Earlier this year, Marvel released Daredevil on Netflix. It was instantly one of the best things Marvel Studios has ever released. Dark, gritty and violent, it felt like something that HBO would produce instead of what we typically see from Marvel.
Tonight at midnight, Netflix releases its next Marvel series. It's called Jessica Jones, and it is better than Daredevil. Yeah, I said it: this new show is better than Daredevil. In fact, it's one of the best shows to hit the small screen in a long time.
The show centers on Jessica, a private detective with more than her own share of demons. Played with verve by Kristyn Ritter, the title character is deeply flawed and is recovering from a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with the show's supervillain, a man named Kilgrave who can control the actions of others. Though she broke free from Kilgrave's clutches, he is still very much present in her life.
Kilgrave, played byDoctor Who actor David Tennant, is a masterful character and one of the most interesting villains the Marvel universe has ever produced. Though he doesn't show up until midway through the first season, his reach is felt early on, and the show's masterful pacing has you on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Jessica has super strength, but this is not a show about a woman with super strength, if that makes sense. This is a show about a woman who is hurting and who makes bad decisions. It deals with very sensitive subjects like rape and PTSD in a head-on manner. The entire series revolves around trauma of one sort or another. Every character—from Jessica to the bartender Luke Cage (who will have his own Netflix series shortly) and lawyer Jeri Horgath (played by Carrie-Anne Moss of The Matrix fame)—is dealing with their own personal demons, and they are played out on screen for everyone to see.
The show is not as physically violent as Daredevil, but it carries a heavy load of psychological abuse. One of the best things about the show, though, is how its female characters deal with that abuse. They are not weak, as women are often presented on television. They are in control of their lives and working to become whole again. But the process of becoming whole is quite painful, and we see how that affects each of them in a profound way. Jessica Jones is a show about a woman with profound issues, but she is also a woman who does not need anyone to rescue her.
Jessica Jones is dark and disturbing. It is not a show the fun-loving comic book fan will enjoy. It shares almost no traits with Marvel's big franchises like The Avengers. But the show triumphs because of those differences. This is not a show that should be judged as a Marvel product. It is a work of art that can stand up against the absolute best television has to offer, and it is a must-watch.