Next Friday, November 20th, Marvel’s Jessica Jones hits Netflix in its entirety, and I am psyched. Why am I so excited you may ask? Well Jessica Jones is a unique character to choose to tackle, especially by the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I am insanely curious on how they will do. Like Daredevil and to an extent Guardians of the Galaxy, this will be divergence from the standard formula that has worked for the MCU, and I have high hopes. If Daredevil earlier this year is any indication, these Netflix shows mean business and do not mind getting dark. Now, I know those of you who have read my blog for a while are saying “Wait a minute. Aren’t you the one who is always saying that DC’s reliance on dark themes is because they are scared of comic books? Aren’t you the one who is always adamant that comic books should be fun?” You’re right, but that’s because properties like Superman SHOULD be fun and bright. I don’t actually have much of an issue with DC’s representation of Batman (except that it has spawned this sort of false mythology where Batman has ALWAYS been dark and how dare he ever be anything else, which just isn’t true), but there is a time for dark themes, and there is a time for light ones. And the important thing, I think, is to recognize which one is needed and to commit yourself to it. The story of Jessica Jones is both unique and as dark as they come.
Jessica Jones is a little-known Marvel character who debuted in the 2001 comic Alias under the MAX imprint (The MAX imprint was a subset of Marvel Comics that was supposed to produce more adult-themed comics: more violence, more sexuality, more strong language, etc), and she is an ex-superhero. I mean a lot of heroes go through these phases where they quit, or they don’t think they should be heroing anymore, or they lose their powers, but Jessica Jones actually quit! And the most fascinating thing about that is that she quit BEFORE she even officially appeared as a character! Hers is, and always has been, a story of life after superheroing, and it is also the story of life after mental and emotional trauma. Jones’ official origin story is that she was the victim of an accident involving experimental chemicals on her way to Disneyland with her parents. The accident killed her parents and granted Jessica Jones the powers of flight, super-strength, and super toughness. She was sent to an orphanage, adopted by the Jones family, and, eventually, upon discovering her powers, became the superhero “Jewel.” That’s a pretty standard origin story, but it’s not REALLY Jessica Jones’ origin story; it’s Jewel’s origin story. Jessica Jones’ origin story is that after being a superhero for a while, she was kidnapped by the supervillain known as “The Purple Man” AKA Zebediah Killgrave. Killgrave is predominantly a Daredevil villain, and he is the kind of villain that is so terrifying and evil that he would even creep out other supervillains. His powers are, effectively, mind control. He is able to control his victims through the use of pheromones, which makes them completely susceptible to his suggestions, allowing him to even force them to do things that would harm themselves or others. He imprisoned Jessica Jones and subjected her to intense psychological torture before eventually sending her out to kill Daredevil (which she fails to do, attacking Scarlet Witch, instead), and all of this happens before the present time of Alias #1, in which Jessica Jones first appears. It is this event that subsequently convinces Jones to give up being Jewel. This is the origin of the Jessica Jones we meet at the start of Alias.
Rather than focus on her exploits as Jewel, her story revolves around how she deals with her life after giving up being a superhero, and how she deals with the trauma inflicted by her torturer. She runs a private investigation agency called Alias Investigations, and tends to drown her pain in whiskey and, occasionally, sex. Jones is an incredibly human and broken character, but not a weak one. She stands up for her beliefs, and tries to do the right thing in spite of her pain. For example, when she is hired to investigate Captain America and then coerced into revealing his identity, Jones refused. When J. Jonah Jameson hires Jones to dig up dirt on Spider-Man, she donates the money to charity. Jones tries to be better, and she tries to make the world better while she’s at it, but she isn’t perfect and neither are we. She has a hard time dealing with her demons, and sometimes it affects her judgment, just like us. This is more unusual than it should be. Superheroes don’t usually have these kinds of problems, and they don’t get victimized in this way. And while it CAN be problematic to have a female superhero victimized in a way that male superheroes (or any superhero really) never are, what is important about Jessica Jones is that while she does have to deal with intense mental and emotional pain and trauma (and she doesn’t always deal with it well), she does survive, and she DOES deal with it. This is a character that has the potential to really connect with people emotionally and allow them to relate in ways that maybe they couldn’t to more traditional superhero stories, if she presented well. And I hope she is.
So why am I so excited? Well, I wasn’t always excited about this show. I was always curious, but I wasn’t sure that Netflix would be able to capture the tone and feel of Jessica Jones. She’s a complicated and dark character and she doesn’t fit neatly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She doesn’t have a happy story, and she exists in some shades of gray that Marvel doesn’t usually like (even more so than Daredevil, actually). So for a while I was very nervous that this show was going to be toned down to fit with the MCU, but the trailer above quelled all of those nerves. David Tennant as Killgrave is terrifying, and Krysten Ritter delivers Jessica’s tortured character in a way that shows her struggle and her strength. This gives me a lot of hope for the series. I currently plan to binge watch it next Saturday, November 21st starting at 8 AM Central time until 9 or 10 PM Central time (I may have to stop to eat). During that time, I will be live tweeting to @criticalgeekery, so go ahead and watch along with me, if you want (I’ll let you know when I am starting and stopping episodes), and expect a full review to follow, probably on Sunday, since I don’t think I will be up to writing anything after 13 hours of television.