Coming off the success of Daredevil, Marvel TV moved into uncharted territory: a Marvel Studios production of a solo, powered, female protagonist. She also happens to be a bit of an a-hole.
With Jessica Jones, the subject matter is dark and painful, the relationships are raw and damaged (so is the lead), and the villain is the most terrifying ever brought to a superhero show. And that’s just the first episode. The series starts with such a commanding, deafening bang that it instantly becomes impossible to ignore, and even moreso impossible to shake.
That’s the way Jessica Jones impresses the most: how much it sticks with you. A month after viewing the pilot episode at New York Comic Con, there’s still so much there to analyze and decompress. The way backstory seeps in, the visceral and aggressive nature of the conversations, and the uncompromised presentation of a character who most people wouldn’t like if they met on the street, but somehow will love as the star of the show are all amazing achievements. Jessica Jones is something brand-new to superhero TV, and could really change the way people look at superhero storytelling in general.
The individual performances in the pilot episode are great, and anchored by star Krysten Ritter. It’s hard to tell from just the first episode how self-aware Jones is, but it seems like her every decision and every move is at once spontaneous and yet somehow calculated. Her mind moves faster than most people in that way, a trait she likely learned due to her past with Kilgrave.
The villain does show up in the first episode, as opposed to the delayed reveal of Kingpin in Daredevil, but only in limited fashion. It’s a deftly handled balancing act, and we learn more about Kilgrave through how he affects Jessica (and later, other characters) rather than some villainous treatise. David Tenant pulls off the terrifying character through a mixture of anger and joy that seems to enter his every word. When he speaks, it’s powerful, and not just in-universe, but for the viewer as well.
Finally, there’s Mike Colter as Luke Cage, who will go on to star in his own series. Aside from his imposing comic-book-accurate features, it’s the chemistry between the leads that clearly got him cast. There’s a sexual energy that flows between them, but also a shared pain of a past neither of them wants to revisit, but both clearly have to. That makes their relationship more real, and more viable and alive.
Fans of Daredevil will see some similarities in the general look and feel of the show, though the darkness of this series is deeper. It’s not just in the content or the actual physical dark shots, it’s in the camera angles, the tight shots that show a struggle on a character’s face or the cutaways that make you share the fear and the sudden loss of time that Jessica experiences. It all makes for a presentation that feels not like separate components but one whole, with all the moving parts fitting together wonderfully.
And that’s the pilot of Jessica Jones: a menagerie of disturbing thoughts, sex, violence, and a splash of comic relief, with plenty of darkness but even more heart. The episode will absolutely make you want to watch more – though you may have to take a moment before you can. The setup is all there, and even some of the payoff, too, to convince you that you’re in for another wild ride. With Jessica as your tour guide into a new corner of the Marvel Universe, things are going to get scary.