Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Are you tired of super hero stories about rich people, idealists, and literal gods? Are you interested in a smaller story that delves deep into the life of a person with superpowers that really isn't interested in being a hero? (Or a villain, for that matter?) Someone who just wants to live their life?

Jessica Jones is basically that. It's not a comedy or even an action show, really. It's more of a noire, a character study, with a touch of horror and drama. It's engaging and fascinating, and I highly recommend it. You can watch the whole thing on Netflix, and I recommend doing so instead of reading the rest of this post. Spoilers ahoy.

They've renewed Jessica Jones for a second season, and I can't help but wonder how they're going to top the first. I mean, the protagonists are pretty fun and interesting, and I'm interested to see how it goes. But by far the most compelling character in the first season was Kilgrave, who stole basically every scene he was in. He was as fun as he was terrifying, and it was that uneasy balance of fear and adoration that drove home the show's theme of exploring toxic relationships.

In a sense, the show has been centered around Kilgrave up to this point: his effects on Jessica, his impact on his other victims, his backstory, trying to figure out his motives, trying to outsmart him, and so on. Jessica is as obsessed with him as he is with her.

His power sets him apart, too. It's a subtle but powerful ability, completely dependent on his own cleverness to be useful. He's not strong, not acrobatic or fast, he can't heal quickly or really cause direct harm to anyone. However, his mind control ability makes all of that stuff seem paltry. In fact, had Jessica not somehow gained some sort of immunity to his ability she wouldn't actually have stood a chance without resorting to Simpson's tactics. (Which, given how it all ends, might not have been the worst idea.)

And then, of course, there's that brilliant "what would you do?" moment, when he offers Jessica the opportunity to turn him into a force for Good; to basically turn Jessica and Kilgrave into what may have been the most effective superhero duo in the world, bar none. If she could just forgive him for his past actions and bear to be around him for the rest of her life, she could potentially use him to save the world from most any threat. Logically, it seemed like the right choice.

Emotionally, though, how do you forgive him for the things he's done? How do you stand the presence of someone who violated you so thoroughly? How do you overcome such trauma?

I think Jessica might have considered letting Kilgrave be if he would have gone off to be a hero on his own, or even if he would have disappeared. But to have to spend her life with him? To guide him in his "redemption?"

Jessica is herself an interesting character, struggling with trauma and barely getting by despite being somewhat super-powered. She's a character who struggles, not just with her villain, but with herself. She's definitely compelling in her own right, and I'm interested to see where the series goes next, even if David Tennant is out of the picture.

Interesting tidbit: the show-runner for this compelling addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Melissa Rosenberg, whose work includes the screenplays for the successful-yet-critically-panned Twilight series of movies. It's fascinating to me that those movies had such a quality mix of writers, directors, and maybe(?) actors (though I'm less familiar with the actors' other works), yet still turn out so widely considered to be awful. Which perhaps really says more about the source material than the movie makers.

Sorry if this post is kind of rambling. I'm not terribly clear-headed today, but I needed to let people know that this show is good and that I'd like to talk about it later when I'm not getting ready for a trip.

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