Friday, 20 November 2015

Jessica Jones - review of episode 1 of the new Netflix Marvel series

First of all I am definitely working today. Managed to sort out several renewals, prospect for new business and still organise this blog post !

Guilty secret admission time - during the more monotonous non telephone based work I tend to have something playing on Netflix or Sky On-Demand, BBC iPlayer etc. I don't always take it all in but it takes the edge off the monotony and I get to keep (sort of) up to date with my favourite series. sort of like Radio with pictures and an actual story.

At the moment I am half way through the Sky box set of The Soprano's and who knew that sociopaths could be so cuddly ? Today I'm catching up on Wednesday's The Apprentice (those girls, really are the bitchiest yet) and of course the new Marvel series : Jessica Jones which premieres on Netflix today - here are my initial thoughts on the first episode.

I should preface this piece (for those who do not know/haven't read this blog before) that I am a massive comic/SF fan, fully aware of the slightly controversial nature of some of the character's storylines (Jessica's sexual 'interactions' with Luke Cage etc). I loved season one of the previous Netflix Marvel show : Daredevil but am not massively impressed with Agents of Shield - I only managed to last half of season one on that show.

For a change of scenery I decided to work in my living room this morning instead of the office which means I can use the old Apple TV to watch Netflix on the big screen TV rather than using my slightly wobbly old (2009) iMac which needs constant re-boots.

Here are my initial thoughts having watched the first episode.

It's dark and gritty in the way that Hollywood thinks that kind of thing should be, actually not that gritty at all if you've really ever lived in a big city. 'Edgy' because we need to understand for the beginning that although Jessica is bright and clever with a witty line in banter for every situation she is in fact world weary and defeated as an ex-super-hero with nothing left but PTSD derived from being in  the clutches of some mysterious (gulp) purple menace :  David Tennant playing Zebidiah Killgrave, the Purple Man. A mysterious mind controlling villain who is inextricably linked to the Jessica Jones backstory in both comics and also here on TV.

Given this is effectively a pilot episode there's a lot of supporting characters and situations to get through in this episode and some ground work to be laid so as a result not a great deal actually happens until the final scenes with Killgraves kidnap victim - no doubt we'll find out more about Jessica's revised (TV series) history over the rest of the series but for now it is enough to know she is troubled and pretty pissed off with her former tormentor who she believed was dead, despite his continuing to haunt her subconscious. This is probably the best thing about the Netflix TV series format, it's ability to present a first/pilot episode as a purely setting up exercise knowing the other 12 episodes in the season can build the drama but still I wonder if enough is going on plot wise to keep non geeks on board for more than one or two hours.

Her co-stars seem a mixed bag, Mike Colter as Luke Cage (whose later Netflix series notwithstanding) seems a good if one dimensional character at the moment, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica's omni-sexual lawyer seems sinister but intriguing but some of the 'lighter' flatmate types are frankly a little irritating at present - hope this doesn't develop into a 'scooby gang' type situation but rather stays with the tortured powers riff.

Not quite sure where I stand on Krysten Ritter as Jessica, she certainly looks the part and so far has carried the concept being in almost every scene. She can do comedy and deliver plot overview pretty well but how long can the self doubt and drama carry her ? Let me let you into a secret, every super hero series has an annoying (usually) female foil - Lana in Smallville, Laurel in Arrow, Jimmy Olsen in Lois and Clark, Iris West in Flash and per any one from ten in Gotham. My concern is that Krysten might become the annoying female foil in her own series which would be bad.

Last point, need some action. This is not classic cape fare but we need more than a car being lifted up - there's no point playing in the Marvel sandbox and nor using the Sandman is there ? Sorry for the Spiderman reference but JJ is really routed in the Spiderman continuity.

So will I go on to watch the next few episodes ? Yep, I think it is a pretty solid start to the series with enough going on to intrigue and prompt a 'WTF' requirement to come back - the lift scene, case in point.

Best quote 'Laser eyes ? Moron !"

Best Surprise in episode - that scene with Luke Cage - wow, surprised Disney allowed them to do that.

Final Critique - tonally this very similar to DareDevil - clearly it covers adult sexuality (primarily abusive sexual relationships in episode one and adultery in episode two) so it is clearly a grown up program with lots of violence to follow. However the format of dropping hints about origin, obliquely introducing a big bad villain working behind the scenes, centring the story around a lawyer introducing cases to the protagonist. All very DD. now that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is a proven  and solid way to create this kind of piece without being too 'comic' inspired or descending into an Avengers parody (which Netflix has neither the budget not intent to carry off) however, I'd like to see some risks taken with format and I am excusing this initial similarity to its Netflix sibling down to the writing staff of both shows working closely together to create their shared universes and hopefully as the two shows go off in their different directions they can both find and develop their own identities.

Try it out and see for yourself.

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