(Forgive the silly title; for some reason, every time I watched an episode, the Rolling Stones’ “Miss Amanda Jones” came to mind, and then the movie Some Kind of Wonderful. It was a whole thing. #associations)
Some things to know about me that are relevant to these thoughts on Marvel’s Jessica Jones: The whole superhero explosion exhausts me. I’ve essentially abstained from watching the endless parade of adaptations and sequels, movies and TV both (the last superhero thing I willingly watched and enjoyed was Guardians of the Galaxy). Also, my reading of superhero comic book canon is light. You won’t see complaints about the show as an adaptation. Even if I did read more, I believe that every version of a text needs to work on its own as whatever it is (a book, a movie, a TV show, etc.). Easter eggs are cool; assuming my knowledge is not (nor the unnecessary crossover, as when Claire from Daredevil shows up).
One last thing: it’s not just–or even really–the saturation. It’s the lack of women superheroes put center stage.
When Jessica Jones arrived on Netflix, I thought, Okay, I could check that out. When I read it was not like other superhero fare, I moved it up the queue. When I quickly understood that it was TV noir, I was on fucking board.
I recognized Krysten Ritter from Veronica Mars and Breaking Bad, two of my favorite TV shows. I’d never been impressed with her, but in retrospect I think that had more to do with the characters. She certainly impressed the hell out of me in Jessica Jones.
The link to Veronica Mars doesn’t stop at Ritter. Jessica’s trauma, her attitude, the shell into which she’s retreated, her job as a private investigator, stylistic elements like voice-over–Jessica Jones shares these with VM. The settings are different–southern California and New York, high school and adulthood–and Jessica has literal superpowers (Veronica could rule the world with those, boy)–er, and a problem with alcohol–but the characters’ journeys are similar. While Veronica searches for her best friend’s killer (and her rapist) in the first season, Jessica contends with the villain she knows is responsible and struggles to keep herself and others safe, to expose him for what he is, to be a hero.
The noir feel of earlier episodes was a strong suit of the show for me; when it loses that and becomes more like traditional superhero fare, I missed it. There was one too many we-almost-got-Kilgrave moments, accompanied by characters making stupid decisions (as soon as Jessica leaves Hogarth alone with a confined Kilgrave and tells her not to talk to him, you know she will and it will lead to disaster). And, although it was fun watching Jessica lift the likes of Luke Cage, the fight scenes on the whole were on the cheesy side.
Despite these reservations, I felt thoroughly engaged by the storytelling. It’s an excellent exploration of life after trauma. Kilgrave’s total inability to understand his crimes and violations as such represents the ills of rape culture: the victim-blaming and shaming, the perceived permissiveness of controlling women.
The show also offers a refreshing portrait of women helping women, even when those partnerships don’t work out or are fraught with conflict and manipulation: Jessica and Hope, Hogarth and Jessica, and, especially, Jessica and Trish. I cannot tell you how happy it made me that Trish was a part of Jessica’s (somewhat anti-climactic, IMO) final confrontation with Kilgrave. She does not get pushed aside as the at-risk loved one or love interest who distracts the hero from his job as in so many other shows and films. In addition, Jessica’s relationship with Luke does not become the center of the show; he’s integrated into the plot much more complicatedly and one of a few characters with whom Jessica struggles to be close after her trauma.
So, my hopes for next season include:
- More PI cases and consistent noir elements.
- More of Trish’s mom and that relationship (perfect casting, btw).
- The Simpson storyline resolved or complicated.
- Robyn (the twin) to be more involved and valuable (so less irritating).
- Better fight sequences.