Few shows have had such a wide critical reaction than Jessica Jones, ranging from ‘Best show Marvel has made yet’, to ‘Just alright’, and ‘A giant cliché’. My thoughts lie somewhere in the middle. At its best Jessica Jones is far and away the best thing Marvel has done, at its worst… it’s about decent.
This review of Jessica Jones contains spoilers, just watch the show, it’s good enough.
Let’s start with the good, the music and opening is fantastic, the show is very pretty looking, and the acting is superb. Though Krysten Ritter was not quite what Alias fans were expecting, she did a knock-out job, Krysten might not look like Jessica Jones, but she certainly felt like her. David Tenant, however, had by far the stand out performance, this was no surprise for fans of his work, but his ability to channel pure terror was astounding nonetheless.
Jessica Jones is a show made up of moments. Moments that shock, moments that terrify, moments that cause an intense roar of laughter from any group larger than four (looking at you episode two bar scene). These moments reveal Jessica Jones, nay, the Marvel Cinematic Universe at its best. When Jack begs for a mercy killing, when Kilgrave professes his love amidst the cops, when he strips away the wallpaper, it is these moments that make the show.
Of course, Jessica Jones is not without its faults which stem to two major issues. The first being its wasted time, the second it’s inconsistency.
The largest offender of the first is the entire subplot between Jeri, Pam, and Wendy. It was never very entertaining, every moment Wendy or Pam was onscreen was a moment spent pining for Kilgrave or Jessica by its audience (at least, THIS audience). Though a pay-off was awaited with bated breath, that pay-off never really came. It is possible to cut out that entire subplot and the only decent thing you’d lose is that strangely satisfying scene of Wendy cutting Jeri. The subplot never truly tied in with Jessica and Kilgrave’s story, in fact the only main interaction was towards the end when Jeri helped Kilgrave escape. But all that contributed was the aforementioned cutting scene, Jeri didn’t need that subplot to help Kilgrave escape. Wendy and Pam could have never existed and the result would have been the same. Others have praised it for its progressive nature, and while that is nice and all, a subplot is supposed to serve the story, but because it didn’t, this plot doesn’t deserve to be part of the story.
The second main flaw is the inconsistency, and this is best seen with the main villain. There are ultimately two versions of Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, the terrifying-psychopathic-revenge-seeker and the creepy-obsessed-lover. The first is chilling and intriguing, the second is cautiously lovable. Both versions of Kilgrave are fantastic, and David Tenant does a wonderful performance with both, but the show loves to jump between the two. Initially we are introduced to the first, but at the midpoint we’re given the second, and the finale episode is largely the first again, while the climax is the second once more.
It is scientific fact that David Tenant is a likable actor, infectiously so. My pet theory is that once Kilgrave was no more than a creepy roommate, Tenant was allowed to release the likable-ness that was previously restrained. But once Tenant releases the likable-ness, it can no longer be contained, for the rest of the series Kilgrave is almost easier to root for than Jessica, until we get a brief glimpse of the psychopathic man we saw before, only to jump back to Likable-Kilgrave for the climax. It’s hard to blame David Tenant for this issue, as previously stated both versions of Kilgrave are wonderfully delivered and realized, if the theory stated is correct, the blame goes to writers that can’t keep up with an actor like Tenant.
There are a couple other, less major issues as well. Simpson’s character arc into
a discount Punisher Nuke feels forced and unnecessary. Trish is also initially built-up as someone who can take care of herself, even getting the drop on Jessica, but this is never called back, and Trish never uses these combat skills meaningfully again, making it feels as little more than fanservice. The chemistry between Mike Colter and Krysten Ritter that has been so universally praised was nonexistent in my eyes. While both actors played their individual characters very well, the only charm in their interactions was solely from the script. There might have been sparks between Luke and that saw, but not between Luke and Jessica. This is clearly an opinion in the minority, but it feels like a relevant observation to make.
The biggest failing found in Jessica Jones is by far the plotholes. There aren’t many worth mentioning, but the one found is quite large. One of the things that really sets about both Daredevil and Jessica Jones apart from even other Marvel movies, is the lack of having to ‘turn your brain off.’ You can think critique about both shows without getting enraged… for the most part.
About two-thirds into the show is it revealed that Jessica is immune to Kilgrave’s powers, enough to make a vaccine from her blood, but the explanation as to why is never given. Jessica just happens to develop an immunity, which is really convenient. Of course, there are reasonable fan theories as to why, but this should not be left to the fan community. This is simply inexcusable, we are just supposed to accept that it happened, it totally broke the sense of immersion and realism that Jessica Jones did such a good job of building. It was impossible to take anything seriously now. “Kilgrave’s neck was snapped? Well I’m sure he’s come back to life again, you know, just because.”
“Kilgrave has Trish under his powers? I’m sure she’ll snap out of it, just because.”
Additionally, when it is revealed that Jessica is immune, it’s played off as if that is why Kilgrave wanted Jessica’s consent, because he had no choice. This, of course, ruins the great character moment Kilgrave had, he was sick and tired of manipulating people and getting what he wanted, he wanted a companion with agency. He wanted to see what love was really like. By doing this, it destroys the entire creepy-lover version of Kilgrave, which is the one with the most screen time. Thankfully, the idea that Kilgrave gave Jessica a choice because he had to was disproven when he actually bought her home, without using his powers, instead of just taking it over. But then that means the show is contradicting itself. Ugh.
And of course, the inevitable comparison to the comic. Here Jessica Jones performs pretty well. Jessica Jones perfectly captured the titular character and the tone in which her stories are told. The only thing that could improve that tone would be an F-Bomb here and there. An opinion Melissa Rosenberg holds as well, “The only thing we couldn’t do was drop F-bombs, which we wanted to really.”
Also in the comics, Kilgrave never actually touches Jessica sexually, unlike in the show, she is never raped. Instead Kilgrave would force Jessica to watch him rape college girls while making her beg for the same treatment. It’s disappointing that this was removed from the show, as it added a lot of nuance to the characters and was actually darker than just raping her (never thought I’d have to write that).
Don’t forget that in the comics there is a perfectly good reason for why Jessica is immune to Kilgrave, and while it’s understandable that they didn’t (couldn’t) use this explanation, the COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING DAMMIT!
Overall Jessica Jones is a really hard show to review. It’s not nearly as consistent as it’s sister show, when it’s good, it is good, but when it isn’t its… frustrating. The show has many great qualities, the story (for the most part), the characters (for the most part), and everything on a technical level. But Jessica Jones‘ fatal flaws hold it back significantly.
If you were to ask me for the best moment in the MCU, it would be from Jessica Jones, but if you ask for best overall property in the MCU, that title still belongs to Daredevil.