Thursday 19 April 2018

New superhero Jessica really is super

Krysten Ritter, left, and David Tennant, attend the Netflix original series premiere of Marvel's
Krysten Ritter, left, and David Tennant, attend the Netflix original series premiere of Marvel's "Jessica Jones"

John Boland

What's not to like about Jessica Jones (Netflix)? Even if you're not a fan of Marvel comics (and I'm not), this new superhero saga has a visual style all its own, with a moodily evoked New York as its locale, an edgily cranky and scuzzy heroine at its centre and a dark undertow that's far more adult and interesting than any of its rivals.

When we first meet Jessica (the terrific Krysten Ritter, inset with co-star David Tennant), she's a damaged person, the damage having been caused by her nemesis Kilgrave (Tennant), who is barely seen in the first few episodes but whose powers of abusive mind control have so traumatised her that she boozes alone and barely functions as a private eye. In this role, she's reduced to taking photos of adulterous spouses in apartment bedrooms, though in moments of personal danger she has the benefit of immense physical strength and other superpowers.

If this all sounds far-fetched, well, it is, but the strength of the series is that you're utterly persuaded by the reality of the world inhabited by Jessica and by the people with whom she comes in contact: not least a charismatic black bar owner with whom she develops a relationship; the lesbian attorney, icily played by Carrie-Anne Moss, who provides the seedy jobs for her; and the seldom glimpsed but ever-felt Kilgrave.

Add to this the bracingly tart dialogue and the brilliantly executed action set pieces and you end up with the most arresting drama of the moment.

The French political drama Spin (More 4) is excellent, too. Shaping up as a kind of Gallic take on Borgen, it began with the assassination of the French president and the machinations of those seeking to fill his shoes. Intelligent and absorbing, this features Nathalie Baye as the decent liberal candidate and a plethora of less known but equally good players as her backers and rivals. The first-rate Spiral, which got better each season, hasn't yet returned for a new BBC4 series, but Spin will do nicely in the interim.

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