Netflix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones showed its first episode at a packed New York Comic Con house, and it delivered so much. Here are our spoiler-free first impressions.
It’s a shallow point, but a really important one. Jessica Jones may be one of the first ever comic book shows to get that a dark tone doesn’t necessitate a literally dark screen. It looks like New York actually looks—not overly bright and shiny and clean, but not suffering a never-ending power-outage either.
The use of light and color is so smart. We’ve known for a while that David Tennant will be playing the villain of the series, Kilgrave/The Purple Man, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock to se that purple plays heavily into the show. And it does, but in a way that is far more unsettling than that color has any right to be.
Along with being visible, the show’s also got a great handle on the language of noir. We always hear about how the Marvel movies are each a different genre, but they’ve ceded film noir to Jessica Jones. From the first voice over, you know exactly what you’re about to get: a client, a case, and a bad end.
Because it uses the noir structure and realistic lighting, you’re kind of tricked into forgetting you’re watching a Marvel show—at least until people start using their powers. And even then, the characters are very used to powers being a possibility. This isn’t treated as a novelty, and the show’s origin story isn’t about the discovery of gifts.
The first episode creates a truly terrifying villain not by giving him a monologue, but showing the devastating effects he has. There’s not a lot of exposition in Jessica Jones, but the atmosphere and the characterization makes threats feel very, very real.
I’m also going to give special attention to the relationship between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. One of the interesting parts of the Marvel live-action works is that we know the broad strokes of all the characters, so the surprises are in how they are interpreted. This time, the show is eschewing the paths that the rest of the Marvel love interests have trod. Plus, Kristen Ritter and Mike Colter have great chemistry.
Rather than spending a lot of the first episode telling the audience who everyone is, the first episode focuses, rightly, on Jessica—who she is, what she’s gone through, and her goals. Her development takes center stage and everyone else orbits her.
Jessica kicks ass, makes jokes, and is very damaged. Ritter plays her with an underlying brittleness that underscores that, as capable as she is, she is damaged.
With all the other characters, we get just glimpses of their lives. We see Trish Walker, the best friend, for only a few minutes. But there is a real friendship established that makes you want to see more. Jessica’s weird neighbor Malcolm shows up mostly as comic relief, but he too has a relationship with Jessica that hints at an interesting background. And the client in the first episode is Hope, who has a lot to overcome.
Just one episode of Jessica Jones was not enough. It is going grab hours from your life and not let go.
Contact the author at email@example.com.