Jessica Jones Recap With Spoilers: AKA You’re A Winner

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

In Marvel’s Jessica Jones, women get stuff done while men just talk about women.

Netflix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones is everyone’s newest obsession, and it’s easy to see why. While Netflix undoubtedly saw a surge of activity around the release of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” this past weekend, the new original series also saw strong piracy consumption as well, according to data issued Monday by Excipio.This episode of “Jessica Jones,” which picks up seconds after the previous one, feels like a corrective for every little imperfection in the first two.

In Netflix’s much-anticipated noir series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Ritter plays the hard-drinking, trash-talking, no-bullshit private-eye protagonist.We should be grateful that CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani has no control over the content of original Netflix shows because if James Bond’s kissing could bother him, then will send him scampering for his scissors. Only perennial piracy favorite “The Walking Dead” experienced more copyright-infringing viewing from Nov. 20-22 than “Jessica,” which grabbed 4% global market share compared with the 4.5% commanded by AMC’s zombie series. “Jessica” attracted over 663,000 unique IP addresses downloading episodes of its first season, which Netflix made available in its entirety across all of its markets worldwide. It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe property, meaning Jessica technically occupies the same New York as Iron Man, Daredevil, and other costumed crusaders, but the show is quite light on superpowers—Jessica is very strong and can jump pretty high, and that’s about it.

However, “Jessica” received roughly half the piracy activity attracted earlier this year by “Daredevil,” the first original series Netflix produced in collaboration with Marvel. For example: Jones doesn’t treat Hope Schlottman, the latest victim of Jones’s arch-nemesis Kilgrave, like a client that she also happens to care personally about.

The second show in the Defenders series after Daredevil, takes the noir genre to the next level, playing out a deliciously dark plot that seems to be lifted from the deepest crevices of Quentin Tarantino’s mind. While “Daredevil” also finished second overall in its opening weekend (April 10-12), the over 1.2 million IP addresses its episodes drew was good for 6.1% market share. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has steadily evolved into a thrilling workplace drama masquerading as a superhero show, while Agent Carter is a crackerjack period piece.

The characters are all extremely well fleshed out, share varying degrees of moral ambiguity and none of them would be called a hero in the real sense. But there’s something else that Jessica Jones, and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, is doing that’s a little less pronounced but just as thoughtful and effective. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a hard-on-her-luck ex-superhero who has a marked disdain for heroics and is trying to make a living as a private investigator, who is more in the Sam Spade mould than Sherlock Holmes. The Bechdel Test, conceived in a comic strip by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, is an exam that evaluates the presence of women in pieces of art like movies and television shows. When it comes to the wide scope of TV superheroes, including The Flash and Supergirl and even The Walking Dead (which has no superheroes but borrows plenty from the visual iconography of comic books), there’s just no question that they boast far greater tonal variance and storytelling deviation than there is on the big screen.

Her best friend is popular radio host Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), while Jeri Hogarth (gender reversed from the comic book’s male character, played by a magnificent Carrie-Anne Moss) is a lawyer with few moral scruples. Its purpose is to assess whether a given work passes a baseline level of sexism, by screening for one simple criterion: Two named women must talk to each other about something other than a man. Jessica just wants to get on with her life but she’s visited by an enemy from the past, Kilgrave (David Tennant) who is by far the darkest villain to emerge from Marvel. She becomes re-invested in her super-heroic calling after Cage says that he doesn’t stick his neck out for other people because that always winds up causing problems later on. The only super-powered (they call it gifted) characters are Jessica (super-strength, quasi-flight and durability), Luke Cage (unbreakable skin and super-strength) and Kilgrave (mind control), but every character has a notable presence.

Almost every superhero film since the genre began its rise to invincibility over the past 15 years has featured a plot that would destroy a city, or a nation, or, increasingly often, the whole world. I got a call, you know, “Netflix wants to see you for this show, it’s Marvel, it’s a superhero show.” And I like to audition, so I was like, “Okay, I’ll go, but I’m never gonna get that.” My manager was like, “No, no—it’s not your typical superhero show. Just before the series starts, Jessica has been controlled for some time by Kilgrave, where she was made to commit crimes against her will and was also sexually assaulted.

Now he’s back in her life and is hell-bent on having her back in her life, by any means necessary, which would include killing anyone who gets in his path. Sure, she chooses to help her neighbor Malcolm whenever it’s convenient, like when a biker assaults and then lectures Malcolm in the most cartoonishly obnoxious way (“I’m on my bike because I care about the planet!”). Something like The Dark Knight works on this level, because it ties its city-destroying stakes into what Batman is going through in his attempts to defeat crime, whereas the film’s sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, strains to link a new villain’s plot to a series of complicated character histories and ultimately struggles to make any of it personally matter to the hero. And she has considerable power, and it looks like her super-strength would allow her to easily destroy characters which co-exist in the universe like Daredevil or even Luke Cage.

Jessica Jones becomes about a woman facing off against her trauma and the man who caused it, while The Flash is about a man reconciling himself with his tragic past, even as he’s trying to save the city he lives in. This quietly effective sequence reminds us that the heroic measures Jones takes to stop Kilgrave are costly even if they’re not as over-the-top as the comparatively high stakes of the show’s pilot. Carrie-Ann Moss finally gets over the Trinity hangover from The Matrix Trilogy with this marvellous performance as the lawyer shark, who will do anything to get her way.

Compare Jones’s small, but moving altercation with Malcolm with the dramatic scene that caps “AKA Ladies’ Night.” When Hope kills her parents, Jones feels guilty for not having done enough to take care of her client. A similarly heavy guilt weighs on Jones here when she pushes Malcolm into harm’s way, and uses him to sneak away unnoticed, though this time it doesn’t take a double homicide to make Jones feel responsible for her actions. Another interaction we see between two prominent male characters occurs in episode seven (“AKA Top Shelf Perverts”), when Jessica’s neighbor Ruben (Kieran Mulcare) meets Kilgrave for the first and only time. How film can improve: Focusing more on character sounds easy, but it can be murderously difficult, especially when you only have a few hours to work with.

So I went in and auditioned, got more information from the casting director, and then that went well, and I had a meeting with [showrunner] Melissa [Rosenberg] and [Marvel TV chief] Jeph [Loeb] and learned that she’s not in a superhero costume. Unlike other Marvel villains who want to change/enslave the world like Ultron, Loki or Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave uses his powers only for his own benefits. In episode 4, “AKA 99 Friends,” Simpson and Jessica’s neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville) share a brief scene in which Simpson believes Malcolm is staring at Jessica.

This sequence is shot in extreme close-ups at first, then in relatively long takes that emphasize Krysten Ritter’s heavy breathing and Mike Colter’s imposing physical presence. He is the everyman stalker, come to life like the boy who follows a girl home, the guy who keeps blank-calling a girl who doesn’t want to talk to him, the dude who keeps on checking out the profile of the girl he thinks he’s in love with o the abusive husband who can’t understand why his wife wants to leave him.

The action scenes in “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” are similarly exciting because they allow viewers to watch characters making decisions without constantly second-guessing themselves. In general, film is a far more forgiving medium for wild tonal shifts than TV is, because TV needs to keep viewers coming back, and thus it usually needs to establish a certain tonal baseline. Jones and best friend Trish Walker brawl their way through a handful of tense, involving scenes that aren’t especially well-choreographed, but do effectively make viewers feel the impact of body blows without being gratuitously brutal. Yet TV’s superhero shows still allow for the variance of Daredevil’s ultra-darkness, The Flash’s goofy earnestness, and the period sizzle of Agent Carter. In contrast, Marvel’s films tend to use the same story structure (three big action sequences, plus snarky quips), while DC’s (at least so far) have all been deeply, disturbingly dark without providing any real reason for their hyper-seriousness.

The gauntlet of Kilgrave victims that Jones has to fight her way through is similarly wearying, but also imaginative enough to keep you wondering how Jones will escape her next opponent. What tends to happen is that these studios think shifting the apparent genre of a film is enough to make up for its tonal similarities to other movies.

The layered, character-driven drama makes this the best of the initial bunch of episodes, and the visceral, earthy pleasures also make it the most memorable. So if Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a conspiracy thriller, it doesn’t matter if they share very, very similar tones. She pointed out at one point, “You don’t hear anyone ever saying, ‘white male superhero.’ You just say ‘superhero.’ But for a girl, for some reason, it’s ‘female superhero.’“ That really resonated with me and how she approached the character, and the kind of integrity that she has. Hogarth’s estranged wife, Wendy (Robin Weigert), is a well-respected doctor who does charitable work, Patsy Walker’s mother Dorothy (Rebecca De Mornay) is a maniacal showbiz manager, and Hope Shlottman is a troubled scholar athlete — attributes that women characters rarely have onscreen, let alone all in one show.

If you try to watch a bunch of Marvel movies in a row, they’ll start to feel like the same movie, over and over again, with slightly different skins — right down to all of them featuring roughly the same climax. The television I watch—I’m into psychological thrillers, I’m really into Damages and Bloodline and character-driven pieces, and that’s what this is. In 2015 alone, Marvel released the weird and sad Avengers: Age of Ultron and the (slightly) more intimate Ant-Man, only to reap disappointing box office returns for both (though it’s not like anybody lost money on either). The subversion is that the confrontation happens between two women, with a man cowering on the sidelines: That’s echoed in the show’s ninth episode, “AKA Sin Bin,” when Kilgrave’s parents confront him and try to stop him from doing even more evil. His dad is afraid, cowering in the corner, while his mother faces the monster Kilgrave has become head on: Jessica Jones also underscores these choices in its aesthetics.

The easiest way to start would be to hire iconoclastic directors and let them develop their own personal visions of what a superhero film should look like. There are exceptions to this one; both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s spins on the Joker are classics, and Alfred Molina made for a wonderful Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. But for the most part, villains in superhero movies (especially superhero movies from Marvel) are typically just another obstacle for the hero to get past in the big, CGI-infused climax. That was one of my favorite scenes when reading the pilot, because this is before her past comes back to haunt her, so this is is how Jessica Jones, sassy as fuck, gets what she wants. Whedon’s spin on superhero stories has everything a good superhero story needs — a superpowered heroine, an eclectic ensemble of characters, and a season-long structure that allows for minor confrontations with smaller villains in the buildup to a face-off with the “Big Bad.” In general, all of the successful superhero shows on TV right now borrow liberally from this template, and they’re all the better for it. (As the Atlantic’s David Sims has pointed out, The Flash has basically become Buffy with a super-speedster.) And Whedon’s chief influences in crafting Buffy and its very superhero-y spinoff Angel were 1960s Marvel comics.

In addition to fostering tonal diversity, which allows for a greater swath of superhero stories, TV is also more interested in what it would mean to be a woman or a person of color with superpowers. I made a joke that most of my paycheck went to my acting teacher, but I think there’s truth to every joke. [Laughs.] I worked with my acting coach one-on-one for hours and hours, every single day for two months, before even setting foot on set or putting on Jessica Jones’s clothes. Meanwhile, in the world of film, we’re 15 years removed from X-Men, and Marvel might start getting around to making a couple of movies about superpowered women and people of color someday now.

For me, the heavy lifting came in building Jessica’s backstory, all the stuff that happened to her, her trauma, who she is before we even meet her onscreen. Also, make sure that the diversity of the characters isn’t merely an attempt to provide a token hero or two but is, instead, entwined with the storytelling on a very deep level. The [characters’] friendship, that’s all Melissa Rosenberg creating that complex, amazing friendship that both Rachael and I really responded to because we were so stoked that it was so honest and complicated and real.

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