DD: Marvel is still somewhat new to the TV field, with their more Disney-friendly entries Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter making their homes at ABC. Can you believe that Jessica Jones was originally going to be an ABC joint?
TN: Actually, I can. The whole gumshoe aspect of the character could’ve fit weekly network television pretty well. Jessica Jones as seen on Netflix is not a detective show — it’s a serial with a detective in it.
DD: It may have worked, but there is no way that ABC was going to allow for such a dark and unflinching examination of rape responsibility. I feel like the ABC version would have had more “Jessica’s case of the week” episodes, and that is not what this show is. I’ve seen it called a neo-noir, but it’s more two-fisted and lacks any of the romantic ideas we associate with noir.
TN: The thirteen hours (what am I doing with my life?) we just watched was a rape revenge serial, and a pretty good one at that. I feel like it’s more interesting than it was good, but it’s leagues ahead of Daredevil, despite falling prey to some of the same trappings that made Daredevil such a slog. The first eight episodes of the season are a pretty strong run, but things started to unravel a bit for me past that point. The central plot still remained compelling, but I began to lose interest in the side stories and minor characters.
DD: Daredevil was an atypical “becoming a hero” story where Jessica Jones is dealing with something way more complex. Making an entire show about the after-effects of sexual and mental assault is a tricky endeavor in our sensitive times, but showrunner Melissa Rosenberg does the really smart thing of never showing Jessica’s actual rape. I think the show’s last three episodes are hurt by having an earlier climax (the scene where Hope kills herself) that feels final. That should have been the last episode. The following episodes that feature Malcolm and Robyn’s scenes feel completely extraneous after that.
TN: There’s a screenwriting adage that comes to mind when I think about the final episodes: ”come in late, leave early.” This is particularly important for dialogue scenes — don’t begin a scene too early in the conversation, and get out before the scene gets stale. There were a lot of stale scenes in those last three or four episodes. I kept wondering why the hell they weren’t getting out earlier. There were plenty of good lines that could’ve brought us into the next scene, but characters just kept yakking as if to fill time. It bugs the heck out of me, especially since the Netflix hour-ish format allows for episodes to be as long as they need to be (i.e., not too long).
DD: Marvel’s films have always had problems with their villains, but I feel that they need to talk to their Netflix department to figure those out. Fisk was a more interesting villain than most of the MCU’s baddies, but Kilgrave is their best antagonist by a wide margin. I feel like David Tennant’s performance is a big part of that, but I also think it’s a similar situation with why Loki and Ultron worked: their villainy is directly personal to our leading character.
TN: Kilgrave is one of the MCU’s best and most nuanced villains, and Tennant’s performance is pretty damn great.
DD: The episode where Jessica debates staying with Kilgrave to try and make him use his powers for good is one of my favorite things of the year. And the wonderful twist of Jessica knocking him out during dinner was worthy of a fist-pump. The shot of her shoving a cloth in his mouth was so satisfying.
TN: The section of the show that took place in Jessica’s old family home was great. Tense, creepy, and a searing examination of the dynamic between rapist and victim.
Regarding Kilgrave, I really wish they hadn’t over-explained his powers. So much of the show concentrated on how his powers worked, on whom, and for how long. Then, the show takes a turn into dum-dum territory when characters are whipping up vaccines and super-serums in motel rooms with baby’s first chemistry sets. And then, of course, Jessica is immune because the show needs her to be. They make no attempt to explain that.
DD: Did it take you a while to vibe with Krysten Ritter’s performance?
TN: Not really. I do hope the character is given a wider range in the future, though. I think the character was a little too one-note. The few times where she cuts loose in the series were very welcome. The “date” with Luke where they discuss their powers is one of the best scenes in the season.
DD: That was great, although I think its simplicity will be undercut by both Jessica Jones‘ second season (which I can’t say I’m too stoked for, because this one was a great closed story. And I don’t really care about how Jessica got her powers, which looks to be a big driving point for season two) and Luke Cage’s own show. Still, I loved their scenes together and hope their television fates mirror their comic book ones (they get hitched).
TN: Its simplicity was both refreshing and frustrating. The whole thirteen-hour-movie thing is wearing a bit thin for me, I must admit. The episodes blur together into a morass of scenes that contribute to the whole, and only to the whole. There are no single standout episodes for me, just standout sequences and “sections” that span several episodes. Compare that with shows that run weekly, and the difference is quite dramatic. It’s not just the forced break between episodes that contributes to this feeling; weekly shows are written and structured differently. Weekly episodes have lives of their own; each one is something fully formed and independent. Neither Jessica Jones nor Daredevil has that, and I believe the shows are worse off for it.
DD: There’s a much bigger discussion to be had on the subject of shows that are crafted for the binge-watching community, but in regards to Jessica Jones, I think there are standout episodes. As I said before, “AKA WWJD?” is probably one of my favorite episodes of the year.
Do we agree that Robyn is one of the worst characters in the Marvel canon? Not just because of her purposefully annoying nature, but I hated when the show tried to make her funny. Her line to her dead brother about there being express shipping in Heaven made me audibly groan. This was doubly frustrating because I really liked Ruben and his eventual suicide-by-Kilgrave.
TN: Robyn and Ruben are some of the unfunniest, most annoying, and creepiest comic relief characters I’ve seen in adult television in a long time. I have no idea what the writers were thinking when they came up with the whole codependent creepy twincest thing. Not literal incest, of course, but there were a few gags that poked at the idea.
DD: Was Ruben in a diaper in one scene?
TN: No, he just answered the door in his skivvies, I think.
DD: That was definitely… something. Moving on, how great was Carrie Anne Moss?
TN: Fucking phenomenal. It’s great to see her in such a meaty role. I hope she’s back for season two, or The Defenders — whichever happens first.
DD: Her character is a gender-swap of Iron Fist’s Alfred/Jarvis character, so I’m sure she’s returning. I loved her pragmatism and even admiration of Kilgrave’s abilities. The scene with her and her ex-wife (Deadwood‘s Calamity Jane!) under Kilgrave’s control was wonderfully disturbing and kind of sad.
TN: Yeah, that whole “death by 5000 cuts” thing was NUTS. Definitely a series highlight. Her ex getting brained on that glass table felt like a Lost Highway reference. Shockingly bloody.
DD: If there was one side story you could cut, what would it be? Mine would be Simpson’s. His whole “evil super soldier” story (he’s an adaptation of the Daredevil villain Nuke) felt wholly unnecessary and dropped in from another show.
TN: The Simpson story with the pills was totally out of place. I was like, what is this Bourne Legacy bullshit with the chems? Also, they keep introducing shady organization after shady organization in this universe. And they all want super soldiers. I’m starting to have trouble keeping them straight or caring.
DD: I can see that reasoning thanks to Captain America being this universe’s Superman (and everyone wants their own controllable Superman), but the shady organization stuff is pretty overplayed at this point.
What was your favorite Kilgrave command? The simple “throw your coffee in your face” was a good mixture of hilarious and horrifying. I also like that he made a little kid curse a bunch at Jessica.
TN: Honestly? My favorite thing was the way he just told people to “leave.” Then, of course, there’s “I want a big chocolate cake, with STRAWBERRIES ON TOP!”
DD: Goddamn, David Tennant endeared himself to me so much with this role. I’m actually bummed and worried about season two not having him around.
TN: Kilgrave’s death scene felt a bit anticlimactic to me. They shot and staged that whole sequence in a way that was very uninteresting. Just like in Daredevil, the budget constraints shone through, particularly in the last episodes. After the Luke v. Jessica fight in the nightclub, there were no more interesting set pieces.
DD: Especially compared to the scene in the restaurant with Hope. That was where the climax should have been. It was the place we were first “introduced” to Kilgrave, and it had enough of the supporting characters there to give it more weight.
TN: That scene didn’t have as much resonance for me, but I loved Jessica’s display of power in the scene.
DD: Any closing thoughts on Jessica Jones? I think we both agree that it’s Marvel’s best small-screen accomplishment, but taken out of that larger context, would you still recommend it?
TN: Jessica Jones is Marvel’s most singular TV effort to date. While it would’ve been more focused and tighter as a mini-series, it is the most intimate, grown-up and complex thing we’ve seen in the MCU. It’s brought us one of the best villains and the most fully-formed antiheroes in the universe so far. I’d give it a heartier recommendation if it had some more directorial flair and a less amorphous episodic structure, but as it stands, it’s a good start. I hope the show does well.
DD: I concur on all those points. I kind of wish it was a single season show as well, but I’m very interested to see where it goes from here. And now I feel compelled to eat a chocolate cake, with STRAWBERRIES ON TOP!