Jessica Jones redefines superhero stereotypes

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KYLELUKER/cc-by-SA 2.0 Krysten Ritter portrays the title character in this new Marvel series.

By DUBRAY KINNEY
For The News-Letter

Jessica Jones, the newest series from Netflix and Marvel Comics, serves as a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), mostly because it answers a common criticism of the media franchise: the lack of depth seen in characters of color, female characters and villains.

This year has served as a sort of curve ball from Marvel, with each work released from the MCU being unique in its own right, from the comedy-focused Ant-Man to the ultra-violent Daredevil and now to another gritty show in it’s own right, Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones is a loose adaptation of the well-received 2001 comic Alias, which revolved around a then-C-List superheroine and served as a vehicle for her character development as she moved from being a traditional heroine to a private investigator. The show follows that basic format, with Jones attempting to run a private investigation agency and get her life back together following a traumatic event that occurred in her past.
The strengths of Jessica Jones come down to multiple factors, and perhaps the biggest are the performances by the central cadre of acting talent.

Krysten Ritter’s (Don’t Trust the B*tch in Apartment 23) performance of Jessica Jones is strong as a pained person, falling apart and slowly trying to improve. She is aided by a script that gives her several quotable quips and introspective moments that allow her character to be explored in a way that contrasts Marvel’s sloppy handling of its other big heroine, Black Widow of the Avengers.

Ritter’s performance is matched accurately by that of David Tennant (Doctor Who), who is cast as the series’ villain, Killgrave. Killgrave’s superpower (if he tells you to do something, you have to do it) makes him a villain that is arguably greater than that of other villains like Ultron of Avengers 2, if only because he’s so small-scale. His abilities are also a source of ethical dilemmas, which is an uncharted element for Marvel. Whereas Ultron, or Loki, aim to destroy the world, Killgrave’s ability to just destroy regular people’s lives without fully realizing it makes him much more threatening and scary.

Ritter is also assisted with a strong performance by Mike Colter (The Good Wife) as Luke Cage, another hero who will be receiving his own Netflix show in 2016. In the series, Colter portrays Cage as a multi-dimensional character with an identity that is established but not fully fleshed out by the time the series is completed. This is understandable given the fact that he will be the focus of his own show soon enough.

The supporting cast also produces powerful performances, with a great amount of diversity in their individual portrayals of characters and their backstories. The highlight could be considered Eka Darville’s portrayal of Jessica’s neighbor Malcolm who is struggling through addiction.

Another notable aspect of the series is the amount of freedom that Marvel gives it in terms of subject matter. While Daredevil, another popular Marvel series, was packed with violence (which is still present here, but on a somewhat lighter level), Jessica Jones deals with dark issues like suicide, sexual violence and substance abuse. These elements would undoubtedly be absent or at least played down on the big screen.

These more relaxed restrictions allows for the show to explore its characters in a way that resembles the success of Daredevil. As opposed to larger Marvel films that portray victims as no more than the nameless masses that are injured and in danger, the show’s smaller scale allows audiences to see the people being affected and relate to them. At the same time, the larger ripple effects of some of the Marvel films can be seen in Jessica Jones. A recurring theme throughout the series, which is often seen in the Marvel Universe, is a distrust against superpowered members of society. Jones doesn’t rub certain people the right way and there are numerous instances of people rejecting her assistance due to her abilities.

The first season of Jessica Jones avoids the trappings of Daredevil and the rest of the Marvel Universe, leaving a bright future for the rest of the production deal between Netflix and Marvel.

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