Unconventional Superhero Story Provides Women With A Platform
Review: Jessica Jones
Starring: Krysten Ritter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Rachel Taylor, David Tennent
It has been almost three years since season one of Jessica Jones first dropped on Netflix. With Marvel’s TV schedule being as crowded as it is with quality offerings like Daredevil, you would be forgiven for not noticing that gap.
Jessica Jones is based on the Marvel series Alias, and follows many of the same plot points. The show centres on its namesake, Jessica, a super-powered antihero who operates a private detective agency. While most of her work revolves around mundane cases, the interesting ones prove to be deadly. Season one sees Jessica come face-to-face with Killgrave (David Tennent), a mind-controlling villain who possessed her for months during their ‘relationship’ and continues to have a hold on her psyche.
In season two, a series of events sees Jessica reluctantly investigating her past and the circumstances surrounding just how she came to get her powers in the first place.
Much of what Jessica Jones offers is the opportunities it provides women. With her penchant for “day drinking” and sometimes bad decisions, Jessica herself is not a typical role model or a standard protagonist. And yet nothing that she does hasn’t already been done by male superheroes like Logan/Wolverine or Batman.
Season one places much emphasis on interesting female characters beyond Jessica herself. These include her friend the former child star (and future Avenger) Patricia Walker (Rachel Taylor). They also include Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), a sometimes antagonistic lawyer that was gender-swapped from the comic book version of the character.
Season two takes these opportunities for women further, as Marvel hired female directors for every episode. This was a deliberate move designed to directly address a vast gap that exists in Hollywood in the number of women assigned to big projects. In an interview for Vulture, Krysten Ritter commented on the Jessica Jones set as being one that felt different for its female leadership.
“I will say that when guest stars come in, a lot of people comment on our set. About how our vibe is so different. Or our set feels so feminine or so female because the energy is really positive. Mel and I are all fire, heart, and passion. That translates and you feel that. There’s no ego stuff, there’s no infighting. It’s a really positive, warm set.”
Propelling all of this is an interesting and constantly witty script, which manages to unfurl its revelations about Jones at the exact right time and pace.
Jessica Jones’ cast is one of the show’s other major assets. Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) delivers as Jessica Jones in what might be her best career performance. Doctor Who alumnus David Tennet is a standout in season one, delivering a creepy performance as Killgrave that serves to remind how versatile an actor he is.
With season two now released, Marvel would do well to not keep fans waiting quite as long for season three.
Seasons one and two of Jessica Jones are rated MA and are now streaming on Netflix
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor