I have been waiting for a Marvel female super anti-hero for a long while. The not-so-good-use of Black Widow has shown how little the writers understood of the point of her. But with Netflix’s series on Marvel’s Jessica Jones, a new hope rose. And it does not disappoint one bit, and this is mainly for 5 reasons.
Krysten Ritter and the character Jessica Jones
This superhero ‘super woman’ is not a wonder woman: I love DC’s Wonder Woman but just like for Superman, there is a way that perfection distances us from a character. This character has her gifts and yet she goes through human’s struggles as well as those linked with her unique individual gifts, however they are acquired, just like any other person would.
Casting Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones was an epiphany. Herself and her character are a match made in dark MCU heaven. Krysten Ritter has a face that expresses the drama, the sensuality, the strength and the vulnerability required for the main character in this series. She also has a face that the camera loves. Her deceptive allure disconnects appearance with spirit which deters from the stereotypical expectations of a bulky or over-curveous one-layer female images.
Krysten Ritter depicts this human superhero beautifully. She is a human being going about her day, with the choice of using her assets while battling the fact that her strengths are also her weaknesses. Trying to accept herself in a world that fears the idea of her, to love herself knowing what she has done, to forgive herself, to do justice when she could easily crave revenge, to know her power and not abuse it: these are the essence of what I learnt and admired from the Marvel Universe with, and it transpires in the scripting, the development and depiction of this character.
There is a sense of loneliness in this character that emphasizes the drama as much as the true nature of humanity even without the context. A private investigator is a loner. They alienate their clients by confirming their worst fears and their victims by betraying their secrets. As a superhuman who feels her humanity even more so than a human but is denied that aspect of her life to be reduced to becoming only her difference, a single one of her characteristics she is isolated all anew. This aspect, unlike the knights of the light such as the members of the Avengers, is very common to Marvel characters such as the X-Men. They remind us of the groups they are inspired from, who are denied their humanity to profit limited ideas that serve petty battles and short-term wins.
An alcoholic who easily expresses her passion through sex, almost unconscious and effortless sexiness, Jessica Jones is not a hero by design. That power she acquired does not make her a hero by virtue of being there. Nothing exists that is born a poison or a serum. It is the use of it that determines, at least during the moment of use, what it is. This means that your whole life becomes a repetitive or iterative challenge of choosing the use of your gift. Even with the strongest will, a sense of family, of togetherness, the interest of another are as many ironic tricks of life to make you doubt what is real and is not, what is poison and what is serum. This is where the character of the villain showcases its subtility.
David Tenant and The villain
Beyond the stereotype of the British villain and his self-selected unsubtle name, the villain Kilgrave and his actor, David Tenant, are exceptional. They are a symbol of fear and nothing in their looks is terrorising in an obvious manner. The fear lies deeper. And it is unveiled gradually in the film, as it creeps in slowly, gripping at once both the mind and the heart of the audience. He is a lonely and gifted psychopath who struggles to know what to do with his talent and, like a child, therefore just uses it anyhow. With such a power, one grows bored, especially when you imagine the rest of your life with not a single challenge or spark. In encountering Jessica Jones, he meets the person who becomes paradoxically his chance to end the monotony of his power.
Our hero is his salvation in many ways: his end and with this the end of his suffering, of his boredom, of his lack of end to this vicious cycle; as well as his reason for being in the first place, his end, his goal and his journey.
There are no principles in his methods, but there is method in his madness and it is called Jessica Jones. Even in its villainy, there is a huge exploration of how lost one is when they have a gift and they do not know the purpose of it. With her, he finally has a reason to be, not just that wandering breathing that he had been doing. There is a desperation in the way his eyes light up when he sees her. There is a tearing that happens in the viewer’s heart when we realise that he never grew up from the child he was, and that child is both spoilt doing horrors with his talent, and a twistedly hopless romantic, still even at the last minute believing that Jessica could, would still be his.
David Tennant is a beautiful embodiment of the character. He is not just a great actor, having understood that there is no overdramatising a character who is already so dark in his understated appearances, in his power, and his childishness that determines his use of that power. He just lets his character flow and that is a breath of fresh air in the acting of a villain. His uttering of words is a subtle wave of unwholesome and noisome. His facial expression is that of a child trapped in a grown-up body, inevitably getting older. He is a victim of his gift, one that trapped him in the slippery loops of time before he had the foundation. He is an inescapable reflection of some of the torment that Jessica Jones endures and it is only when she refuses to look at the mirror that she gets rid of him. The first time is when that mirror shows her as a murderer and the second time as an accessory to continual murder.
But it is when Kilgrave’s so called love flashes before her eyes as a selfish tantrum from an an entitled lonesome boy that Jessica’s most subtle yet gripping fear sets in. What is dine in her name, for her sake and yet thoroughly against her is piling up collateral. And as two of the strongest collaterals fall, her mind is made as to what needs doing. Hope takes her own life. And Luke’s mind, which holds a lot she holds dear, gets manipulated to control hers.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage
Athough at first she seems to be a legal stalker with Private Investigator cause, Jessica Jones gradually appears to be attached to Luke Cage even beyond the tragedy at whose crossroads they meet. The sickness of what she does, building a relationship, even only sexual, with the husband of the person she in effect killed is all at once controversial for the world and challenging for these Marvel soulmates.
The chemistry, sometimes spoilt by some awkward need to oversexualise, does definitely transpires. It is not just in the words uttered by the other characters (Kilgrave and the nurse to supers), it is in the action, particulary those of the villain. It is how Luke Cage becomes the centre of his torturing her, as if he had seen in his love, beyond what has happened, the glimmer of hope she sought to escape his arms, his grasp a last time / for real, like once before when his wife died.
As you will read in our Luke Cage movie series review, we do like the choice of Luke Cage. I love that they did not over buff him up. I love the choice of actor too. There is something believable about his face and demeanour. The intensity of Krysten Ritter’s character really balances out with the coolness of Mike Colter. Together, they balance out the survival approach in the environment that is Hell’s Kitchen.
The darker landscape of the Marvel universe is set in Hell’s Kitchen. The Marvel superheroes, to be known together as The Defenders, evolve in its space which is presented in its many facets. There are days and there are nights and both depict humanity in its less glamourous . The knowledge of the day knights superhumans is there, the wider MCU universe in effect, but the approach is zoomed in, looking at the individual’s opinion, as they must cope daily with the collaterals of life as it is being reorganised by the fights between superheroes and villains.
The introduction of the future villain
The proliferation of characters around Jessica Jones has a controversial aspect to it. Some might indeed find it confusing and plot deflecting. I enjoyed the opportunity awarded by the many origin stories of such a vast potential of main villain for the second series or even third (lol). Either way and in effect, there are so many people around her that there is a vulnerability layer added to the character as each of them accumulate information about her, consciously or not.
Nobody is quite hero or villain as such although if we were to speak intentions or percentage,, there might be perspectives of definitive answers. From Trish Walker, her adopted sister, to Malcolm, her junkie neighbour who is part of her social and work life, via Trish’s mum, the characters are as much scary as they are reassuring. There is nothing closer and therefore more loving and more lethal than a sister, with the media power of a celebrity, ambitions of heroism, stubborn self-righteousness with questionable acceptance of some collateral damages and maddening obsessions with superhuman power. There is nothing more reassuring yet creepier than a neighbour and amateur sleuth who knows your habits, your home, your work, your fears, your weaknesses. What of an unscrupulous lawyer who saves her own skin and for that can throw you under the bus while probably being the only legal chance you have to escape prison. The list goes on and the auience’s mind must accept that life is not as clear cut, albeit trying to add some nuances, as this series’ Hollywood blockbuster siblings will have them think.
I made due with the narration. At least, the writing is analytic. I get that not everyone might fully understand why it took so long to kill the villain; but movies have been trying to highlight the connection between villains and heroes and I believe this one did this very well and justified itself on this subject. And this is the ultimate Marvel series. It has Jessica Jones, anti-hero and down to earth, alcoholic and trying to deal with a debt that look too big for her shoulders and not taking her superpower of superstrength for granted neither physically, nor psychologically or metaphorically.
Ritter is perfect as Jessica Jones, with a tomboyish sexiness without any androgynity whatsover that proves to be impeccable as the dark knightess. The chemistry with Colter is on point, although the sex scenes emphasised less on their connection as people and more on their connections as kindred experiments.
The story makes the outsider Jones one of us, with human issues and individual issues that isolate her, albeit of a superhuman nature. The expectations of the world, the gaze of the world, the ways of the world, the burden of the world, all weigh on the mind and showcase where the villain lies, as the devil proposing a twisted break. Superbly written, casted and produced, it gets a solid 9.
Marvel Jessica Jones streams both on Netflix (Jessica Jones on Netflix) and Disney Plus (Jessica Jones on Disney+). See more Marvel or Marvel-related TV series and movies here.