TV review: Marvels' Jessica Jones, Netflix
Krysten Ritter and David Tennant star in the gritty, new Netflix / Marvel co-production
From the gritty noir animated title sequence and the cynical opening monologue Jessica Jones feels very different to the glitz and polish of the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe adventures. Krysten Ritter takes the title role as a disorganised, hard drinking private investigator who isn't averse to stooping to the odd dirty trick. There are echoes of Mike Hammer or Philip Marlowe with a subtle superhero twist. Jessica has super strength (though nothing like the Hulk's power level) but her abilities are never overplayed as she attempts to live a normal(ish) life in New York.
The long form TV format means there's time to really develop the characters. And even with her super powers Ritter makes Jones relatable. She's deeply flawed, her life's a mess, she's tough but there's a vulnerability at her core. Jessica Jones relies on an emotional connection rather than blockbuster spectacle. Though don't worry there are fight scenes, punch ups and insane villains.
A couple hire Jessica to find their daughter. What seems like a straight forward missing person's case opens a can of worms. Dredging up Jessica's past and leading her to Kilgrave. A cerebral and psychological adversary. So different from the physical threats superheroes usually face. Who knew David Tennant could be so insidiously creepy? A malicious Derren Brown-style master of mental manipulation. Using mind control he can make anyone do anything he tells them. And he does it with terrifying style.
Luke Cage also makes his debut and there's nice chemistry between Ritter and Mike Colter. It's also a pleasant surprise to see how much screen time Cage gets before his own series in 2016. Strong support comes from Carrie-Anne Moss as lawyer Jeryn Hogarth; Rachel Taylor as best friend Trish; Eka Darville as local junkie Malcom and Kieran Mulcare as infatuated neighbour Ruben.
Jessica Jones really proves Marvel's confidence in the brand. Only dedicated comics fans have even heard of Ms Jones (though do yourself a favour and track down Brian Michael Bendis' Alias where JJ made her debut). As with all the best Marvel adaptations they have taken the core of the character and developed it for a new medium rather than religiously sticking to the original text.
Marvel's commitment to creating a huge sprawling interconnected world is enthralling and there are oblique references to 'the big green dude and his crew' and the wider MCU. There's room for the comedy of Ant-Man; hyperactive space opera Guardians of the Galaxy, espionage thriller Captain America: The Winter Soldier to the serious tones of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Echoing the comics the Netflix series are the live action equivalent of Marvel's adult orientated Max imprint.
Jessica Jones goes to even darker places than Daredevil. There's sex, booze and violence (it's the first Marvel production to feature a full on sex scene, make that multiple sex scenes). It proves superheroes can be used to tell grown up stories. JJ is a series even people who hate tights and capes can embrace. Smart, blackly comic and packing an emotional punch. Unless it goes completely off the rails in the final six episodes (journalists were only given access to the first seven), which seems highly unlikely, Jessica Jones is shaping up to be Marvel's greatest achievement on screen to date. Mainly due to Ritter's captivating, sarcastic, world weary performance.
All 13 episodes of Marvel's Jessica Jones will be available on Netflix from Fri 20 Nov.