In my amateur opinion, there are three main types of superheroes.
There are ‘the’ superheroes – strong, daring, honest, model citizens of the world – aka Superman, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, you know… the good guys and gals.
There are the anti-heroes – aggressive, dark, badasses – aka Punisher, Deadpool, Constantine, Ghost Rider, Spawn, Rorschach, the guys who make bad look cool. (Batman could be part of this, but he’s got too many rules to be an anti-hero.)
And then there is the third type – the reluctant superheroes – those who don’t want anything to do with all this hero stuff but somehow manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jessica Jones as a character has been in the first category when she used to be known as Jewel, and eventually ended up joining the third one. The first season of the Netflix series is over and the next season is in the works. The show has been well-received by both critics and the audience in general.
I binge watched the first season of Jessica Jones before I began watching the Daredevil series. And from what I have seen, Jessica Jones definitely takes the more darker and grittier approach of the two. There’s swearing, sex, violence, alcohol, drugs, the works.
From the second I started watching the show, the film noir style was pretty evident. Only instead of a male detective smoking and boozing, as a sultry damsel in distress walks in through the door, you have a badass female private eye gulping down alcohol and scraping by in a murky world of low-level sleaze. The intro song for Jessica Jones itself hits off that film noir-ish effect.
The first season of Jessica Jones has a very simple premise – the overarching storyline is basically Jessica vs. Kilgrave aka the Purple Man. The subplots are not too extensive so it’s no rocket science… or Game of Thrones. Most of the season is about creating the atmosphere, introducing characters and providing backgrounds.
Krysten Ritter does a hell of a job playing the brooding, tough on the outside, former superhero. And man does she makes it look hot!
Now, let me clarify why I place the Jessica Jones character in the third group as a reluctant superhero, instead of the usual anti-hero clan, which she is definitely eligible for as well.
Reluctant superheroes mostly fall in the anti-hero category, but not all anti-heroes are reluctant superheroes. The Punisher, Deadpool, Ghost Rider and the likes are anti-heroes because they break the first law of being a superhero… avoid killing. However, they openly accept who they are, grudgingly or otherwise. They also have loose moral values when it comes to what is right or wrong, unlike the goody-goody superhero category.
So, who comes under the reluctant superhero category? In my opinion, this category is reserved for characters who don’t want to save the world, don’t give a shit about it and would rather hide in some corner away from the limelight trying to be normal. However, they are somehow roped into one mess after the other and forced to rise to the occasion.
Bruce Banner aka the Hulk comes to mind, especially if you see his portrayal in the first Avengers movie. Bruce Wayne aka Batman could be seen as another reluctant superhero based on the Dark Knight movies, as he doesn’t want to be Batman Forever (Oh burn!).
Jessica Jones is the perfect fit for this category. She left being a superhero after nobody came to her rescue when she was abducted by Kilgrave, played by former Doctor Who David Tennant. Tortured, controlled and raped, Jessica Jones manages to escape from Kilgrave’s mind control clutches, but ends up being a shadow of her former self – a traumatized, damaged and hateful person.
She exits the superhero world to start a new, not-so-glamorous life as a private eye hired to find missing persons and gathering proof of infidelity. First off, she’s no Batman or Sherlock Holmes. Her detective skills are more on a human level, limited to following people, tracking them online and interrogations. You won’t find her making any intricate deductions from observing the mud under a shoe or a stain on a shirt. This makes her a more realistic and on-ground type character.
She’s got well above average super strength, but not Superman level. Shoot or stab her and she will bleed. She doesn’t fly, more like makes awkward jumps… and that’s about it as far as super powers go.
Kilgrave aka Purple Man
David Tennant really brings Kilgrave to life as the villain. He looks like the James Bond of criminals.
Kilgrave is to Jessica what James Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes – a formidable arch nemesis that could drive one to insanity. His imposing presence can be felt each time his name is mentioned or he comes on screen. A man who can control people’s minds and bend them to his will is definitely someone to be feared. He could walk into a police station, make everyone shoot each other and walk off with absolutely no trace of his existence. He says it, the people do it.
Earlier in the season, the mere mention of Kilgrave’s name or a vague probability of his geographical proximity would send Jessica packing her bags to catch the first flight out. Krysten Ritter plays the traumatized superhero brilliantly. However, as the season moves forward, Jessica finds the courage to rise to the occasion.
However, Kilgrave is a multifaceted antagonist. Don’t get me wrong, he is one cold, calculating, psychopathic son of a *beep*. However, there are moments when you actually feel there’s more to him than that. Like when he tries to get Jessica to fall in love and stay with him out of her own free will. In fact, the tiniest of possibility arises that he may be actually capable of change. Though, that was never really going to happen.
Jessica Jones’ love interest, Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter complements her in terms of superpowers – superhuman strength and unbreakable skin – and emotionally. Both find solace from their loneliness with each other. Unknown to Cage, however, Jessica had killed his wife at the command of Kilgrave many years ago. This revelation breaks their relationship until Cage himself falls under the influence of Kilgrave’s powers and then understands Jessica’s helplessness against the Purple Man. They later kiss and make up and make out and a lot more.
Patricia “Trish” Walker
Trish, played by Rachael Taylor, is like a sister and Jessica’s only friend. She works as a radio host. Although poles apart, Trish shares a love-hate relationship with Jessica. She may not have superpowers and she is aware of her weakness compared to Jessica, but she is not as weak as she may come across. Jessica is shown to be highly protective of Trish since childhood, and Trish returns the love with unfettering loyalty.
Will Simpson, played by Wil Traval, is an NYPD sergeant who takes justice to a whole another level. He sort of looks like a psycho Captain America with a steroid drug addiction. Initially shown as a love interest to Trish and helping Jessica to fight Kilgrave, Simpson later goes ballistic in the head when he feels Jessica is protecting Kilgrave by not killing him. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that it’s important for Jessica to prove to the world that Kilgrave exists and that he can control minds.
Played by Erin Moriarty, Hope is a student who gets caught up in Kilgrave’s web as a way to lure and play around with Jessica. Hope gets arrested for killing her parents on Kilgrave’s command. Nobody believes her story and Jessica has to prove it was Kilgrave in order to free Hope.
Malcolm is Jessica’s friendly neighborhood junkie played by Eka Darville. As he unwittingly becomes a victim in Kilgrave’s game, Jessica helps him get back on his feet and out of his addiction.
Carrie-Anne Moss plays Hogarth, a fiercely independent lawyer who hires Jessica to do ground work for her in legal cases. Hogarth is a married lesbian who has an affair with an employee and decides to divorce her partner. She helps Jessica in trying to free Hope, but also falls victim to Kilgrave.
There are also some other interesting characters in the first season like the weird brother-sister neighbor. However, the subplots are pretty minor and most of the characters are just beginning to develop.
Along with hopes of seeing these existing characters develop further, season 2 brings the promise of crossovers with other superheroes from the Marvel Universe. At the fag end of season 1, we see the entry of Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, who is a major character in the Daredevil series. This raises the chances of us seeing a Jessica-Daredevil crossover at some point in season 2.
Also, other Marvel characters like the Punisher, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will be having their own shows so there are a lot of crossover possibilities in the future.
All in all, the show is pretty intense and gritty, love the film noir style, and I look forward to more of the same, especially the crossovers. However, I’m not a big fan of the Luke Cage character. He seems to slow the excitement down for me. I actually liked the episodes in which Jessica was on her own, independent, tough and yet vulnerable.
Jessica’s character reminds me of the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, and Luke Cage looks like an overgrown, mature, responsible character the size of a football player.
I like the fact that Jessica has strength but is miserable and vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, which make her damaged and Ritter plays that role really well. Cage brings in a sense of overbearing strength and security that removes the fun out of Jessica. I don’t mind Cage playing a side role while the focus remains on Jessica’s adventures.
I’m definitely going to miss David Tennant as the Purple Man, and the guys at Netflix and Marvel better have a more threatening villain for the second season.
I would love to see how Trish’s character develops, and Simpson as well. Like I said he’s like psycho Captain America addicted to steroids.
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