Hey look! It’s another Marvel television show, so what can we expect? Someone putting on a mask, beating up bad guys and taking back the world from some kind of terror or evil. Jessica Jones sure delivers on the bad guy, but the rest of it is decidedly not what you expect from a Marvel film. Jessica herself is no superhero, something the show throws at you time after time, and there are no heroes to speak of in the film. Jessica Jones features a great cast of supporting characters, some of them heroes, but none of them being superpowered heroes running around fighting crime.
Jessica Jones is more a story and television show about survival, and what horrors can happen to people if these supernatural powers were actually real. That guy in the image above? That is Kilgrave, the main villain for the series. His name may be a bit on the nose but he himself is nothing short of deadly. Hearing his voice is enough to make people do whatever he tells them to. They clarify his powers, but the controlling is the important part. You see, he took control of Jessica for an unspecified but extended period of time and kept her hostage, commanding her to love him and raping her throughout the experience. Yes, rape. Kilgrave stripped away from her all freedom for choice, of free will, and felt that it was “okay” simply because he told her to like it. Jessica Jones delves deep into Jessica coping with that when she encounters him again. It is obvious to the viewer that she has PTSD from the incident, understandably so, and you see her handle it by distancing herself from others and attempting to drink herself under the table intermittently throughout the series.
This battle is much more of an emotional and mental one rather than a, “crush all the bad guys until the final bad guy” show, but Jessica is no less the hero for it. Throughout the show she sacrifices and strives to save the people around her from Kilgrave, but it spirals out of control thanks to Jessica’s restraint and Kilgrave’s sociopathic ruthlessness. The man really could not care less about people, in general, but is obsessed with Jessica to the point where he time and time again tries to control her but rarely tries to kill her until the end of the show.
There is a love triangle and lawyer that probably more time is spent on than necessary, and a character that lives near Jessica that many viewers may find a more annoying presence in the story than anything else that character adds to it. Jessica’s best friend, Trish Walker, is a wonderful character that shows how someone with tenacity and willpower might react when faced with Kilgrave. Her efforts don’t always pay off in the show but the viewer can see how desperately she is trying to improve herself and her ability to fight back.
Luke Cage is another super powered character in the show. His relationship to Jessica changes as the show progresses, but he is portrayed as a man who wants to stay out of the world and any kind of superhero life. His wife dies before the show even starts and tragedies continue to pile on for Cage until Jessica Jones closes. His super strength and durability was interesting to compare to Jessica, whose power is super strength.
Jessica’s power didn’t come up earlier in this article because, well, it really isn’t that big a part of the story. She suppresses it when fighting people because of a traumatic event that happened to her under Kilgrave’s control, and otherwise just uses it to jump up to buildings or break locks. Her power simply isn’t the focus of Jessica Jones, her internal struggles are.
I’ve done a lot of talking about the show, because I think it is great. It’s not great because of the cinematography, which really reinforces tense and reflective moments in the show. Or the acting, which really shines whenever David Tennant, playing Kilgrave, is onscreen. It shines because it departs from the normal expectation for this genre and for this medium. Television shows rarely dive deep into PTSD or people’s handling of mental trauma, or much more physical trauma such as rape. Jessica Jones does so and does it justice. You can almost feel Jessica’s confliction in some scenes. The internal struggle taking place between two decisions presented to her. You can see how it holds her back, how it affects her relationships and her lifestyle. Finally you get to see how she overcomes it and by that time you really do care. You might be a tad frustrated with her by then, but you will care, and that is all I can really ask for from any show, much less a psychological thriller as good as this.