Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Messed Up Characters in Messed Up Situations

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Borrowed from screenrant.com

Synopsis: Jessica Jones had wanted to be a hero once. That was before Kilgrave, a man with the power to control minds, found her. Now that she thinks he’s dead, she’s trying to put her life together while dealing with her PTSD and trying to make a living as a PI. A cynical, trash talking, overly-violent PI who isolates herself from the people around her, but one who gets the job done. Until she finds out Kilgrave isn’t dead, and he’s coming for her, hurting other people along the way. And Jessica finds that battered part of her that had once wanted to help people, in order to find the courage to face him.

Series: First season is up on Netflix.

I’ve Watched: All of season 1 (13 episodes).

Verdict: Very good, but super creepy, and wrestles with some very creepy dilemmas.

So, this series should probably come with warnings for sexual abuse and literally everything even remotely to do with the loss of agency. The villain…is the creepiest person ever. How is it even possible to be this creepy?

The show is an exploration of control and vulnerability, and this…doesn’t always make it comfortable.

Jessica Jones is an antihero, and a clear example that a protagonist doesn’t need to be in the right or have themselves figured out to be compelling. She’s a mess post-mind control. She’s going through something many people wouldn’t even believe in, struggling to accept her role and lack of agency in it. Struggling to put her life back together. Dealing with her PTSD, and isolating herself from the people who care about her. She’s abrasive. She drinks too much.

When Kilgrave goes back into her life, it doesn’t get any better. Her single-mindedness gets people hurt. Her priorities aren’t always where they should be, and there are times that it’s clear she’s thinking through her fear instead of her morals.

Jessica’s fulfilling several roles in this story. She’s the hero. She’s a survivor of some serious abuse, who stands up to and faces the person who hurt her. And yet she’s also at the lowest point in her life. She had wanted to be a good person, and that was turned against her. She’s a wreck who ends up hurting the people around her. All of this plays out in the series. She’s a disillusioned hero who’s seen everything she is turned against her, and she hasn’t figured out how to balance how much she wants to care with how much it’s safe to care. She’s still figuring herself out, and who she’s going to be from here on out, and it leads her to plenty of mistakes.

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Borrowed from comicvine.com

The Netflix format is doing a lot of good for the story, because it doesn’t feel the need to be episodic, creating tiny contained stories in each episode. Sure, sometimes there are detours from the main plot, but they aren’t artificial–they fit into the story of Jessica’s life, highlighting how much this thing with Kilgrave permeates everything she does.

I love the friendship between Jessica and Trish, her best friend and sister. Trish is ultimately the most important person in Jessica’s life, and their relationship is multifaceted. It’s about both of them, and what they need from each other. How they’re both there for each other. No matter what else is going on, they can both count on the other to be in their corner, even if that’s not what they want. Trish together with Malcolm, Jessica’s neighbor, functions as the voice of morality in the show, while the other characters are all wrapped up in their pain. The two of them are the ones always looking to believe in people, to help people.

Several of the characters had surprises up their sleeves that only came out with the right trigger. Their set-up and introduction contrasted with their eventual character arch, and there were things about them that turned out to be completely different. I usually tended to appreciate where these characters went. The show is, overall, good with characterization. Practically everyone we meet has depths. And even minor characters don’t get neglected. They aren’t just archetypes.

One comment on the whole female-characters-as-victims trope. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the most committed and comprehensive story I’ve seen of the abuse survivor dealing with her experiences, and even getting to fight back against her attacker. So even though I don’t think every female hero should have the villain lusting after her or creepy violations as part of her backstory–and this does feel like a common theme–this series certainly earns its place with real dedication to the topic. But with respect to all Western media, as a general trend, not every single female protagonist needs to have her story be about retaining her physical and mental autonomy.

Overall, a compelling character-driven show. Where practically every character had something to contribute, their own motivations, and a degree of complexity. I really enjoyed watching many of these people on screen–Jessica, Trish, Malcolm, Jeri, and Wendy being some of my favorites, for various reasons. Also, Kilgrave is disgusting.  

Favorite Quotes:

“Don’t call, don’t visit, and don’t send strange men to my apartment with power tools.”

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