Jessica Jones: 1.01 AKA Ladies Night
From the start Jessica Jones has a warning for you. The jazzy title sequence initially seems upbeat until the music takes on a darker edge – these are not the jolly japes of the Avengers. We're straight into the shadows, New York at night and a noir style voiceover (to paraphrase; “The city that never sleeps sure does sleep around”). Whilst not as violent as Daredevil – so far – this is Marvel's raunchiest outing to date.
That's not to imply however that the sex here is for titillation. Thematically it serves a purpose as sexual violence and amoral practices tell us that all is not well in this world. Jessica has been violated by our villain, she has PTSD and she was made to do things that have led her to turn her back on being a superhero. Whilst this may not necessarily be purely sexual, the threat of violation runs throughout.
Episode one 'AKA Ladies Night' sees Jessica hired for a missing persons case which seems linked to her past, a past she is doing her best to move on from. It's a thrilling episode, establishing Jessica's world and the few friends she has. It's attractively shot and moves at a brisk pace.
The villain only appears in flashes throughout the episode, often signified by a purple light – a reference to his alias The Purple Man – but he is utterly terrifying. More so even than the Kingpin. In fact, Jessica Jones seems to be playing the same structure of not fully revealing the villain until a couple of episodes in. Let's hope that Kilgrave aka The Purple Man is as chilling on screen as he is off as the final few minutes of the first episode are incredibly intense. Whilst Netflix allows you to go straight into the next episode you might want to take a minute to compose yourself.
Whilst this is inspired by the comic by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos this is not a direct adaptation so don't be expecting Captain America to turn up. There are nice touches throughout however, especially the title sequence which draws inspiration from David Mack's gorgeous cover art. The comic was originally printed under Marvel’s mature MAX Imprint and that tone carries over here.
There are no overt references to the MCU or, at the moment, clear placement in the Marvel time line. People are aware of powered people – potentially the Inhumans – and they are afraid of them, a fact which Jessica uses to good effect in the only moment of superheroics in this first episode. It's also one of the funnier scenes and, thankfully, despite the darkness this show is not without humour.
Krysten Ritter is fantastic as Jones. She makes the acerbic and damaged character compelling and complex. She's damaged but resilient and she isn't without her charms or wit. Her response to a hipster art student - “You murdered my art!” “Mercy killing.” - was wonderfully delivered as was the threat to “Pull your underwear out through your eye.”
Mike Colter makes for a good Luke Cage as well, and there is much more to be learned about the character. Rachael Taylor doesn’t have much to do as Jessica’s friend Trish Walker (other than to set up a piece of important information) but as a sidekick is less likely to split fan opinion as the depiction of Foggy Nelson in Daredevil. As an aside, Trish Walker was originally meant to be Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel but plans changed and Danvers is getting her own movie. And as big a fan of Carol Danvers as I am truthfully another super powered character would have unbalanced the show.
Episode one brilliantly sets the stage for what promises to be Marvel's most exciting and challenging series yet.