**** Here be spoilers! You’ve been warned.****
I’ll admit, I’m a very late comer to the Hell’s Kitchen party. I only just binged on Daredevil about a month and a half ago, and I’m only halfway through Jessica Jones. However, the two shows (in my mind) couldn’t be more different. Daredevil‘s strongest storyline was the evolution of Wilson Fisk as the Kingpin. In fact, I’ve often ruminated that the show should be named after him, rather than the blind vigilante.
On the other hand, Jessica Jones seems to be a story about redemption. She is a young woman who is wracked with guilt over what she has done while under the influence of a mind controlling mutant (am I allowed to use that word in reference to this show??), and she drinks to dull the pain. However, she’s no justice junkie. She hates herself, but not enough to become a better person. Her fling with the widower of the woman she killed while under Kilgrave’s control was one of the most repugnant decisions I’ve seen a character make in any show. But isn’t that the point? Haven’t we all done something we were intensely not proud of, even knowing it was wrong?
Jessica is headed down a pretty dark path by the halfway point in the season, and the only light she has on this path is her best friend Trish Walker. Trish, a former child star and now the host of a morning radio program in NYC, and Luke Cage, another hero in Hell’s Kitchen who will have his own Netflix series soon, are without doubt my favorite characters in this series. They don’t always making the right decisions, but they at least try to do the right thing.
Jessica herself is damaged. She’s difficult to love, and she likes being that way. Her past is squarely in the way of her future. She’s the complete opposite of Luke Cage who has dealt with tragedy and has refused to let it make him weak or angry.
What I appreciate most about this series is that it is able to address an array of social issues that have been hotly debated on social media without being heavy handed or turning the series into a sermon on a soapbox. I appreciated the adept handling of situations such as when Jessica and Trish are hotly discussing ways to take down Kilgrave and protect his potential next victim and are interrupted by Will Simpson, an overeager police sergeant who has had exactly one “date” with Trish. Both women round on him fiercely and tell him in no uncertain terms to butt out of something he knows nothing about. Yes, this is a feminists wet dream, but it is presented in a way that doesn’t turn off the viewer. Likewise, the very visceral emotions that Hope Schlottman must deal with in the aftermath of being Kilgrave’s puppet, or Jeri Hogarth’s understated affair and divorce, are very human and feel completely real. (May I insert here that I adore Hogarth’s gender change for the show–she was a male attorney in the comics.)
So often in entertainment that wants to showcase social issues, I feel as though I’m being beaten over the head with a heavy book of current mores. (A great example of this is the ham-fisted equality message of Parks & Rec’s second season opener about marrying two male penguins.) It’s such a relief to kick back and watch a show that doesn’t make me angry either because of its weak portrayal of women, OR because it’s beating me about the head and shoulders with a 2X4 shaped sermon. All of the people in this show are fully three dimensional, dealing with issues that may not be common to everyone (most folks don’t have to install a safe room and learn Krav Maga in order to feel save from a mind controlling mutant), but with emotions that feel very familiar to most.
I have more to say on the subject of comparisons between Jessica Jones and Daredevil, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, I’m completely excited to finish this series and I’m praying that it remains a strong portrayal of human interaction all the way to the end. (Hey, I would love hear your thoughts on the show! This post already has a spoiler tag, so talk it up!!)