Like many people these days, I’m getting pretty sick of the seemingly unending deluge of superhero movies and TV shows being thrown at our faces. It seems you can’t go five minutes without running into another comic book adaptation a studio’s desperately trying to crowbar into a ‘cinematic universe’, and despite some being perfectly good movies, it’s all started to melt into a homogenous mass of overblown CGI and silly costumes.
This apathy might explain why I was so surprised when, in a desperate bid to ward off revision for collections, I sat down to watch Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and found it was one of the most compelling and interesting shows I’d seen in quite some time. Based on a lesser-known comic series and set in a beautifully shot noir-tinged vision of New York that lacks the CGI sheen that characterises most superhero films, Jessica Jones is a surprisingly dark and disturbing ride that touches on themes of abuse, power, control, PTSD and alcoholism, not hesitating to throw in a bit of sex and violence to emphasise that this one’s definitely not for the kiddywinks.
David Tennant puts in a wonderfully unsettling performance as antagonist Kilgrave, a man with the power to make people do whatever he tells them to, and the show uses this to explore ideas about domestic abuse and rape that most shows wouldn’t dare touch with a bargepole, so to see them explored in such an intelligent and sensitive way in a comic book adaptation is somewhat mindblowing. Although there are characters with superpowers throughout the show and it does allow for some excellent action scenes, it never degenerates to sheer spectacle. The focus always remains on relationships and ideas, propelled by tight scripting and a raft of stellar performances (Mike Colter’s Luke Cage is a personal highlight, and I look forward to seeing him in his own show next year).
All in all Jessica Jones succeeds both in its own right as an intelligent and gripping show and as a challenge to traditional conceptions of what comic book adaptations can be, and it’s well worth a binge.