A Shit Show AKA Jessica Jones

jessica-jones-netflix-poster.jpg

Remember when you were a kid and you read comic books because they were colorful, fun, and good always triumphed over evil? Well, fuck you. You get Jessica Jones.

When Marvel started their Cinematic Universe in 2008 with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, I doubt many thought there would be ten movies, two TV series, and two Netflix series by the end of 2015, with an additional eleven movies, at least one TV show, and three Netflix shows planned before 2020. Yet, here we are. Marvel signed a deal with Netflix in order to go "street", arguably what Marvel characters are most known for. Sure, you have your world saving heroes and books, but Marvel is known for heroes just doing hero stuff in New York City on a personal level. Without the restrictions of broadcast television or the MPAA, Marvel intended to make their Netflix vehicles much more adult, with language and violence to match.

Daredevil was released in April of 2015 to critical acclaim, both for the seriousness of content, as well as the brutality. It took on a completely different tone and look from the MCU movies like Iron Man or The Avengers. In November, Netflix would release Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones was originally planned to be an ABC show all the way back in 2010, well before the Netflix deal, well before Agents of SHIELD, and even before The Avengers was confirmed to happen. They turned it down because...well, if you've seen the Netflix show or the comic it was based on, you'd see why. 

                                                        Anal with a stranger just to feel something is perfect for 9PM on ABC

                                                        Anal with a stranger just to feel something is perfect for 9PM on ABC

Jessica Jones, the entire show, is aggressively dark. Almost cloyingly dark. "LOOK WE'RE ON NETFLIX" dark. If you want fun, do not watch this show. If you want enjoyable, do not watch this show. If you want a show where every character is a sack of shit, the villain is literally the personification of rape and abuse, and a world so nihilistic Nietzsche would tell you to cheer up, then watch this show.

The show focuses on Jessica Jones, a private detective who is also a "gifted" person with super strength and ability to kind of fly. Ish. She's also a hardcore alcoholic and legit asshole to everyone around her. Her alcoholism stems from her time with the Kilgrave, the villain, who mind and physically raped her, as well as made her kill. Her assholism stems from being an asshole, as proven by flashbacks to her teenage years. The world she inhabits (allegedly the same brightly colored world where The Avengers and their villains try to out-quip each other in between saving/taking over the world) is nothing but darkness. All of the characters have had terrible lives. Jessica's parents and brother died in a car wreck she caused. She was adopted by a family, her new foster sister being a TV star abused physically and mentally by her crazy stage mother. Her neighbor is a hardcore junkie, often found passed out in the elevator or in the wrong apartment. The neighbors above her are possibly mentally challenged twins with strong hints of an incestual relationship. Jessica's main client, a high powered lawyer, is a terrible person who rigs cases and cheats on her wife with the receptionist. Her to-be ex-wife is extremely vindictive about it all, trying to get 75% and then 90% of assets in the divorce. And then there is Luke Cage, fellow "gifted" person whose wife Jessica killed while under the power of Kilgrave. So, naturally, she tracks him down to have sex with him. Repeatedly. With no plans to ever tell him. In fact, she was intent on lying and letting Luke believe it was a drunk bus driver who killed his wife, only telling him because Luke was about to kill said driver.

The main plot of the first season involves the character of Hope, an innocent young girl who was controlled by Kilgrave in hopes of getting Jessica's attention. She's repeatedly raped and hidden away in a hotel room, then is forced to murder her parents. In order to prove Hope's innocence, Jessica has to prove that Kilgrave has actual mind control powers. However, she's so scarred from her previous time with Kilgrave that she can't get too close to him for fear that she'll come under his power. So over the course of 13 episodes, Jessica has the chance to kill Kilgrave in at least 5 episodes, but won't because Hope will never be proven innocent if she does. Everyone in the show, including Hope, begs her to kill Kilgrave.  Each time she doesn't kill him, more people die. Repeatedly. Because the plot should have wrapped up around episode 5 or 6, but continues a never ending series of hateful, needlessly and despairingly dark scenes that could have been avoided if the main character had just done what she needed to do like literally everyone involved asked of her.

In jail, Hope becomes emaciated and is then beaten by a fellow inmate. It is later revealed that she was pregnant from Kilgrave's rape baby and actually paid the inmate to beat her in an abortion attempt. When that doesn't work, Jessica and Hogarth the lawyer get her abortion pills. Hogarth then takes the fetus without Hope or Jessica's knowledge, placing it storage, with hopes to use it to develop her own controllable version of Kilgrave, presumably to rig more court cases. Instead, Kilgrave uses the stem cells of to increase his powers later in the show. And in the end, Hope is released, only to come under control of Kilgrave once again...and commits suicide so Jessica can finally kill Kilgrave. The entire thrust of the season was rendered pointless in the end, as Jessica just made things worse, allowing more and more people to suffer for something that didn't matter anyway. Hope was released without proof of Kilgrave's powers. And she killed herself the same day. By the end of the season, I at least was completely apathetic to the plights of all these people, as EVERYTHING was so dark and shitty that I couldn't bring myself to care about any of it anymore.

Kilgrave's powers are repeatedly, and constantly, referred to and compared to as literal rape. Over and over and over. Jessica doesn't kill him because she's afraid she'll come back under his control, and presumably be raped again. Then the last episode reveals that she's immune to his powers, so the WHOLE TIME she could have done whatever she wanted to him. The whole thing could have been wrapped up the first time she saw him. But nope, we'll just let EVERYONE around Jessica and Kilgrave suffer and die. Because that's fun. Real light and enjoyable fare. This stuff is so tonally inconsistent with everything else Marvel has put out. This is brutally dark even compared to Daredevil, which was much darker than any of the movies. Are comic book shows really the proper place to address the issues of rape, abuse, and the ensuing PTSD? 

But don't think my issues with the show are relegated to its oppressively depressing subject matter. No. My issues expand into the technical aspects of the show. While none of the Marvel movies have done much in terms of testing the waters with cinematography, Daredevil got much praise for its shooting style. It used long, one take shots, and careful lighting to provide a distinctive look and feel to the show, making it standout from the movies and TV shows. Along comes Jessica Jones and...everything is flat. It doesn't even resemble Daredevil, even though the shows are set in the same few blocks, during the same time period. You'd have no idea they were even tangentially related except for a few off-hand references to The Battle Of New York and a character from Daredevil making a late season appearance in Jessica Jones. The show looks like any other show shot in New York. It might as well be Blue Bloods.

This brings us to the music. It's quite sparse, but when there is background music, it is generally fluttering jazz, which doesn't fit in with any of the characters or themes of the show. More often than not, the tracks sound like leftovers from the Whiplash soundtrack. They're so out of place that it would be better if they just weren't included.

Leaning a bit on the content issues, the writing is atrocious. Genuinely bad. Lines like "You let me be inside you" are said without a hint of irony. Nearly all of Jessica's dialogue is screaming at you that this show is on Netflix, so they can say whatever they want. It's obnoxious and the delivery for everything that isn't coming out of the mouth of David Tennant is so flat and emotionless. Not only is the world these characters inhabit as crapsack as possible, but they apparently all have flat affects and depression that prevent them from emoting. The acting is just dull. The lighting is dull. The dialogue is dull and often awful. The characters are morons who consistently make things worse for themselves and those around them. All of them. There is not a single good character in this show. They're all shitty people who make terrible choices at every turn. 

But you know what's really the worst part of this show? The superpowers. You'd think a TV show about a superhero, with a friend who is a superhero, set in a superhero universe would kind of want to get those superpowers right. Jessica Jones does not. Most of the show, you'll end up forgetting she even has powers, but when she does use them, they're wildly inconsistent. In some scenes, she can easily stop moving cars. In others, she struggles to pick up a grown man. In some scenes, she can be thrown through walls or punched full force by the even more powerful Luke Cage and be completely fine. In others, she can be knocked out for 12 hours by a 2x4 to the head by one of the incestual twins. The handful of actual fight scenes look like something out of a USA Original show, with a million cuts to hide how terrible everything looks. Everything related to Jessica's powers (and Luke's) look awful. You never actually see her do her flying, which is more like "controlled jumping". Instead, cameras cut away and you hear a WHOOSH as people look confused. This is Lois & Clark shit. Fight scenes are all cut up, in stark contrast to Daredevil. Jessica's feats of strength often look labored and challenging, even when she should be able to bend a chair with ease.

Nothing in the show looks even remotely like this, by the way. Even the jumping, which is cheap as shit here, looks significantly cheaper in the actual show, and that type of lighting and style is nowhere to be found in the show itself.

The first season fails on every possible aspect you can fail at. Poor plotting which should wrap up about 5 episodes before it does and is meaningless by the end of the season anyway, poor acting and delivery from everyone except David Tennant (who is wonderful in the show, the only reason to watch), dull and flat cinematography, completely inappropriate music, terrible looking effects, and a complete lack of fun or enjoyability. There is a place for a show to touch on issues such as rape, abuse, suicide, abortion, and associated guilt and PTSD that may come from such things. A Marvel superhero show set in the same universe as The Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy is not the proper platform for those issues to be explored. Maybe if it was a stand alone show, completely unconnected to the MCU. They'd still have to improve the writing, acting, music, cinematography, and special effects, but at least then it wouldn't be so dramatically clashing with the tone and feel over everything else in the MCU.

Stro2 Comments