After countless films and TV adaptations, Spielberg called comic book films the “Cowboy Westerns of our time.” Despite his belief that these movies and shows will be consigned to the dustbin of history, recent releases from Netflix have proven that you can reach beyond textbook comic storytelling and touch chords that are very real; Netflix’s recent revamp of Daredevil took one of the most two dimensional characters in Marvel, the Kingpin and turned him into a character the audience developed an attachment to regardless of his schemes. Daredevil took you away from the rigid sense of righteousness that plagues other superhero franchises, by introducing a villain who the viewer could empathise with. Now, Netflix have provided us with another antidote to endless episodes of Arrow and Agents of SHIELD: an anti hero.
‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ was released on Netflix this weekend and already the web series is proving to be a huge hit. The series follows Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) a private investigator with superhuman strength who is plagued by her past. Jessica isn’t your standard hero; she drinks, she fucks and through dealing with trauma becomes an incredibly deep and developed character, especially as she locks horns with David Tennant’s Killgrave, a psychotic man who possesses the ability to control the minds of others.
The relationship between Jessica and Killgrave becomes the centrepiece of the series as time goes on. Killgrave’s appearances in the beginning are very sparse, but he still dominates the narrative through Jessica’s fear and eventually through her resolve to stop him. As this progresses you can’t help but find this story deeply grounded in reality; Tennant’s obsessive, unhinged yet darkly charismatic Killgrave and Ritter’s damaged, loving but tough as nails Jessica traverse a relationship that shines a light on the toxicity of masculinity and how many men mistake obsession for love. Something that is very real in a society shaped by rape culture and the demeaning of women.
Without revealing much by way of plot, there is a point when Killgrave is surrounded by people he has controlled to do his bidding, he sits at the dinner table and proclaims how difficult he finds it spending a single day, hoping someone else will just decide to do what he wants. He is a man who could have it all, always gets what he wants yet obsesses over Jessica, the only person who ever walked away from him. Despite his ability to walk freely, take what he wants or who he wants, Killgrave’s Heathcliff-esque longing for Jessica shows what little humanity Tennant’s tenacious character has, the vulnerability he shows in trying to display the real emotions he feels in a way that doesn’t involve controlling the other person.
Aside from the main conflict between Jessica and Killgrave, the series introduces another one of Netflix’s ‘Defenders,’ Luke Cage the infamous comic book ‘hero for hire’ who is next in line for a stand alone series before we see Iron Fist and the assembled ‘Defenders’ on Netflix in the near future. Luke like Jessica, has superhuman strength and unbreakable skin and runs a dive bar when he isn’t busting it up with our anti hero.
Whereas Daredevil thrived in its story of a hero fighting a quietly charismatic and faceless villain who was trying to redesign ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ in his image, Jessica Jones’ main strong point appears to be how a loose net of women challenge the tyranny of a man who can have anything and everyone. This takes the viewer through a lot of sensitive topics that affect women daily including abortion and rape. This can make the viewing a bit tough for some but it is worth stomaching through to see a main cast which is composed mostly of women, navigate these issues as the story progresses. Just like Daredevil, Jessica Jones will be remembered as a superhero show that dared to be more, and was more.
Tyler is the Editor of The Last Round, you can follow him here