“Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” Season 2
This turned out to be another of those weeks I wasn’t able to make it out to the movies. Between getting ready for a play, getting back to school after spring break, and dealing with a houseful of strep throat, a two-hour excursion just wasn’t in the cards.
I know that’s how a lot of people feel every week, so I decided to pick something to review that everyone (or most) have access to right in their own living room. Netflix has been flexing its muscles lately and releasing more and more original films and popular series.
They’re not all hits, certainly. “Bright” was a movie I made it ten minutes into before I had to bail, and “The Cloverfield Effect,” a movie Netflix bought from Paramount for cheap, was released with almost no fanfare on Super Bowl Sunday to howlingly bad reviews. I made it all the way through that one, but it was truly, bizarrely bad. Almost joke movie bad. Worse than “The Hurricane Heist,” and that’s saying something.
But I’d rather talk about something worth your time, and that’s the Marvel series, “Jessica Jones,” season 2.
Let me back up. For those uninitiated, you already know about the movie versions of the famous Marvel characters. There are also Marvel characters on television, mostly on Netflix, but not exclusively. This isn’t news. There’s been superhero TV for as long as there’s been TV, but the difference between the Marvel TV and the DC TV (“The Flash” “Green Arrow,” etc.) is that the Marvel characters seem to exist in the same universe as their big screen counterparts, just having adventures on a much smaller level.
The Netflix cast of characters, known collectively as The Defenders, consists of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. These characters and their corresponding series are decidedly more adult and less colorful and action-y than, say, Iron Man or Captain America. These shows revolve around adult relationships, and real world issues more than they do alien attacks from outer space. They’re not all great. I like “Daredevil” pretty well, and some of “Luke Cage” was OK, but “Iron Fist” was pretty dumb.
“Jessica Jones,” on the other hand, is pretty top notch.
Jones, played by Krysten Ritter — a contract television player who got her break in “Don’t Trust the B—— in Apartment 23,” is a former superhero who now works as a down-and-out P.I., drowning herself in booze when not trying to help the little guy. Jones has powers, but is disillusioned and bitter, the result, at least in part, of the torturous history she had with a man named Kilgrave (see season 1).
The details aren’t really important, however. They all get revealed slowly, so laying them all out here makes the show seem sillier than it is. What makes the show work is the way the characters interact with each other and, in particular, the way Jessica deals with what sets her apart. “Jessica Jones” is really a show about how flawed peopled deal with, and often abuse, power.
One of the things I like about this show is that the show runners never spend much time trying to make their characters likable. Over the course of the series, you know that Jessica is a decent person, but she’s never particularly warm and fuzzy.
Also, where the traditional superhero stories are extroverted affairs with just a veneer of introspection (see: Peter Quill dealing with abandonment issues while actually saving the universe in “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”), “Jessica Jones” is all up close and personal. At least in her own show, Jessica isn’t trying to save the planet, or even the city — she’s knee deep discovering secrets from her own past, uncovering her own demons. The show has made me care enough to go along on the journey.
Unlike some of the other shows (I’m looking at you, “Daredevil”), “Jessica Jones” also has a pretty stellar supporting cast. In addition to sidekick characters Trish and Malcolm, played by Rachael Taylor and Eka Darville, respectively, the show has also made good use of David Tennant — the veteran British actor was chilling in his role as the aforementioned Kilgrave.
But mostly, I’d like to call out Carrie-Anne Moss, who most of us remember as Trinity from “The Matrix,” as a tough-as-nails attorney who concedes nothing to anyone, which makes the scenes where she has to confront her own vulnerabilities all the better.
Confronting vulnerabilities is a pretty good way to sum up this entire series. Not all the work Marvel is doing on television is strong, but you could certainly do worse than to check in on this broken character every once in a while — and, since it’s all up on Netflix, feel free to binge it over a weekend. I’m not sure who has the time to binge watch TV shows, but if so, don’t tell me how it ends.
“Jessica Jones” is rated TV-MA for language, violence, and sexual situations.
One last thing, I’d like to give a quick shout out to “The Big Lebowski,” which is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year. It doesn’t seem possible that that movie is that old, but I suppose it is. If you haven’t seen it in a while, or ever, take time to check it out.
This bizarre detective story about an amiable deadbeat and his bowling buddies trying to solve the mystery of a missing heiress is one of the Coen Brothers’ best films. The language, not by any means quotable in a family newspaper, is meticulously crafted, almost musical, and that’s only one of a dozen things that are great about it. Do yourself a favor — check it out.
Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.