrant character in his own right as the show moves along.
As far as the story goes, it’s interesting enough to keep the attention, and the performances keep your interest when the narrative starts to slow down, as it does at multiple times in this series. As with all the Marvel/Netflix series, Jessica Jones S1 suffers from too much time; the story would have been much more effective condensed from 13 episodes down to just 8 or 10 episodes. But as I say, Jones has the good fortune of a cast that can overcome those moments of boredom.
Come back next week for a round-up of the second half of the season.
Next: Jessica Jones S1 continues!