Wednesday 24 January 2018

The TV guide: Miss Jones

As Netflix gets ready to debut its latest series, Marvel's Jessica Jones, we look at the rise and rise of everyday superheroes

Krysten Ritter
Krysten Ritter

Emily Hourican

Netflix's new release, Marvel's Jessica Jones, is a deliberate ramping-up of the recent trend for superhero shows aimed firmly at adults. This latest 13-part series bears far more resemblance to Agent Carter, True Detective or even Amazon's recent pilot, The Man In The High Castle, than it does to anything in the corny caped-crusading mode. With a starry cast, stylish sets and enough raunchy sex, drugs, violence and squalor to ensure the kids won't be allowed to watch, Jessica Jones is free to become the perfect piece of cross-over drama, originating in a fantastical, largely childish universe, but transformed into exactly the kind of thing now likely to be watched by grown-up fans of the genre, meantime weaned on a steady, and demanding, diet of Nordic noir and high-value TV drama.

From the start, Jessica Jones is dark and decidedly grown-up. She is a traumatised superhero with painful secrets in her past, many of which she doesn't fully comprehend, in hiding from the world. In a bid to break free of what she has known, Jessica Jones turns her back on her short-lived, superhero, crime-fighting days and opens a more conventional detective agency, where her boss is Jeri Hogarth, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, a high-powered lawyer who also happens to be Marvel's first openly lesbian character.

Breaking Bad star Krysten Ritter plays Jessica as a hard-drinking, tough-talking, ass-kicking heroine, with a look that is far more Lisbeth Salander in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo than it is the tights-and-bodice get-up of Wonder Woman - but one who is also clearly troubled by her past. As with Agent Carter, the show has some claims to feminism; not only is Jones allowed to be a troubled even 'unlikely' heroine in the true tradition of film noir, she is also in charge of her own sexuality.

Instead of being purely a sexual object, as is mostly the way with female superheroes, here she gets to be a sexual predator too, setting the pace of courtship between herself and love-interest Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter.

David Tennant plays the sinister Kilgrave, who seems to haunt Jessica, perpetually lurking at the edge of the scene, with Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, radio talk show host, former model, child TV star and Jessica's closest friend. Essentially, this is a noir detective story - the deliberately hard-bitten voice-overs, many shady deals and endemic cheating make sure of that - but with a protagonist who happens to have super powers.

As such, the series also fits within what seems to be a trend for no-big-deal supernatural stuff, such as French series The Returned, where characters mysteriously come back from the dead, but where the real business of the show is the way this fits into the lives of the living.

With Jessica Jones, what drives the drama is Jessica herself, her troubled psychology and the desire to find out what happened to make her so jumpy and withdrawn. Each episode gives her an immediate case to solve - starting with the disappearance of a teenage girl - but work together to build into an over-arching plot involving the mysterious Kilgrave.

Daredevil was Netflix's first attempt at pimping the superhero genre and was successful enough to have kick-started Jessica Jones, soon to be followed by Luke Cage, Iron Fist and team-up show The Defenders, all due in 2016. But for all the sophisticated make-over and stylish action sequences, Jessica Jones is not exactly ground-breaking TV drama.

Rather, it is enough of a make-over to justify a bit of hype, while remaining essentially comfort food for a generation determined to take childhood with them as they grow older.

Marvel's Jessica Jones starts on Netflix on November 20

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