Season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil comes out on Netflix on March 18, 2016. In honor of the premiere, I’m taking a peek into the Marvel television universe and an even closer look at one of the shows that stands above the rest: “Marvel’s Jessica Jones.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe television series began in 2013 and, as of now, airs on ABC and Netflix. The characters and shows in the Netflix Marvel world will eventually overlap with each other. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are the primary superheroes. “Marvel’s Luke Cage” and “Marvel’s Iron Fist” are currently in the works. Eventually, all the characters will unite in “Marvel’s Defenders,” But that moment is in the distant future.
Marvel’s ability to create a world on a streaming site and ensure years of television production is impressive and incredibly reflective of the current state of technology and habits of television viewers. No network television channel could sustain many new series–with continuous renewals–most of which aren’t even fully developed when they’re given okayed by execs. It would be too costly and too much of a risk for big networks to bet on these less established shows. Thus, Marvel’s occupancy on ABC has been traditional with the development and sale of one series at a time. If one show was cancelled, the others could still continue. While online streaming offers new opportunities for low-budget, independent creators, massive franchises are taking advantage of the relatively new system in their own ways.
Additionally, the viewers of the shows are not necessarily the same demographic as the people who pay to see Marvel’s movies in theaters. In fact, the viewers of each show aren’t the same. (Though, all the shows across viewing platforms have been well-received.) Given the time constraints of film, the plots can feel confusing for viewers who are unacquainted with in-depth comic book knowledge. However, TV series begin with mystery and aim to become increasingly clear. Thus, they are more accessible to viewers with little knowledge of or interest in comics. The television presence from Marvel has also proven that massive budgets for impressive sets, stunts, special effects and pyrotechnics aren’t requirements for an excellent action series.
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” makes the most of its budget as it errs on the side of realism. Yes, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Kilgrave have superpowers. But the show doesn’t emphasize them as a movie would. Supposedly, these characters exist in the same world as the Hulk and Captain America. However, that’s difficult to imagine, considering Jessica Jones gives off the energy of a detective, psychological drama.
Jones has the gifts of super strength and flight, but she’s finished with her superhero days as the series opens. She’s recovering from her traumatic experience with Kilgrave (a sociopath with mind control) and working as a private investigator. Jones comes across as dry and sarcastic.
That light, snarky humor runs throughout the series, despite the dark themes. It makes the dialogue sharp and quick. This makes the show’s pacing enjoyable and builds the tension over the course of each episode, which is nearly an hour long. When the series continues and incorporates more superhuman elements, the effect can be somewhat jarring. However, this shift picks up the pace and heightens the plot. The change is inevitable and easily forgivable.
Also, the cinematography of this neo-noir show is thrilling and impressive. It’s not something one would normally look at during a TV show, but the creative, dramatic uses of angles, lighting and color command as much attention as the characters and activity. Warm, dark lighting and the incorporation of Venetian blinds pay homage to the noir genre, but the show’s cinematography goes beyond the expected. The camera turns stairways and streets into mazes and brief mind games even when a character is simply walking or stumbling about them. Meanwhile, the show uses tinges of purple balanced against warm tones for Jessica and cool ones for Kilgrave to subtly support the importance of color in the comic books.
As Jessica Jones, Krysten Ritter shines. I’ve loved her since “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.” Once again, she’s in a role that suits her acting style and distinct look perfectly. Ritter excels with quick dialogue and a rough, yet oddly appealing personality.
David Tennant thrives as Kilgrave. He’s not in most scenes, so when he is, he holds the camera’s attention. He infuses his villainous character with a dark sense of humor and charm that tonally matches and plays off of Ritter’s Jones. The Tenth Doctor is nowhere to be seen, but Tennant is just as fun to watch. All of the characters are complex, fully-formed individuals. The viewer learns new, surprising information about each of the many superheroes as the series unfolds.
Between creator Melissa Rosenbergstarring, the badass Ritter and a powerful team of directors, the show depends on incredible talent. Jessica Jones goes beyond typical girl power superhero tropes. The show manages to avoid catering to the male gaze as it explores queer and heterosexual female sexuality.
Relationships aren’t the primary focus of the show. Yet, they are treated respectfully and as realistically as possible given the situations on the series. The series is also different from the other creations from the Marvel Universe for the serious issues it address such as rape and PTSD.
Though there’s a lot going on in “Jessica Jones” and the story is told with unconventional narrative continuity, the viewer can still follow the different plotlines. “Jessica Jones” demands attention and can feel emotionally heavy, thus it’s ill-suited for binge watching. “Jessica Jones” is visually beautiful, thought-provoking and addictive.