Marvel’s ‘Jessica Jones’: Could Be Even Better Than ‘Daredevil’
Marvel’s Netflix empire hasn’t been short on hype, ever since Daredevil debuted as a comic book series far from the norm of the MCU. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe was concerned with evil robots and invading aliens, Daredevil brought things back down to a decidedly human place, and promised much of the same for the future of Netflix’s other superhero series. First on the docket of follow-ups is Jessica Jones, a show that’s immediately established itself as so much more than just “that thing after Daredevil‘s first season to keep us tided over until Season 2.”
None of us would blame Marvel for doing what they can to make Jessica Jones a bridge to bigger and better things within their Netflix universe. What they did instead though was produce an empowered female lead in Krysten Ritter, incorporate your classic “good vs. evil” narrative, and somehow in the middle of all this, draw a stunningly executed parallel between Jessica’s abuse at the hands of our villain, Killgrave, and real-life abuse. As Slate put it, “Killgrave is a walking consent metaphor: His power is to extract consent from people who are, in fact, helpless to give it.”
Before we open the enormous can of worms represented by David Tennant’s Killgrave though, let’s double back and explore some of the more basic themes of the show. First off, stylistically Jessica Jones is gorgeous. If Daredevil was the appetizer to Marvel’s attempt at film noir, this is the entrée, dessert, and nightcap all wrapped up in one. Jessica herself is a private investigator, whose ever-so-slight Mid-Atlantic speech affectation conjures up images of a 1950s gumshoe. The color choices are dark, dreary, and shadowed, and despite being set in modern day, it makes you feel as though you’ve been thrown smack dab in the middle of 1949’s The Third Man.
The brilliance of Jessica Jones goes far beyond the muted tones. Each and every frame is thoughtfully composed, and everything you see on screen serves a purpose thematically. The show makes frequent use of selective focus, where one point on screen is clear as day, while the rest of the frame is notably blurred, used as a visual device to depict Jessica’s inner chaos and uncertainty. Our main villain, known more commonly in the comics as “The Purple Man,” is teased at everywhere we look, from faded purple lens flare in the background of a scene, to eery, violet lighting signaling his physical presence.
The use of purple denotes does more than just denote Killgrave’s physical presence: It tells us just how pervasive and terrifying he is even when he’s not in the room. You can feel his influence in the thoughts and actions of Jessica, and because he’s a character with the power to control the minds and actions of anyone he pleases, it’s hard not to see textbook behaviors of abuse victims in the people he affects. In that way alone, it makes him the most patently evil and horrific villain Marvel has ever featured on-screen. He’s not someone out for world domination or global destruction. “Killgrave is literally a rapist,” Slate astutely points out, and it’s why he’s infinitely more twisted than your Ultrons or Lokis.
Jessica Jones is a show about a lot of things. It’s about demonstrating that a female lead can carry a full-on superhero series. It’s an expertly told abuse parable, forcing us to take a good, hard look into how our own culture treats victims. All the while, it’s a classic noir tale, complete with an ominous soundtrack, a mysterious P.I. case, and a voiceover that harkens back to films like Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. And by the time you reach the end of its 13-episode debut season, there’s a solid chance you’ll be far more excited for the next appearance of our titular heroine than you are for Season 2 of Daredevil.
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