There goes my weekend! I spent about 11 hours last Saturday and Sunday watching Jessica Jones on my computer. As you may know, I was a big fan of the Netflix Daredevil show, and I was hoping Jessica Jones would be just as good.
Like Daredevil, the first season of Jessica Jones is 13 episodes long, and each episode takes up 50 minutes. As is to be expected, I remember the episodes near the beginning and end much better than the ones near the middle, and certain things that I liked or didn't like about those middle episodes may have escaped my memory. I was up until midnight last night watching the show, and parts of it are indeed a blur.
Given the length of a TV season, I also find it hard to discuss Jessica Jones on its own merits. Instead, I find it easier to compare it to Daredevil, which is/was most people's introduction to Jessica Jones anyway.
I think Matt Murdock was a far more interesting protagonist than Jessica Jones. His character was more clearly drawn, and the moral ambiguities inherent in his character were more compelling. The lawyer/vigilante aspects of Daredevil were one of the strengths of the show, while Jessica's self-esteem issues and post-traumatic stress disorder sometimes make for a convoluted mess. I think the damage the Purple Man inflicted on her could have either been explained better, or was overemphasized. At times it seemed like her psychological damage would have had a paralyzing effect on her, rather than the opposite.
One of the problems with Jessica Jones is also the use of her powers. In the context of the show, Jessica rarely needs to use her powers, and the moments in which she does are often jarring, and brought me out of the moment. Contrast this with Daredevil, in which his powers are really part of the character, and essential to the situations in which he finds himself. When all is said and done, Jessica Jones didn't need superpowers, and giving them to her seemed like an unnecessary distraction.
I will say that Jessica's relationship with Luke Cage was one of the strengths of her show. I think if they had just put more of this into the series it would have been much better.
The Bad Guy
I loved Vincent D'Onofrio's portrayal of Kingpin, but David Tennant is so much better as Killgrave. Yes, his character seems a bit inconsistent by the last few episodes, but this is nothing compared to the stuttering indecision that the Kingpin experiences toward the end of Daredevil's first season. In Killgrave we have a deeply threatening villain with serious mental and emotional problems. In the Kingpin we have a threat that doesn't quite pan out.
Watching Jessica Jones, I often found myself wondering what an interaction between Tennant's Purple Man and D'Onofrio's Kingpin might look like. It would have been great to see them in a scene together.
Both Luke Cage and Carrie-Anne Moss's character Hogarth are more interesting than any of the supporting characters in Daredevil. Luke Cage is an enthralling addition to the Marvel Cinematic/TV Universe, and I'm looking forward to his show next year. Hogarth might have been my favorite thing about Jessica Jones, and when she disappears for a few episodes toward the end of the season I found myself wondering where she went, and what she was doing. I really hope she shows up again in Luke Cage's show.
The guy who plays Foggy Nelson (can't remember his name) on Daredevil is great, but his character is a bit slow on the uptake. Probably the best of Daredevil's supporting characters is the Kingpin's girlfriend Vanessa, but she was underused in that show. The Russian gangsters were also excellent.
This is the part of Jessica Jones that truly outshines Daredevil. Daredevil was fu*&ing AMAZING for the first few episodes, but seemed to peter out near the end. His costume was a disappointment, and the whole battle between him and the Kingpin seemed both forced and rushed. A lot of the drama surrounding Matt's true identity dragged on, as did Matt's Catholic hand-wringing and discussion of "what the right thing to do" might be.
Jessica Jones ties together much better, even if the character's actions don't always make the most sense. I think the episode where she goes to live with Killgrave was a misstep, but after this detour the series finds a firmer footing. Like Daredevil, the climax of the show isn't quite as BIG as you hope it will be, but it's still a more definite conclusion than what they did in Daredevil.
In Daredevil it was the Kingpin's accountant, and by the end of that series it was Deborah Ann Woll's character. In Jessica Jones it was her neighbor the fraternal twin and Simpson, the cop. Neither the accountant nor Deborah Ann Woll's character were even half as annoying as the twin and the cop, so there's a point for Daredevil.
One of the highlights of Daredevil is the fight scenes. This is in keeping with the character. Jessica Jones isn't really a fight-related character, so it's not fair to compare the two shows from an action perspective. Whereas Daredevil is all about kicking ass and setting a tone, Jessica Jones is about setting a tone... and occasionally kicking ass.
Even so, there's a good fight scene between Jessica and Luke Cage near the end of the series. It's done well, but it's nothing like that part in Daredevil where he rescues the child from the Russian gangsters. Now THAT fight was epic!
I think that taken as a series, Jessica Jones is the obvious winner. This might not be fair to Daredevil, since that show was first and thus offered a template for Jessica Jones to build upon. Just the same, Jessica Jones has a better bad guy, a better plot, and a better supporting cast. It's definitely not as re-watchable as Daredevil, which is more of a straight crime/action drama, but it is far more memorable. I'm hoping that elements of Jessica Jones show up again in Luke Cage - a proposition that seems likely.
As for Daredevil, season two is also on the way next year. It will be interesting to see what that show makes of The Punisher, and also how the Kingpin continues to cause trouble after his incarceration at the end of season one.
A Trivia Question
What celebrated 80s sex symbol makes several appearances in Jessica Jones? Clue: "Joel, every now and then say 'What the fuck.' If you can't say it, you can't do it!"