ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(Warning - the following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the final episode of Marvel and Netflix's Jessica Jones. If you haven't yet finished watching the show's inaugural season, then proceed with caution. Or, y'know, finish it up now. Don't worry, we'll wait...)

Now, with Jessica Jones having been in our TV-viewing lives for well over a week now, it's no real surprise that many of us have already binge-watched the hell out of it, and are now sitting around awkwardly, waiting for 2016's batch of Marvel and Netflix goodness (hey there, Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage) to arrive. Which makes it more than a little fortunate that Jessica Jones contains so much awesomeness to continue to enjoy over the long, Marvel-less winter to come.

One of my personal favorite examples of that?

Jessica Jones Just Perfectly Defined Modern Comic-Book Heroism

What's more, it did it twice, in the space of one episode. Specifically, the final episode of the season, in which we saw...

(Note, this is where the aforementioned MAJOR SPOILERS come in...)

...Jessica and Daredevil star Claire Temple discuss the nature of heroism, partly in relation to the Double D himself, while looking after a semi-comatose Luke Cage. It went a little something like this:

Claire: "I had - have - a friend like you and Luke."
Jessica: "Bleeding and unconscious?"
Claire: Yeah, actually, more often than not. He makes life hard for the bad guys."
Jessica: "How's he so sure he's the good guy?"
Claire: He isn't. He questions every move he makes, every thought he has, just like I'm guessing you do. I could reach out to him. He might help."
Jessica: "I can't risk another person getting controlled. It's the only thing I don't question. I have to kill him [Kilgrave] on my own."

The reason that's important?

The Show is Describing a Very Particular Form of Heroism There

One which, very pointedly, is completely unlike that shown by the majority of Marvel's mainstream movie heroes. Iron Man and Thor don't question whether or not they're doing the right thing - they simply know that they are because they believe themselves to be smarter, braver or more noble than those around them. Which is why this summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron could have easily been renamed Tony Stark's Hubris Almost Destroys the World.

In the world of Jessica Jones, by contrast, heroism is closer to that expressed by Captain America - doing the right thing, for the right reasons. The major difference, though? The show's idea of heroism, unlike Cap's, doesn't come from a place of moral certainty.

What is Jessica Jones' Heroism, Then?

Well, it's something far more human: a complex blend of doubt, fear, moral uncertainty...and a determination to do the right thing, all the same. As Jessica herself puts it in her closing voice-over:

"They say everyone's born a hero, but if you let it, life will push you over the line til' you're the villain. The problem is, you don't always know that you've crossed that line. Maybe it's enough that the world thinks I'm a hero. Maybe if I work long and hard, maybe I can fool myself."

On the one hand, it's not as simple as everything being a shade of grey - there are genuine heroes, and genuine villains. For all that Kilgrave pithily argued "I suppose me evil means you good. Bullshit", his actions make him an undeniable 'bad guy', whilst Jessica's - despite her harsh methods - surely make her a 'good guy'.

On the other hand, though, that existence of heroes, Jessica seems to be arguing, doesn't make 'doers of good' into heroes by default. Kilgave showed he could do good, but for the wrong reasons, much as Jessica proved she could do awful things for the right ones. Heroism is, she suggests, in the eyes of the beholder - and needs to be worked long and hard for.

What Exactly Does That Mean, Though?

Well, as Claire put it, heroism is "mak[ing] life hard for the bad guys"- aka, acting like a hero - while simultaneously "question[ing] every move [you] make, every thought [you have]."

It's doing the right thing - but also making sure it really is the right thing to do.

At a time when we as a society are debating the correct response to the unquestionably villainous actions of a tiny, terror-spreading minority, that idea - of trying to do the right thing, for the right reasons - might just be more relevant than ever. As Jessica Jones shows us, believing we're right isn't always enough - that path can lead to becoming Kilgrave just as easily as it can to becoming Iron Man. Instead, we sometimes we need to take a long hard look at ourselves, and at why we believe that we're right in the first place.

What do you reckon, though?

What other real life lessons can superheroes teach us?
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via Netflix


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