Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Jessica Jones

So, I have, at long last, gotten to Netflix series Jessica Jones.

Where do we begin?

We should begin in Episode 2, because that's where things actually start to get interesting. But, alas, we must begin in episode 1.  And our first image? Two people we don't know, having sex in a car, with our illustrious hero snapping away with a camera. When the client is shown the pictures, and throws a fit, he is promptly thrown through the glass of the office door.

Enter Jessica Jones.

That sets the tone for much of the early episodes. Several minutes of sex, with a smattering of character and violence. Frankly, I think the first 90 minutes could have been condensed to 60. Because, seriously, there's sex, and there's violence, bit violence should add something to the plot, and the sex should too.

Episode one has two nice people looking for their daughter. They're from the midwest -- perfectly pleasant, hardworking, good people. They're missing their daughter Hope, and wants Jones to find them. What she finds, though, is the man who mind-controlled and abducted her for ... weeks? Months? Years? It's never quite spelled out in the show.

We don't ACTUALLY know about that for all of episode one, however, and we're trying to figure out what the hell is going on for most of it, especially since half the episode consists of atmospherics.

In the middle, Jones goes to a bar, picks up a bartender, and jumps him for sex.

Episode 2 is mostly a hunt for how her abductor is alive, because the last time she saw him, he had been hit by a bus. Literally. The mid-point of this episode is where things get interesting.

Enter: the bar fight.

Yes, there's a barfight. For those people who have not yet seen the series, nor know anything of comics, the bartender mentioned above is Luke Cage.  The short version is, he's interesting. Heh. Heh. Heh.  The bar fight is amusing, very low key and surprisingly well done, and almost subtle with some of the little tricks they do.

By the end of episode two, we have the introduction of our villain: Kilgrave.

Trust me, I'm the Doctor
(Yes, that's the name of our badguy: Kilgrave. Even Jessica Jones makes fun of this later on, asking if the name "MurderCorpse" was taken.)

Enter David Tenant, the star of the show. Yes, he's playing the villainous, deeply evil, very psychotic Kilgrave. In the comic book, he was Zebidiah Kilgrave, an Eastern Bloc spy who had a run-in with some chemicals that gave him mind control powers. Yes, mind control. They also turned his hair and skin purple, giving him the name "The Purple Man."

Yes, really. Because comic books.

Luckily for the former Doctor, Marvel TV spared him the fate of being sprayed in purple dye, merely dressed him in a lot of purple, but not so much that he looked like a pimp from the 1970s.

However, because Tenant is British, they changed the origin story so that he got his superpowers from science experiments. More on that below.

Overall? We've got an okay little series, that, went it stays on point, it is solid. When it doesn't, though, then we're in trouble.

But special attention must be paid to episode 6. Yes. Episode 6, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

So, a rape victim of Kilgrave has gotten pregnant, and "needs" to have an abortion. Because it's "a tumor growing inside me." Yeah, that's a charming and pleasant way to refer to any baby. So there's a subplot about slipping her an abortion pill that eats up a lot of the episode and goes nowhere, really. They do their best to make it relevant, but really, we could have done without it -- using the remains of the baby to perform experiments (because embryonic stem cells?) Seriously, writers, did you run out of things to fill out the time?

Time is a large problem of this show, because there are so many time wasters.

Time Waster 1: Jones usually works for a lawyer, played by The Matrix's Carrie Anne Moss, who hasn't really aged all that well, nor has her acting. She's a bit of a bitch, who's cheating on her sainted doctor spouse with the secretary -- the lawyer, the secretary, and the spouse are all women, by the way. Because it wasn't just enough to have a show about rape victims and their rapist, but we've got to have it as two relatively horrible people in the midst of their divorce, and let's make them gay. And this adds nothing to the plot, by the way. We don't care about the lawyer, the doctor, and only a little about the secretary. But at the end of the day, they were three (maybe 2.5) horrible people doing rotten things to each other. It was just "Hey, Lesbians! Let's rub this in people's faces. Because Lesbians."

Has not aged well. Really.
Time Waster 2: Episode 6 abortion subplot

Time Waster 3: Sex. Lots and lots of sex. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage sex. Trish and her boyfriend sex. I'm trying to figure out how there wasn't Lesbian sex. Maybe Carrie Ann Moss wasn't interested. And the sex is boring. It's not interesting. They made some attempt to make it amusing, with the two of them smashing a pipe at one point, and breaking a bed in another scene, but they don't really try to make the joke work, and so the entire thing becomes a waste of time.

Time Waster 4: The neighbors. Siblings Robyn and Reubin, the upstairs neighbors, are annoying. He's "in love" with Jessica Jones, though it's expressly stated that he can't tie his own shoelaces (he even wears loafers). Robyn is a shrieking, neurotic, "why am I listening to this fruitcake" lunatic.

There's a reason I got through 11 episodes in 8 hours. Liberal use of the fast forward button.

Though I never sped through David Tenant's scenes, mostly because he's just that watchable. Hell, David Tenant stole every scene he was in as the charming and freaking terrifying Kilgrave. He's pleasant and friendly, until he's not, and then he'll pleasantly tell you to kill yourself. He was basically a Criminal Minds villain with superpowers, only I skip those scenes in Criminal Minds. His origin is such that you can't tell if you should feel sorry for him, or if he should just have a stake driven through his heart. (I'm sure the effect is better on normal people, but even when I felt sorry for him, I also feel sorry for rabid dogs, but they have to go). You can't tell if he's a spoiled child who grew old but didn't grow up, or was he maltreated and poorly parented? The answer ... both, really. You'll see. At the end of the day, you can't really tell how much of him being evil is him, as a spoiled child grown up, or if he was maltreated. The answer is really a bit of both. Is there good? Maybe. Ish. But there's so much fuckery going on in his head and in his actions, he gives serial killers a bad name. He's not a very shallow monster. He never really lies, he just selectively remembers. His entire history is deeply edited in his own head. He is a simple evil, but complex in his generation.

Actor Mike Colter also stole much of the show as Luke Cage, known in the comics as .... Luke Cage. Or as Power Man. Trust me, Luke Cage is a much cooler name -- Nicholas Cage used it to inspire his stage name. In this, Luke Cage is a bartender who happens to be indestructible. He's an interesting, grounded character, who brings a good deal of gravitas to the series. He was in just over half the episodes (7 of the series' 13), and the episodes that lacked his presence were lacking.

Much must be said for actress Rachel Taylor, who plays Jones' sister Trish -- a former Hannah Montana parallel who has grown up to become a well-adjusted sidekick. Basically, she's a sidekick in a Norah Roberts novel -- you know, the plucky best friend who has grown up with / adopted the main heroine (in this case, both), and is there to provide encouragement, humor, and happens to carry a gun. As possibly the most normal person in this series (Luke Cage being a close second), she provides an interesting counterpoint to all the misery and psychosis around her.

However, the worst part of the show is part of the plot. In a 13- episode arc, a lot of the subplots feel like padding, or are otherwise generally annoying. But the worst part of all of this? Worse than abortion subplot #6 or the lesbian divorce case or the gratuitous sex scenes? There is one primary reason for keeping Kilgrave alive for most of the series. and then, that reason is gratuitously removed.

Good God, crap like that pisses me off. It's sort of like the opening to Alien 3 -- hi, we killed off two of the characters from the last film that we spent THE ENTIRE FILM trying to save, that entire effort was wasted by gratuitous writing on the part of the writers. Thanks for your time, but the entire series was a waste. Ciao!


Overall, the good parts are so superior to the bad parts, that I'd recommend it. When it's good, it's very very good. When it's bad, it's boring. At the end of the day, call it a 6/10 -- because if you want to stick around for every last minute of the show, you're going to want to tear your hair out.

One big problem that will be an issue for folks like Matt Bowman. Our friendly neighborhood Novel Ninja would prefer that the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel more like a tightly knit little world. Agents of SHIELD, NetFlix, and Avengers films seem to be three separate and distinct worlds. Sure, the smaller shows might make mention of the bigger events -- the alien attack on New York from the Avengers films, or "the big green dude and his friends." With Jessica Jones, all of that is one big missed opportunity. Looking at her Wiki bio, she has been hip deep in this world since forever, with casual references to SHIELD, Spider-man, Daredevil, Miss / Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Scott Lang / Ant-Man, and that was before she was even a Private Eye. As Danvers, Lang, and SHIELD were already established within the lineup before the scripts were being written for this series, it seems a bit of a waste that no one thought to connect them in this.  Heck, Matt Murdock couldn't have popped up as a lawyer?

Again, final grade: 6/10. When it's good, it's great. When it's bad, it's awful. Anyone religious should probably take with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila.


  1. Oh man I didn't hear about the abortion thing. Well any slight remaining desire I had to watch it beyond episode 3 has just evaporated.

    I admit, Kilgrave and his sheer violation of free will... i can't watch - not even the devil was ever allowed that evil (possession is usually portrayed more like puppeteering, with the possessed person wanting to be free of the demon). Maybe that's at least a sign such a device will always remain fictional since God does seem to value free will.

    She's a bit of a bitch, who's cheating on her sainted doctor spouse with the secretary -- the lawyer, the secretary, and the spouse are all women, by the way.

    To be (slightly) fair, it's my understanding that this was originally in the comic, but CAM's character was a guy. So they translated it straight out of the comic and then made that character a girl. Make of that what you will.

    1. Well, I was bored with Jessica's relationship drama, there's no reason for me to be interested in someone ELSE'S relationship drama, lesbian or not.

      And the abortion stuff ... the fast forward button is your friend.

      David Tennant was really the only reason to watch it, really.

  2. I stopped around episode 7. All of this is pretty much why I stopped. Outside of the cat and mouse game between Kilgrave and Jessica, I hated everything else. Luke Cage was good, at least.

    Of the four Marvel Netfix shows I'm betting on this one remaining my least favorite.

    1. True. Everything outside of the Cat and Mouse game was soap opera. But at least Luke Cage's backdoor pilot was a success.

      Betting? No bet. It's already the least favorite on my end. I can't wait to get back to Daredevil in another week or so. I still have books to catch up on. BOth reading and writing.

    2. Daredevil is the best superhero adaption ever, so it would be a pretty high bar for this to clear. And it might have if it didn't have so much wretched filler to wade through.

      This might come down to source material, though. The original JJ is very much an "adult" comic while the Frank Miller Daredevil is very much a mature comic.

      This trend bodes well for Iron Fist being about over the top fight scenes filled with kung-fu fantasy.

    3. True, it might have been great without the filler, and while the original was very adult, I think the writers abused the privilege by turning it into padding. This series would have been at least three episodes shorter without it, and perhaps five episodes shorter if they had just done one thing sooner. They wasted a LOT of time on a plot point that became irrelevant.

  3. Ah, but episode 10 was the STUPIDEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN.

    Go, take a look at it again. Really think about it. Nothing that happens in that episode makes sense. Nothing. It's all nonsensical.

    Kilgrave's "You can't just kill me" plan? We established earlier in the show that if folks don't know something for sure, they aren't affected by it. Like with Trish. Jessica faked Trish was dead, and that was good enough for Simpson.

    So Kilgrave can't just go "If you kill me, people die". They need to know he's dead.

    The obvious response to this is "Well maybe he needs to text them every half hour!"

    That's great...except that Jessica TIES HIM UP AND GAGS HIM. He can't move or speak.

    And that's just one glaring plot hole in an episode - and series - stuffed full of them. Just stupid, stupid stuff.


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