Jessica Jones is not Marvel's best-known superhero. (Or, more accurately, not Marvel's best-known retired superhero-turned-part time detective and full-time cynic.) But those who have read the Jessica Jones comics, specifically Alias, the basis for Netflix's new series, will probably be hoping that in the process of becoming more popular when her show drops in November, Jones also breaks the mould of what's expected from Marvel, the studio who like to keep things light. Because Alias is not light. It's dark. And at times, borderline X-rated.
Take, for instance, that infamous scene from the first edition of the comic, in which Jessica is seen in bed with a suitor who's playing out his fantasy of taking her from behind.
It doesn't exactly leave much to the imagination...
The guy in question is Lucas, better known as Luke Cage, Jessica's on-off super-hero boyfriend. When Alias was first released, the explicit nature of this scene caused the printer in Alabama to back out of printing it altogether. The initial teaser trailers released by Netflix in the past couple of months give off a strong vibe of a series closely indebted to the tone of the comics...
...which begs the question: will the bedroom scene be replicated on screen?
TV: The one place Marvel can take risks
Marvel does what it does. They make family friendly movies. Their villains aren't the type to spill blood everywhere - they would rather flirt with the light than the dark. A great example of when that works is the climactic scene in Ant-Man in which Scott fights Yellowjacket on board a (comparatively) supersized Thomas the Tank Engine. It's ridiculous and hilarious, and the threat level is subzero.
But what works for one hero doesn't necessarily work for another, and the underlying themes of Jessica Jones require a darker touch (ironically, in one edition Jones actually hooks up with Ant-Man). This is a woman who has been subjected to psychological torture in captivity at the hands of the Purple Man, who continues to pursue long after her terrible experience as a superhero lead to her giving up her alias and working instead as a private eye in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. Swapping sarcastic bantz with Iron Man, Avengers-style, is not for JJ.
Fortunately, by establishing a mini universe on Netflix that doesn't crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has found the perfect venue for its darker series, allowing Jessica Jones, like Daredevil earlier this year, to play out more like a typical DC story - all grit and cynicism - than something typically Marvel. (Ironically, DC have their TV take on The Flash, which is way more upbeat than their own house style - seems like TV is the perfect place for both studios to take a risk and switch up their formula.)
So what can we expect from Jessica Jones?
For one thing, a killer cast. Krysten Ritter has generated a cult following with various series like Breaking Bad (Jane Margolis in season 2) and the hilarious and horribly underrated Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. As far as deadpan goes, she's the queen. But Jessica Jones should give Ritter the chance to reach a wider audience and prove that she's far more than just a comedic actress.
And then there's David Tennant, playing Kilgrave, who in the comics goes by the alias of the Purple Man, Jessica's obsessive tormentor. Exec producer Jeph Loeb has likened Kilgrave to Vincent D'Onofrio's revelatory villain in Daredevil, so we can probably expect to be torn and find layers in Kilgrave beyond the villainous. Meanwhile the ever-charismatic Mike Colter (The Good Wife) is Luke Cage, Jones' boyfriend (although perhaps not to begin with) and a significant part of who she is and who she becomes. Rosario Dawson will also reprise her Daredevil role as Night Nurse, and Carrie Anne-Moss plays Harper, an ally of Jessica. That, by any standard, is a sensational cast and sets up Jessica Jones to make a real impact.
If the above (beautifully executed) teaser is any indication, we should probably expect that Jessica, even after hanging up her (metaphorical) cape, isn't quite done with using her superpowers. One of her more impressive and unusual abilities is flight, along with combat and accelerated healing, so she should be a pretty formidable opponent. But with any luck, Netflix will keep the series more focused on the detective side of things, aligning the show more with Marvel's excellent Agent Carter over on ABC.
Series creator Melissa Rosenberg said she was drawn to the show by the idea of writing about a hero so jaded she had to get out of the game, which is pretty much something new in this genre. All the signs are pointing to Jessica Jones being exactly what the doctor ordered. The series arrives November 20th.
Are you as stoked as I am for Jessica Jones? Hoping the show stays completely true to the comics - right down to THAT scene? Share your thoughts below...