Marvel is keeping up the push into the darker world of comic books with Friday's debut of "Jessica Jones" on Netflix. Much like "Daredevil" did when it came to the streaming service earlier this year, "Jones" scales down the action from the intergalactic conflicts found in the Marvel movie series and instead focuses on more character-driven views into a world where superheroes actually exist.
At the commanding center of the show is Krysten Ritter as the titular Jessica Jones, a sorta superhero-turned-private-investigator wracked by the lingering effects of abuse. Her abuser, Kilgrave (played by a supremely pompous and chilling David Tennant), has the ability to control minds — and the sociopathic tendencies to make such a power a living hell for anyone unlucky enough to hear his voice.
The most marked distinction of "Jones" is how much it doesn't feel like a Marvel product, especially through the first few episodes of the series. The show doesn't necessarily hide its comic world pedigree — kind of hard to pull that off when a mind-controlling guy named "Kilgrave" is at the center of the plot — but, save for the rapid (though not rampant) bursts of superhuman strength from antihero Jones, the story plays out more as a noir crime drama.
Working the most in the show's favor is its sight on the human side of superhero stories. "Jones" expands the Marvel universe to shine a light on the collateral damage that inevitably occurs when powerful beings come into contact with everyday folks. Guilt and accountability are lingering issues for victims of Kilgrave's mind control, often becoming just as destructive as the actual crimes they were made to commit. It's a smart and fitting topic for a genre that so often features destruction on a mass scale but quickly skims over the cleanup.
Sometimes it seems that shows will go for a blanket increase in violence and brutality to achieve a more "gritty" or "dark" tone. "Jones" is certainly violent, and does occasionally straddle the line of gratuitous, but every single body left on the show's streets of Hell's Kitchen comes with survivors affected by the death.
The series also tackles topics like post-traumatic stress disorder as Jones herself struggles to come to terms with her own previous encounters with Kilgrave. She's a powerful character with zero shit-taking capacity reserved for the criminals and clients she comes across, but can still be swiftly leveled by a flare-up of PTSD, showing just how serious her condition — and what Kilgrave did to cause her anguish — is.
Though the violence and darker topics may be a put off for some viewers, "Jones" is a definitive victory for both Marvel and Netflix. Along with "Daredevil," it builds a solid groundwork for more mature superhero stories to come.
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