Jessica Jones has been on Netflix for just over a full week. This has given me the time to watch the whole series, read the remainder of the Alias series, and to include all the spoilers I need. Even Krysten Ritter has to agree that I’ve given Nerds ample time to have seen this series that everyone seems to love.
If not, you’ve been forewarned. Spoilers abound.
I love this show. Love it. I love it so much that you will see below that I reference writing at least two more articles on topic. However, before I get to the many reasons why I loved this series, let me first discuss my one criticism so that we can quickly move past it.
I hate the storyline that Jessica Jones (while under Kilgrave’s control) killed Luke Cage’s wife. I have no issue that Jessica kills someone and the guilt of this is what breaks Kilgrave’s control. That works. It makes sense and the murder certainly adds another layer to Jessica’s trauma. But why does it have to be Luke Cage’s wife? It’s just lazy storytelling. It’s a convenient and slightly absurd way to add conflict to a relationship that the audience hopes will succeed. It’s unrealistic melodrama. It’s what I’d expect from the CW.
In Alias, Jessica has plenty of trouble forming and maintaining healthy relationships. Jessica struggles with emotional intimacy, is often blunt in her opinions, and sometimes makes careless choices romantically. These are much more interesting reasons for relationship conflicts and it could be any of these realistic and relatable character flaws that could be a source of conflict between Jessica and Luke. Many real life people have the same difficulties Jessica has and it’s not because they killed the dude’s wife.
There. Done. Now let’s get to the myriad of reasons I loved this series.
Kilgrave – Super Villain Mind Rapist
What I admire most about the series, Jessica Jones, is that it confronts sexual assault from the first to last episode. By having Kilgrave as the central villain, a character who commands full control of his victims’ will, it raises a lot of real life issues related to sexual assault. David Tennant’s portrayal of Kilgrave is brilliant. He’s smarmy. He’s pretentious. He’s good looking. He’s a great dresser. He’s a smooth talker. He’s passionate. He’s persuasive. He believes everyone in his vicinity is his own personal plaything. He is the super villain sexual predator. He not only physically rapes the women he controls by forcing them to have sex with him. He rapes their minds. He penetrates. Overpowers. Controls. Real life victims of sexual assault feel “powerless and a loss of control, emotional numbness, denial, disturbed sleep, flashbacks, guilt and self blame, shame, loss of confidence, mood changes, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, hostility, and alienation.” We see all of these in Kilgrave’s victims, both women and men. I could (and might) write an entirely separate article on the awareness this series raises about sexual assault.
Jessica Jones – a female character with agency
Jessica Jones’s strength is not her ability to throw a man through a wall, but that she makes her own choices. Sometimes these choices are incredibly self-destructive, but other times they are heroically selfless. Regardless, Jessica has little regret and rarely apologizes. She is bold. She is decisive. Jessica is the anti-thesis of the patriarchal woman. She drinks. She curses. She sleeps with whomever she likes. She says what she thinks (sometimes without thinking about the consequences). She wears the same clothes for multiple days and doesn’t seem too concerned about how attractive she is. Like the hardboiled detectives from the pulp fiction stories on which this show is derived, Jessica is a flawed character in a chaotic and broken world. But she is a flawed character with a steadfast moral code, a desire to help the innocent, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to insure that justice prevails. She’s Sam Spade, just without the Y chromosome. Jessica Jones has broken the gender barrier for the hardboiled detective. Oh, and she could throw Sam through a barrier too.
Jessica’s agency is symbolized by her ability to break free from Kilgrave’s control. This ability sets her apart from all the other characters in the show. Even Luke Cage, who is stronger physically, cannot break free from Kilgrave’s control. Jessica doesn’t ask Luke Cage what she should do. She just does. Sometimes she breaks down a door. Sometimes she breaks her own ribs. The audience admires her for both. Throughout the series, it seems as though Jessica’s life is falling apart. Jessica at times seems to fall apart. But she just keeps doing. Her tenacity is her greatest strength – her will power, which is what ends up making her immune to Kilgrave’s power. Every woman, and every man, can admire Jessica for her strength of will.
Jessica Jones isn’t the only admirable female character in this series. Trish “Patsy” Walker, who in the comics becomes the super hero Hellcat, is the foil character to Jessica. While Jessica is crude, poor, and disheveled, Trish is polite, wealthy, and pristine. As the series progresses, however, Trish becomes more than just a foil and an interesting character in her own right. We first see that she is training in Krav Maga, implying that she might have a Kilgrave of her own. We later see her stand up to her abusive mother. We also hear of references to a history of substance abuse. While we question her decision to let a man in who assaulted her (while under Kilgrave’s control), we see that in her relationship with Will Simpson, it is obvious that Trish defines the parameters of the relationship. It is when Will ignores those parameters that he becomes the villain. Trish, like Jessica, is strong, smart, and her biggest strength is that she is a good friend. She sticks with Jessica and even puts her life on the line for her multiple times. She makes Jessica a better person by simply believing in her and pointing out to Jessica her strengths. Even when Jessica treats her like dirt and pushes her away, Trish is relentless and steadfast in her love and support. As hokey as it is in the fanale, it is fitting that Jessica looks at Trish and tells her “I love you” as the sign that she’s still free of Kilgrave. Perhaps it is also a sign that part of how she stayed free of Kilgrave was through Trish’s belief in her. The way that Trish treats Jessica is the way that more women should treat each other.
Stay tuned for more articles on Marvel’s Jessica Jones.
Check out the trailer below:
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