entertainment

Are you watching Jessica Jones? You should be.

She’s a hard-drinking, PTSD-suffering private eye. And a superhero.

Meet Jessica Jones, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and namesake of Netflix’s newest binge-able show.

Asked why Krysten Ritter wanted the role of Jessica, the actress told New York Magazine that she was inspired by the way showrunner Melissa Rosenberg saw her.

“She never really talked about Jessica as gender first. She never wrote the character as gender first. It’s always character first, which I loved right away,” Ritter said.

“She pointed out at one point, “You don’t hear anyone ever saying, ‘white male superhero.’ You just say ‘superhero.’ But for a girl, for some reason, it’s ‘female superhero’.”

Check out actress Krysten Ritter chat about Jessica Jones’ superpowers. (Post continues after video.)

“That really resonated with me and how she approached the character, and the kind of integrity that she has. And she always talked about this show like a gritty drama.”

Jessica Jones is not your average superhero show. It is a “gritty drama”. There’s no costumes, no altruistic drive, and a whole lot of drinking, sex and law-breaking.

That’s important, because “not liking comic books or superhero things” is not a reason to go past this show.

Hate costumed do-gooders with cheesy one liners? So does Jessica. By the time we meet her, she’s done the traditional superhero thing, and it got her into a whole lot of trouble.

So instead she’s hung out her shingle working as a private detective with serious sass. The Veronica Mars comparisons are inevitable, but Jessica is a Veronica Mars from the darkest timeline.

<> at Regal E-Walk on November 17, 2015 in New York City.
Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica Jones. (Image via Getty.)
ADVERTISEMENT

We are dropped into Jessica’s story just as her superhero past comes back to haunt her in the form of sadistic, mind-controlling villain Killgrave (David Tennant).

Jessica Jones isn’t a morality tale. There’s no “truth, justice and the American way” or “with great power comes great responsibility” lessons here. Instead, the series explores the very un-super powers of PTSD.

For Jessica, Killgrave is essentially a physical manifestation of an abusive relationship. In the time before we meet Jessica, his mind control abilities enabled him to control her, and he is still obsessively infatuated with her.

Jessica is trying to recover from being in a “relationship” with Killgrave that she wanted to get out of but couldn’t. From being raped and abused, and not having the power to leave.

jessica-jones-poster
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons (Jon Clarke)
ADVERTISEMENT

Her motivations and methods are completely driven by her desire to extinguish his power over her. And we are shown over and over again that Killgrave is unable to accept responsibility for his actions. He will never own the consequences – which is un-villany, in the sense that he’s no grandstanding Joker or Machiavellian Wilson Fisk, but very common among abusers.

These are not your everyday superhero themes. But they are wonderfully real, and so very relevant. We do not often see survivors of domestic abuse portrayed so unflinchingly on screen. They are usually tearful, bruised plot devices in a police procedural who can do no wrong.

Jessica very often does wrong. She’s a screw up. She loses her temper, drinks more whiskey than should be possible (is that another superpower?) and makes every wrong choice in her pursuit of Killgrave.

The other revelation of Jessica Jones is the beautiful female friendship at its core.

Trish Walker, played by Australian actress Rachel Taylor is Jessica’s anchor, sounding board and pretty much the only one she trusts. But again, the friendship is very real.

Sometimes it’s utilitarian, each woman getting exactly what they need from the other (money, protection) and nothing more. Sometimes its the most intense relationship they’re in, and sometimes they don’t even talk to each other or share what’s going on. But when they really need each other there they are.

Both Jessica and Trish have romantic subplots in the series, and in one of the most refreshing developments in female character development in recent memory, they barely talk about it.

Rittter told New York Magazine that Trish and Jessica’s friendship is one of her favourite parts of the show.

jessica-jones-cast
The cast of Jessica Jones. (Image via Getty.)
ADVERTISEMENT

“The [characters’] friendship, that’s all Melissa Rosenberg creating that complex, amazing friendship that both Rachael and I really responded to because we were so stoked that it was so honest and complicated and real,” she said.

“The characters aren’t talking about a guy or a wedding or bullshit.”

Rosenberg is credited over and over again as the reason for this feminist superhero drama. And what she has created, as writer and showrunner is truly remarkable.

“One of the things that pulled me to this character, and one of the reasons I love writing for the show, is that we’re able to create and tell stories for women who are multi-leveled, complex, sexual beings,” Rosenberg has said.

“They are, in other words, human beings, and fully developed characters. So often in film and television the woman is relegated to the role of wife. That’s her dimension. Or maybe a sassy cop or Madonna-whore thing.

Krysten Ritter appears on the AOL BUILD Series at 770 Broadway in New York City, New York on November 16, 2015.
Melissa Rosenberg with Krysten Ritter. (Image via Getty.)

“You get one or the other, and that’s who you are. Being able to push beyond those boundaries is always attractive.”

Jessica Jones has a strong cast all round but special mention should go to Mike Colter as Luke Cage, the Hell’s Kitchen bar-owner with unbreakable skin.

Colter will front his own Marvel/Netflix series that is due for release in 2016, and in Jessica Jones we pick up in the middle of his story too.  There are many twists in his relationship with Jessica, and while it could perhaps feel too earnest in the wrong hands, Colter balances his character’s contradictions well.

ADVERTISEMENT

Carrie-Anne Moss plays cutthroat lawyer Jeri Hogarth, adapted from a male Marvel universe character. Her law firm is the main source of Jessica’s paid employment, but Hogarth is in a messy love triangle with her wife and personal assistant, and wants to use Jessica to get rid of the wife. The lengths she is prepared to go to, once her assistant/girlfriend starts withholding sex until the marriage is dissolved, reveal the true depths of Hogarth’s selfishness.

jessica-jones-characters
Carrie-Anne Moss. (Image via Getty.)

Moss is wonderfully calculating, distant and cold. And the disquiet she can bring to a scene because of her selfish unpredictability makes for high tension drama.

There’s a lot of violence in Jessica Jones, and for a superhero product the show extends to plenty of new ground. There is some pretty explicit sex for one thing, which is not something you’ll find in other Marvel productions.

These characters and storylines are intertwined with the New York of Daredevil and The Avengers, but you do not need to have watched either.

Jessica stands alone as a magnificently flawed super-strong PI, with her own battles to fight. What you get from Jessica Jones is not CGI magic and supernatural mystery. Instead, this is character driven, feminist drama that delivers some of the best roles for women being written today.

It might not be true to the Jessica Jones comics, but this re-imagining is pretty special.

That’s why you should be watching.

00:00 / ???