Friday, 20 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E01 - 'AKA Ladies Night'






With all the talk, over the past few months, about how Netflix's latest Marvel series, Jessica Jones, was going to be moving into thematically darker territory than even Daredevil was willing to delve into, I have to admit that I had actually grown a little concerned about this new series. 'Grim' and 'dark' aren't necessarily the same thing as 'mature', after all - and, there is often a very fine line between taking on darker subject-matter in a way that is done well, and taking it on in a way that just feels gratuitous. I was genuinely a little concerned that this could turn out to be a series which revelled in its darker themes, simply for shock value.

While there is, of course, still plenty of time for my concerns about Jessica Jones to be proven right, I can now safely say that it doesn't happen in the first episode, at least.

The simple fact that Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a woman who currently makes her living as a private investigator gives Jessica Jones a very different tone, right from the start. Rather than the high-minded ideals of a lawyer determined to do the right thing that we had with Matt Murdock, Jessica is clearly a woman only interested in making the best she can of a bad situation as she tries to make her way through life. The fact that she does so by fully immersion herself in the seedier aspects of life is really just a matter of circumstance.

As she says herself, much of Jessica's work tends to involve standing in the shadows and taking photos of illicit affairs. It's not exactly glamorous work - but, it pays the bills. And, most importantly, she is actually good at it. When she is not spying on unfaithful partners, though, Jessica also delivers subpoenas to dangerous individuals on behalf of Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), a lawyer acquaintance who works at a prestigious firm. This is, also, work that she is uniquely qualified for, thanks to her being strong enough to lift a car.

There is a very palpable 'noir' feel to all of this - as it becomes increasingly obvious that most of the characters we meet are damaged, in some way. Even the narration that Jessica gives, at various points throughout the episode, seem intended to elicit this 'modern noir' feel - and, it proves to be a very effective means of giving the new show its own unique look and feel.

Of course, regardless of how much pain the people she deals with on a daily basis may be in, it quickly becomes apparent that none of them are as damaged as Jessica Jones, herself. Brief hints that we are given indicated that Jessica once attempted to use her own heightened abilities for the greater good (in a way likely very similar to Matt Murdock), but that it did not end well for her when she crossed paths with Zebediah Kilgrave (David Tennant) - a man who possesses his own unnatural ability, his being the ability to control another person's mind. While we aren't given any actual details of what actually happened to Jessica while she was under Kilgrave's, but we don't really need to be. The nightmares and hallucinatory imaginings that Jessica is subjected to throughout the episode, along with Krysten Ritter's own great performance, do more than enough to show us exactly how traumatised Jessica is by whatever it was that she experienced.

When Jessica is hired by concerned parents to track down a missing daughter, though, she quickly comes to realise that she might be set to cross paths with Kilgrave, once more. Everything about the young woman's disappearance seems to mirror what had happened to her during her own encounter. And, her fears are confirmed when she learns that it was actually Kilgrave, himself, who sent the young woman's parents to Jessica, as a part of an elaborate, and genuinely disturbing, game that he seemed set on playing with her.

Despite not actually appearing in the episode, outside of Jessica's own imaginings, Kilgrave still managed to make a very strong impression, here - with the occasional snippets of dialogue from David Tennant, and Jessica's own reaction, doing more than enough to sell the idea that this is a very dangerous man who clearly enjoys the power that he has over other people.

As things stand by the end of the first episode, Jessica Jones has gotten off to a very impressive start. This first episode did a great job of establishing both its main character, and the supporting cast - and, more importantly, it did a fantastic job of setting the stakes for Jessica, as it wasted no time in introducing show's primary villain, Killgrave, who manages to inject a palpable sense of dread for Jessica, despite not actually appearing. Killgrave may not turn out to be the fascinating, and complicated, figure that Wilson Fisk was - but, judging by what we have seen so far, it's probably fair to say that he is going to make up for that by being legitimately terrifying.

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