JES­SICA JONES

Darker than Dare­devil

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Will Salmon

Marvel’s lat­est net­flix show.

re­leased OUT NOW! 2015 | N/a | avail­able to stream Showrun­ner Melissa rosen­berg Cast Krys­ten rit­ter, david Ten­nant, Car­rie-anne Moss, Mike Colter, rachael Tay­lor, Wil Traval

Dare­devil had it easy. The Man With­out Fear’s Net­flix se­ries may have seemed like a gam­ble at the time – to the main­stream au­di­ence the char­ac­ter was a knock­off Bat­man with a failed Ben Af­fleck movie be­hind him – but, well, at least he had a movie.

Jes­sica Jones, by con­trast, is based on a more ob­scure comic than any so far adapted by Marvel, DC, Fox or Sony. Its tit­u­lar lead (Krys­ten Rit­ter) is an­other su­per­pow­ered hero, but she doesn’t have an ex­cit­ing vis­ual, se­cret iden­tity or spe­cial train­ing. In­stead, she’s a broke bor­der­line al­co­holic who tried us­ing her su­per-strength to help peo­ple but failed badly. Now she scratches a liv­ing as a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor in New York. Her front door is pan­elled with card­board, her neigh­bours are junkies and weird (pos­si­bly in­ces­tu­ous) twins and she’s gen­er­ally hav­ing a pretty lousy time of it. And then an old enemy, Kil­grave (David Ten­nant), comes back into her life – and things get a lot worse...

Kil­grave also has pow­ers – the abil­ity to con­trol minds – and he pre­vi­ously used them on Jes­sica, forc­ing her to be his ac­com­plice, oc­ca­sional hit-woman and, yes, his lover. The full, hor­ri­ble im­pli­ca­tions of that are not shied away from – in fact, the show’s en­tire 13-episode run is fo­cused on it. Kil­grave is the ul­ti­mate abu­sive ex and, un­am­bigu­ously, a rapist (though smartly the show never shows this). He tries to charm and woo Jes­sica with con­trived acts of chivalry and, when they don’t work, he stalks her and be­gins to dis­man­tle her world. The show puts his pow­ers to in­ven­tively hor­ri­ble use – episode one ends with a girl be­ing forced to mur­der her own par­ents in cold blood – but strip them away and he would still be a ter­ri­fy­ing and recog­nis­able preda­tor. For its first few episodes, Jes­sica Jones feels more like a hor­ror show than some­thing that ex­ists in the same uni­verse as Rocket Rac­coon.

Hap­pily, it’s not too long be­fore Jes­sica de­cides to take the fight to Kil­grave and the se­ries grows into a taut thriller with both sides gain­ing and los­ing the ad­van­tage as the body count racks up. Rit­ter is ter­rific in the lead role, all shad­owy eyes, snark (“I don’t give a bag of dicks what kinky shit you’re into, just be into it qui­etly”) and flashes of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. And while she’s clearly the hero, the show doesn’t paint her as whiter-than-white – she does some pretty sus­pect things in the pur­suit of bring­ing Kil­grave down.

Rit­ter is backed up by a fine sup­port­ing cast. Ten­nant plays Kil­grave with in­sid­i­ous charm (he’s even do­ing his Doc­tor voice), Car­rie-Anne Moss is steely as Hog­a­rth, Jes­sica’s shady some­time em­ployer, while Rachael Tay­lor’s

Thrillingly vis­ceral and fright­en­ing, but not ni­hilis­tic

Patsy is this show’s Foggy, bring­ing some much-needed warmth and hu­mour. Then there’s Mike Colter as Luke Cage. It’s an ex­cel­lent bit of cast­ing, and Colter will no doubt kill it as the lead in his own show. Still, it’s a bit of a shame that he’s not in­tro­duced later in the run. Bring­ing in an­other su­per­hero right at the start does slightly take away from Jes­sica’s unique­ness.

There are other nig­gles. The theme mu­sic, with its wah-wah gui­tar, is baf­flingly aw­ful. A few clumsy ref­er­ences to the Avengers feel like un­nec­es­sary nods to the canon. And some of the B-sto­ries don’t quite work – the on­go­ing feud be­tween Hog­a­rth and her ex-wife is dull, and a last-minute twist with NYPD cop Simp­son (Wil Traval) comes out of the blue and goes nowhere very in­ter­est­ing, pre­sum­ably set­ting up events for a sec­ond sea­son.

Th­ese are mi­nor gripes, though, be­cause Jes­sica Jones is an oth­er­wise re­mark­able pro­gramme. It’s shot through with com­pas­sion and in­tel­li­gence, with even mi­nor char­ac­ters grow­ing over the course of the 13 episodes. It’s thrillingly vis­ceral (es­pe­cially the bit with the shears…) and fright­en­ing, but not child­ishly ni­hilis­tic. This is a world where ter­ri­ble things hap­pen, but where flawed peo­ple can make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. And while the big-screen MCU has been slow to ac­knowl­edge its fe­male he­roes, this is a show that puts the lives of three en­tirely be­liev­able women front and cen­tre. With this and

Dare­devil, Net­flix is now making the best genre shows on TV.

Does Luke Cage’s bar look fa­mil­iar? Croc­o­dile Dundee goosed a trans­ves­tite at the same lo­ca­tion (108 av­enue B, NYC).

“How dare you put ‘clean-shaven’ on your Zoosk pro­file?!”

Kil­grave does his best to pre­tend he hasn’t no­ticed a chug­ger.

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