REVIEW – Jessica Jones

Sorry this is not writing related but I’ve wanted a place to put down my thoughts about stories/movies/etc I’ve watched when I want to review them, and this is the best place I have to do so.

Multiple people recommended the Netflix original series Jessica Jones to me. I finally started it on Sunday, and just finished it tonight. This is my initial review of it. Maybe my opinion will change later. By the way, I know that Jessica Jones is based on a comic series but I haven’t read that series, so literally the only information I have at all is based on the TV show.

I will keep all spoilers ONLY under a cut below, and also beneath a spoiler warning. No spoilers are ahead of that.

MY OVERALL RATING: 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars. I wish I could up it to 4 but I can’t right now. It does some things very well but the things I wasn’t impressed with were too central to the series so it really knocked it down.

WHAT IT DOES WELL: 

  • represent PTSD and the repercussions of trauma

WHAT IT DOESN’T DO WELL:

  • make me care about the main characters as much as side characters
  • romance
  • chemistry
  • strong plot all the way through the end
  • closure

SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!! SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE SEASON!!!!! DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU WANT MAJOR, HUGE SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING!!!!!!!!!!

***BEFORE I START! Fair warning, this is a little bit rambling and I may sound overly harsh in places. This is because I’m super tired so I’m trying to finish this quickly so I can go to sleep, but I didn’t want to sleep before I could write this or I’d forget information.*****

Jessica Jones, the series, is certainly a different take on a superhero story and I like that it is more unique that way. I like that it doesn’t stick to stereotypes everywhere. I like that it’s pretty dark but has some humor in it.

The series really frustrates me because on paper it seems like it would be awesome. I can completely understand why it was recommended to me. On paper, it’s exactly the sort of thing I would love. I’m glad it was recommended to me so I got a chance to watch it.

The problem is that it just… wasn’t really done well. Or.. it’s hard for me to explain. Overall, it was done well. Good cinematography. Great actors. Some good characters. Good casual use of superhero-like powers. Great idea to look at the internal struggle in a person no matter their strength. It gets props for letting women be badass in various ways throughout the series without relying on men. It gets props for head-on looking at rape.

Again, on paper it checks a lot of boxes.

But the trouble was that even after watching that whole season… I don’t care about Jessica the character. I just… don’t. If the next season started and she was killed and it focused on Malcolm and Trish instead, and Luke never came around again, that would almost be the ideal series to me. Kilgrave, Trish and Malcolm are the best part of the series. They are the best characters. Malcolm has the best character progression, Trish has the best internal strength, Kilgrave has the most sympathetic and interesting story line. Hope is also an interesting character. Jessica should be but she isn’t to me.

Jessica doesn’t change at all. She doesn’t evolve, she doesn’t grow as a person, she doesn’t open up to the viewers more, nothing. She ends the season exactly at the same place where she started, despite everything that happened. Despite the fact that she allegedly got what she’d been fighting to do.

Luke is a boring character. I’m sorry but he is. There is nothing to him. His power is sort of interesting but not really that interesting, since basically we always know what to expect. His back story is okay but doesn’t make a ton of sense in connection to Jessica.

Jessica and Luke have absolutely ZERO chemistry. The only thing that makes any sense about them together is that their powers are complementary, but that’s it. Any time those two were in the room together it felt to me more like two strangers hanging out or long lost family members than it did anything romantic.

The best character in the whole season/series so far was Kilgrave. And he’s the bad guy. It’s a huge problem if I have more sympathy for the mind-controlling serial killer with a complete disregard for humanity, than I do for the anti-hero heading the story who was one of his victims. Like. That’s a massively huge fucking issue. We see him repeatedly do terrible things and yet Jessica came off as more heartless and “evil” to me than he did, because he is clearly someone who had such a skewed worldview that he didn’t even realize he was doing anything wrong, so he couldn’t be called evil – yet she’s someone who definitely knows right from wrong and doesn’t care. Her “evil” is apathy and complacency and being perfectly willing to see people die just because. She has an incredibly selfish and egoistic way of living, which should have been interesting to me (especially since the actress did a great job) but ultimately… it wasn’t.

It may sound harsh to say that about her since she occasionally seemed to care that people died but she sat there talking about how she felt bad for people dying but didn’t actually seem to feel bad. Except in very specific situations with very, very few people. That should have made sense to me because of her history and etc, and on paper it does.

But in the way the story was written, it had a bizarre effect of making Kilgrave seem like the good guy to me, and Jessica like the bad guy. And I mean. I’m someone who’s very strongly against rape and am predisposed to thinking of mind control as being rape and all these things, and yet ultimately it read to me like she wasn’t a victim of any sort of rape, like she had been more okay with it all than she was willing to admit to herself, like she was complacent in everything and just later on decided to do mental redacting because it was easier to pretend she hadn’t had control and blame it on Kilgrave than it was to accept personal responsibility for her actions. It read like she was someone falsely accusing Kilgrave of being evil when he was just misunderstood.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for with her story. And I’m pretty sure it’s a huge problem if someone like me, who’s predisposed to being sympathetic to Jessica’s story, ends up feeling like she’s a liar and Kilgrave is a victim. That’s exactly the opposite of how it should read. It’s intensely disturbing to me that it reads this way.

I think one of the reasons it reads that way is because Kilgrave may be obsessed with her but he seems to genuinely believe he’s in love with her. Everything he’s doing is a really fucked up, twisted version of love. He literally does not know any better. He genuinely does not realize when he’s doing evil things because he grew up in such a way where casual disregard of humans around him was a normal thing to do. He’s someone who’s very sympathetic to me because he seems like someone who’s lost and trying to find a place in life, who doesn’t understand the negative impact of his actions because he’s never really been taught how to do so.

He was a victim of child abuse and human experimentation, and it’s true that he did a lot of awful shit but he also was someone who was given massive power at an early age with no one keeping it in check. I’m not saying his parents were evil, but them doing the experimentation that got him the powers (even though it was for a very understandable reason, trying to save their son’s life), and then just abandoning him at 10 (even though it was for an understandable reason, he was controlling them and hurting them) meant that their actions had repercussions that led to him being the adult he was, doing the things he was doing. And his whole story with Jessica is that she showed him, essentially, what it was like for “normal” people to live–what it was like to be human and not get everything he wanted, and so he developed an obsession/love for her because she was someone who probably made him feel human in some way, even if he didn’t realize it himself.

In contrast, Jessica’s a girl whose family is killed and that sucks, yeah, but she grew up with wealth after that, with a girl who became her best friend and who is a genuinely great freaking person with a great head on her shoulders and who instantly accepts her for having her powers and (as far as we know in this first season) never abandons her and is always willing to help and be there. Jessica has unwavering support in Trish. She has plenty of options to become a productive member of society (as far as we know in this first season) but she doesn’t. She seemingly wastes money and time and becomes an alcoholic and doesn’t really want to do anything useful with her powers because it’s too much of a bother dealing with other people, until Trish pushes her to be helpful to society at large. Obviously after Kilgrave Jessica changes a lot and that makes total sense with PTSD which is one thing I did really like about it.

I know that there’s more to Jessica’s story than this, or at least I assume there is. But that’s the point I’m making– that they spent more time humanizing Kilgrave than they did Jessica, and in doing so it ended up feeling to me like Kilgrave had all the reason in the world for what he was doing, and Jessica didn’t. And since the entire season was all about Kilgrave vs Jessica and basically nothing else, it put Kilgrave in a way better light than it did Jessica, who’s supposed to be our hero.

One way this really comes out is all the deaths which was another thing that started to annoy me in the story — there was a lot of death. A lot. And it was dealt with very cavalierly… people die, it’s maybe shocking for a second if we know them but then again we probably saw it coming, and if they’re an extra than it’s like it barely matters at all. How is it that Jessica is not being pulled in more often since she’s at the crime scene on so many deaths?

One of the places where Jessica really lost me as liking her was with Clemons. Here was a good cop who was 2 years away from retirement… someone who was just trying to do his job. He ran across her following up on a case she was involved in. She was an asshole to him, no surprise. She’s an asshole to everyone. He was suspicious of her. The whole thing ends. Okay. No big deal. But then later when she needs to find a cop to use for a plan, she chooses him because he was suspicious. She’s extremely forceful with him because he isn’t doing exactly what she wants, then Kilgrave shows up, Clemons somehow forgets about everything with everyone else, whatever. I guess fine again. Makes sense.

But then she goes out of her way a second time to forcefully pull him in on her shit show again. This time she coerces him and then handcuffs him there, forcing him to watch this thing she wants him to watch because he’s a cop and she wants him to be able to testify. Well, Jessica. How about you fucking ask someone first instead of manhandling and manipulating and using them all the time? Might be a good start. But she doesn’t, and shit goes down again, and Kilgrave mind controls Clemons and his hand gets fucked up and yet after all that, he’s still a good guy and plans to cover for Jessica and her crew. He tells them to leave, leaving him behind with a corpse and a pretty fucked up scene to have to explain, and he promises to call in favors to have friends of his get all the evidence Jessica needs to put Kilgrave away.

What does all this get Clemons? 2 years from retirement, trying to live his own life which Jessica repeatedly completely does not allow him to do, forcing him into her plans because she wants him there and not because of any care for what he wants (in fact, blatantly disregarding his wishes) — 2 years from retirement, and a “friend” of Jessica’s blows Clemons’ brains out and burns his body beyond recognition.

Then his body ends up in a morgue that just happens to alert Jessica to his presence, and she finds that he’s listed as John Doe but she knows it’s him because of the circumstances of where the body was found and because of the wound she sees in the hand. She realizes who he is but she doesn’t take a second to scrawl his name on the paperwork to alert personnel when they return, doesn’t take a second to alert the precinct, doesn’t do anything. She just walks away. Not knowing for certain whether he will ultimately be IDed or not. She doesn’t even seem upset about it. Just slightly resigned.

Jessica comes off as a sociopath in scenes like that. It’s like she doesn’t feel anything for human beings at all, and only seems human in times when she’s reminded that she’s supposed to give a shit like if Trish is involved. Like only external cues remind her to have emotions, and not anything that is internal.

Some of this may be the PTSD affecting her but the trouble is that the series didn’t really give enough of an actual view into who Jessica is as a human being before Kilgrave, before her powers, before anything. All I have to go on is what was in the series itself, and according to that she’s a pretty shit person. She’s an asshole, she seems to have very limited care for other peoples’ lives, she pulls seriously shit moves on people constantly and doesn’t appear to feel any sort of remorse whatsoever. It’s like she thinks everyone around her is there for her to use and if they can’t be used by her then they’re in the way.

The only reason she seems to give any sort of a shit about any of these people dying is simply because it’s inconvenient for her that they died. It’s inconvenient that she has to feel any sort of guilt for it. She only cares because Kilgrave is involved. It feels like if Kilgrave hadn’t made her a victim first then even if he was doing this same shit, even if bodies ended up in her bed, she’d be like, “Oh whatever, that’s fine.” Because if she hadn’t gotten the chance to call herself a victim first then nothing he did was wrong. It was only wrong because it inconvenienced her before it inconvenienced the other people around her.

That’s the way the story reads to me — which, again, is probably the exact opposite of how they wanted people to interpret everything. But because they spent more time explaining Kilgrave’s past and emotional state and his reasons and all that, he came off as more human and accessible.

And then when you compare the shitty ass person Jessica really, honestly, objectively is — she is not a good person. She is not any sort of hero, not even an anti-hero. She’s pretty much an apathetic blight on everyone around her. Compare that shitty ass person Jessica is at heart to the seemingly completely misguided and misunderstood Kilgrave, and it reads like the series was really all about him being the tragic hero.

And then Jessica becomes incredibly hypocritical for various reasons, but one in particular really stands out to me: she calls Kilgrave a rapist for the way he mind controls people around him, but from everything the series shows of her as a person she seems like if she had his powers, she would do exactly the same thing. She’s already forcing people to do her bidding at her convenience, with blatant disregard for their personal views, and their circumstances, and everything about them as a human being. If she’s already forcing everyone around her to do all this shit for her because it’s useful for her and not because she cares about them as a human, then she’s basically already Kilgraving people as much as she can without having his specific abilities. Which then means her decision to basically hyper focus on destroying him instead of trying to help him is a particularly dick move since she would probably be pissy if someone tried to do that to her.

The thing is, I agree that mind control is rape. I agree that it’s horrifying to imagine someone coming along and you having to do everything he says because he says it. I agree with her that she was raped both physically and mentally because she had no say. There was no ability for her to consent. I agree that Kilgrave did a lot of shitty ass things. I shouldn’t be sympathetic to him. That’s why I’m so frustrated with the season, because it managed to basically do everything it could to make me sympathetic to the rapist and not sympathetic to the survivor, and that’s really fucked up to me.

That is a perfect example of why I feel that this series so far is 3.5 stars (and tbh, the more I talk the more I feel like it should be 2.5 or 3).

Oh also the fact that they spent 10,000 million hours on why Kilgrave was unkillable and then he was, in the end, so easily killed and the repercussions of that was so simply brushed aside and made to no longer be a problem, made everything before then feel less valid too. It felt like it shouldn’t have been that hard to kill him or that easy for Jessica to have no repercussions, which meant that the last episode further killed the rating I gave it because anti-climactic endings really stick with me. It felt super unrealistic, as did all the random death that didn’t get tied back to her even though I’m sure she was on surveillance in a lot of these cases.

I’m sure this was rambling — sorry. I’m really tired, I just wanted to get my thoughts down on this before I could forget everything, since I just finished it a couple of hours ago.

I will probably give the next season a try if another season comes out. Maybe it will get better. But I accidentally spoiled myself on something when checking wikipedia for a character’s name, and I’m not sure I’ll be that thrilled with the direction it will probably take in regards to her romantic life, so I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m hoping that maybe they will put more attention on Jessica Jones as a human being in the next season (if it exists?) and she can have a bit of progression.

If anyone read this far and has also seen the show, I’d be curious to see what you thought about Jessica Jones. I’m also really curious about thoughts from anyone who read the comic series, and how you feel it compares to the TV show.

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