With a veritable plethora of college football bowl games (There are 40 of them this year.) looming on the horizon, many of your favorite TV shows may have gone on hiatus until the bowl mania has run its course. So what do we have to watch if we want a break from the gridiron?
I can offer at least one excellent suggestion that I have discovered on Netflix. “Jessica Jones” is a new series (13 episodes) based upon the Marvel character of the same name, and it simply superb. Although I am only four episodes into the series, I am completely hooked, and I have savored the shows I’ve already watched.
Jessica (Krystan Ritter) is a former superhero with lots of baggage, and one of the things making the show so interesting is that we learn a little more about her background in each episode. The story is set in New York City, where Jessica has opened a private detective agency called “Alias Investigations,” and in the opening episode, we learn very quickly that she has her own special way of dealing with clients who fail to pay their bills.
In the pilot we enter Jessica’s noir world of dark streets, fire escapes, and neighborhood bars. We have the chance see her spying on someone for one of her clients, but we don’t find out exactly what this is about until later on in the story. Although she has given up her status as a superhero, she sometimes resorts to her powers, and in an online interview, Ritter offered some interesting insight into her character.
“She is a former superhero with a really, really dark, twisted past, and that comes back to haunt her from the beginning. That’s the journey that we go on with her. She’s a very reluctant superhero. When we meet her, is she taking on cases as a detective. Just to make a buck, honestly. She’s not trying to save the city or really do anything. She’s making money to buy whiskey. She’s a P.I. because it’s a great opportunity for her to use her unorthodox skills and not work with people and work at night. She doesn’t have to exist and socialize.
“She represses a lot of her abilities. She kind of wants nothing to do with it, but when she has to, she will rise to the occasion. She’s super strong. She’s a bit of a brawler. She can fly, but not well at all. So she doesn’t do that often, because she’s so bad at it. She’s just not a very good superhero. She’s a real misfit. She’s a real fucking misfit.”
Ritter is perfectly cast in the role of Jessica because she is able to imbue her character with an outer shell of toughness that belies the vulnerability lying underneath it. She makes us share in all of her emotions (We also get her thoughts via voice-overs.), and while there are times when she’s not easy to like, we really can’t dislike her because we know she’s basically a good person who has been horribly damaged at some point in her life.
Jessica is a fascinating character, but so are some of the other people we meet in the first few episodes. For example, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is going to be very important to the story. Jessica meets this huge bartender during one of her investigations, and it’s not long before she discovers that he harbors an interesting secret that I won’t divulge here.
In the program’s production notes Colter describes Cage as, “…a neighborhood hero, very much linked to New York and Jessica Jones. He is a darker, grittier, more tangible character than Iron Man or Thor. He likes to keep things close to his chest, operate on the hush-hush. He has these abilities, but he’s not sure how and when to use them.”
Jessica’s best friend is Patricia “Trish” Walker (Rachael Taylor), a beautiful former model who has her own radio show. In the first four episodes we learn that Trish and Jessica have had somewhat of a falling out, but they really love each other like sisters. Their friendship is interesting because Trish has no special powers, but their bond is a strong one, and they really try to look out for each other.
Additional key personnel in the show are the following: Will Simpson (Wil Trval), a sergeant with the NYPD who doesn’t approve of the way Jessica operates as a detective; Hope Shlottman (Erin Moriarty), a student at New York University who becomes Jessica’s client in a horrifying way; Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor who wanders in and out of her life; Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), a hard-ass lawyer who gives Jessica clients from time to time; and Kilgrave (David Tennant), a terrifying character who has the power to control people’s minds. At some point in her life, Kilgrave got control of Jessica and made her do terrible things. She’s desperately trying to forget him, but he’s not making it easy for her.
In addition to the fine acting throughout the show, the cinematography is absolutely fabulous. Every episode I’ve watched so far has offered some wonderfully unique shots of New York City, and the overall dark lighting adds to the noir mood of the show.
Although I’ve watched only four episodes so far, I am going to assign this show the final score of a tentative nine with the understanding that it could be a 10 by the time I finish the series. The show has a little bit of everything in it, but the main attraction is Jessica. She’s simply unforgettable.