Do all heroes win in their battles against villains? 
What happens when you are defeated and then destroyed by your nemesis? 
How do you carry on? And what happens when the demons of your past return to terrorize you?

I always believe that one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about superhero comics from the DC and Marvel family is that it is meant essentially for children. Nothing could be farther from the truth, if you were to actually go through them. The story lines can be quite dark frankly, dealing with issues like death, rape, betrayal, alcoholism and moral choices; stuff that adults themselves often fail to deal with properly. Yes, to some level, the Marvel movies have been found guilty of being fun and light-hearted in nature as compared to their DC rivals with superheroes often taking a break in between bashing a villain to shout out jokes and punchlines. But the heroes residing within the comic book world are a far more complex breed, often suffering horrible personal traumas in their journey.

When Marvel first announced four Netflix shows based on relatively minor characters from their arsenal of heroes, fans were more curious than overjoyed. The first of those four shows (and easily, the most famous of the characters) Daredevil came out earlier this year and was phenomenally brilliant as far as TV shows go, giving you the best portrayal of the Man Without Fear till date.  It raised the bar for comic book based shows as a whole and won over the critics and the binge watchers simultaneously with its dark and edgy take.

So first things first, is Marvel's Jessica Jones a worthy follow-up act from the Marvel stable?

Simply put, Hell yes!

  • This is as dark as superhero based shows/movies have gotten till date: the theme of being manipulated against your will, raped, tortured and forced to perform despicable acts sits uneasily when portrayed on faceless characters in a show. Here, you are forced to confront the aftermath of such acts from the point of view of the heroine herself as she learns to trust both herself and others once more.
  • The overarching theme is one of power, both physical and mental (and how we choose to use it in our lives), overcoming trauma and redemption.
  • The motivations do not extend to destroying the world or robbing banks for unlimited wealth. Here, it is all about inter-personal relationships between the characters - good and bad - and that gives a very intimate feel to the show as it progresses.

1. The concept of a superhero like Jessica Jones is unlike any you have ever seen on TV.

Marvel's Jessica Jones - based on the graphic comics by legendary Brian Michael Bendis - deals with the theme of survival and more, giving you a broken, self loathing, frequently drunk titular character who chooses to hide in the shadows, working as a low-key private detective after having her life torn apart while trying to use her powers for good.
She does have the gift of 'relative' superhuman strength but as the show reveals right from the beginning, physical strength is not always enough. Especially when you come up against a man who can manipulate your mind and make you do anything he says.

Making the lead a woman suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after being a victim of rape - both mental and physical - is a dark move that goes even beyond the pages of the original comic but the potential storyline that evolves makes for compelling viewing.

Jessica Jones is happy being alone in her secluded world, shunning her friends and choosing not to deal with her trauma. She remains haunted by memories of her past, the only solace being that she watched the man who abused her die. But even that facade comes crashing down on her when she realizes Kilgrave - a man capable of making people do his bidding - is very much alive and is seeking her out again. Every instinct in her warns her to flee as far as possible. And yet, she knows that if she does nothing, more and more people will become the unwilling victims of this psychotic being.

2. David Tennant as Kilgrave is excellent... and horrifying.

In the Daredevil's Wilson Fisk a.k.a the Kingpin, we were given one of the best portrayals of a Marvel villain till date, with Vincent D'Onofrio showcasing a perfect blend of vulnerability and ruthlessness. Jessica Jones' nemesis Kilgrave - played by Doctor Who's David Tennant, shows no hint of vulnerability, choosing instead to just do as he pleases with anyone he chooses.

Unlike normal movie superhero villains who look for world domination and the like, Kilgrave's motives are absolutely self-serving and unpredictable and that above all else, makes him a more scary individual. Add in David Tennant's British accent and trademark cocky smirk and you have a portrayal as dark and remorseless as any you have ever seen on television. The fact that he doesn't see his acts as abnormal in any way really makes him somebody you would be very afraid to meet in a dark alley... or even in broad daylight.

Kilgrave just wants what he wants when he wants it:
He wants somebody to be his driver. They become his driver.
He wants both your kidneys, you give him both your kidneys.
He wants someone to jump off the roof of a building. They jump off the building.
And if he finds a woman who he wishes to be his sex slave, she becomes his sex slave. As Jessica Jones found out the hard way.

3. Krysten Ritter nails the role of Jessica Jones and all the baggage that comes with the character.

Krysten Ritter joins the long list of brilliant casting choices that Marvel has showcased for over a decade now (which began with the 'phoenixing' of Robert 'Iron Man' Downey Jr's career by believing in him to giving us breakout stars like Loki's Tom Hiddleston and even Guardian's of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt as the lead character Star Lord!)
Ritter is stunningly beautiful which should be distracting in itself but instead you find yourself lost between feeling sorry for her during her vulnerable moments and conversely, conflicted about her unapologetic choices as she manipulates, cheats and makes poor life choices.
She bears the emotional scars of a victim upon her face well while simultaneously portraying the inner strength required to save others from her own fate, even when she has no idea how to stop somebody who controls minds.

This is definitely the best role she's had till date and like Daredevil's Charlie Cox and yes, even Agents of SHIELD's Clark Gregg, she has more than justified the faith that Marvel has placed on her shoulders to run a show on her own.

4. The story line and the characters are unpredictable.

In addition to the lead characters, we are introduced to several other people whose paths cross with the two main leads and are irreversibly affected by the end. Nobody is safe in the show. With so many cat-and-mouse games being played by Jessica and Kilgrave, it is inevitable that not everyone will make it out alive by the end of the season.
Even minor characters get fleshed out as the show progresses and their decisions have a bearing on the direction and motivation of the main characters.

Standouts include:

  • Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, one of the few people Jessica calls her friend and someone who makes the wrong choice of rubbing Kilgrave the wrong way by taunting him on her radio show. 
  • Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeryn Hogarth is a defense attorney with clout who throws Jessica the odd job while ensuring she gets what she wants, even as she is in the process of a divorce herself that is slowly eating away at her. 
  • Mike Colter as Luke Cage is a bar owner who we first meet when Jessica spies upon him. The attraction between them is offset by the fact that she has been involved in his life without his knowledge, during her stint under the influence of Kilgrave. (Hint: The third of the Marvel shows which will be released next year after Daredevil and Jessica Jones is Luke Cage. So you better believe he has a few secrets up his own sleeve.)
  • Erin Moriarty as Hope starts off as a case of a missing woman that Jessica takes up. She ends up being the lit match that begins the fireworks.
  • Eka Darville as Malcolm, Jessica's drugged out neighbour who she regularly finds herself saving. 

5. Things the show does differently.

A lot of things work for this show and the attention to detail and style is note worthy.

  • Using a filmi noir style of presentation for a show about a private detective may seem clich├ęd but backed by a wonderful kinetic jazz score, it works.
  • The physical action sequences in the show are relatively less as compared to say Flash or the Arrow but then here the dread factor arises from the mind games played by the heroine and the villain as their paths cross once more.
  • While focusing on hard issues like rape and abortion unflinchingly, the show chooses to rightly show you the aftermath on the victim's psyche rather than the act itself.
  • Yes, these superheroes exist in the same world as the Avengers but unlike the latter, here none of them wish to showcase their powers to the public.  
  • Choosing to follow a single case/story line and how it affects the main characters instead of having a different mystery every episode (which would seem more common for a private detective show) should come as no surprise considering that creator and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg shares credits with the equally morally ambiguous show featuring everyone's favourite serial killer Dexter. 
  • Surprisingly, for a 13 episode show, I would not recommend a direct binge watch. With more mind games, less action and frequent moments of highs and lows throughout the season, it would be worthwhile to take a couple of breaks so that you can actually sit and ponder a bit about the motivations of the characters, how you would react in the same situation and how a person with the ability to manipulate minds can actually be defeated!

Marvel really are painting themselves into a pleasant corner, if you ask me. After nailing the superhero movie formula with awesome and fun movies, they have actually upped the ante with their television shows showcasing even more fearlessness in the smaller format than in the bigger budget movie screen versions. I find myself looking forward eagerly more to their television shows now because of the wonderful iterations of their own comics that they present to the audience.

It must be a wonderful feeling to have a pulse on what the audience wants and be able to show every edge of the creative rainbow that exists in the cinematic world. With Jessica Jones, we have crossed over to the darker end of the spectrum - perhaps Purple is the right shade, considering the villain's identity from the comic books was the Purple Man - and the end result is the most thought provoking show from the Marvel world till date.


  1. Hmmm, in general I think there are too few movies with good ladies heroes- - this made me curious- sure would like to get to know that Jessica more:-) Very well written:-)

  2. you have totally sold it to me. Watched few of the trailers, looks very intense. Plus this Dr Who is my favourite of all :D

  3. I wrote an article for a website about Jessica Jones last week and I have been itching to watch it since then ! Now, I cannot wait to watch it next weekend

    I love the fact that they didn't make Jessica a blonde and also, I love Krysten Ritter

  4. Darla M SandsJuly 03, 2018

    I don't watch much television and am not really a fan of superheroes but I'm glad to have read this. How great to see Carrie-Ann Moss! And now I know what a friend was talking about when she mentioned Jessica Jones. While I still probably won't watch (too much dark reality perhaps, for one thing), I will say that TV shows have more going for them than movies these days. Thank you for this in depth review!

  5. Man! I'm sold :) Need I say more?

  6. Marvel seems to be doing a fairly good job of providing good woman-centric shows. I am referring more to the TV shows than the movies though. Because they did have Agent Carter and even in their Agents of Shield show, the primary focus for most of the first three seasons was a story arc about the evolution of a young woman.

  7. It is very intense... and yes, Tennant nails the role. He is his usual brash self but at the same time, horribly menacing in how little he cares about the consequences of his words.

  8. Tell me what you think of it Ritika, once you finish watching.
    I honestly haven't watched much of Krysten Ritter before this but that worked in my favour because this is a pretty damn tough role to portray and she does a brilliant job of it.

  9. Darla, yes... it goes to some very dark places, I agree. And I also agree that tv shows seem to be doing a better job than movies, mainly because they give you more time to flesh out the characters and allow the viewer to get to know and care for them.

  10. Tell me what you think of it once you finish watching. The way things are going, I would actually trust Marvel to even make Shaktiman into an awesome show, if given the chance.

  11. I actually saw her Breaking Bad and she was pretty good in it

  12. Don't know about that but trust me, she is brilliant in this. You have that awesome combo of a brilliant set of actors playing the main heroine and the villain too.


So what do you think ?