What’s The Deal With Jessica Jones?

We here at Nerd Rage HQ do occasionally stray from topics on existentialism and nuclear physics to discuss the more plebeian topics, such as Netflix series and superhero culture.

I know, I know… you’re all shocked. Next thing you know we’ll be discussing online gaming or sloths. Good heavens… what horribly mundane things.

Anyhow, for today I wish to discuss the series Jessica Jones.

I’ve had several friends ask if I’ve watched Jessica Jones, and some who have used it to fill the void between seasons of Daredevil. There are even a few who, for some unknown and completely insane reason, have watched JJ but haven’t yet watched DD. I decided to catch up on this newer series, because I have enjoyed Daredevil so very much and have heard the two are loosely connected.

My verdict: meh.

I’m underwhelmed. The depiction of Daredevil, Kingpin, and the Punisher was so well done, that I really expected to be blown away by Jessica. I did my due diligence and researched the characters and got a feel for the story, so I wasn’t expecting to see a copy of Daredevil, but I was expecting more than what Jessica Jones delivered.

There are a lot of intriguing elements, but it’s incredibly vulgar. I understand that the heroine is a P.I. and her job entails some indelicate things, but the best thing about the show is the villain – who actually is really evil but is often more likable than the main character. Jessica is a complete ass to everyone, without fail, and is only humanized by her one friend, whom she is a complete ass to also. We’re supposed to believe that she is unpleasant so as to protect people from the danger she feels she brings along with her, but she often shows no compassion for the people around her at all. She is mercenary in nature (not taking jobs to help, but to pursue her own agenda or make them shut up), seems to hate humanity in general (she aids in a “compassionate” abortion in which the unborn is called a “thing” and disgustedly mumbles about “breeders” later), and doesn’t actively seek to improve the lives of anyone in her circle unless her arm is twisted – even though those people often stick up for her in completely selfless ways.

Apart from her completely horrid personality, Jessica’s powers are never really defined. They seem to be inconsistent at best, and you really have to suspend disbelief to accept that a tiny, emo, alcoholic possesses super strength and what might be accelerated healing or an impressive jump? Like I said, her powers aren’t explored or defined well at all (and keep in mind I already knew what they were). You also never get a feel for what motivates her. She comes across as caustic, and you’re meant to see her as broken, but she only seems broken about a third of the time. Nothing about this character is consistent.

Besides the main character being a hot mess, her boyfriend and fellow super is a bit one-dimensional as well. In fact, the most compelling characters are the much-abused best friend and the junkie down the hall. All of them, however, are nothing in comparison to the villian, Purple Man. Killgrave, as he’s called, is a truly bad dude. His powers are clearly defined and he uses them to full advantage, leaving untold collateral damage in his wake. Despite his general horribleness and destructive nature, he manages to be a compelling and complex character, something the main character is sorely missing. There are even moments when one could almost feel bad for him, all the while knowing that he’s hurt people in ways that will never be made right. That’s the mark of a well-written and well-acted character, though. Killgrave is what got me through the entire season of Jessica Jones.

Aside from the problem of not liking the main character at all, there is the issue of the show just being terribly vulgar. I’m aware of the rating, and didn’t expect a Disney show, so spare me the “it’s to be expected..” tone. When I say it’s vulgar, I mean it’s really hard to not turn it off vulgar. All of the dialogue/monologue is liberally sprinkled with “god-damn”, among other frequent swearing.  There isn’t a lot of nudity – in fact hardly any – and yet there is some extremely vigorous sex (broken beds and all) and suggestive content (moments of office romance, if you will). There is a recurring subplot dealing with a love triangle involving 3 lesbians, a nasty divorce, and extremely questionable ethics as two of the triangle points work at the law firm which Jessica somehow gets continually drawn to. One begins to wonder if this is merely to make the erstwhile romance more prominent than is strictly necessary, especially given that there are other problems which should require a greater focus. Like, say, a villain who is destroying people at will.

All in all, the show wasn’t entirely bad, I’m just not sure the good outweighs the bad. The villain totally made that season watchable, and he’s a horrible person. I’m not sure I would care to slog through all the negatives to see where the show goes from here, especially since the only character I care about at this point is the junkie neighbor, and since the only connection to Daredevil was a brief appearance by the D.A. and the night nurse.

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