Wonder Woman

Earlier this year, I began to watch Daredevil, the new Netflix series produced by Marvel. I say "began", because despite its critical and commercial success, I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it was because I didn't find the characters interesting. Or maybe because it was too dark. I mean that literally; I know Daredevil is blind, but that doesn't mean the rest of us don't need the damned lights to be on once in a while. So I approached the next Marvel series, Jessica Jones, with a certain amount of trepidation.

I was soon put at ease and able to breathe a sigh of relief, because I found Jessica Jones a lot more enjoyable. In fact, it's nine of the finest episodes of television I've seen this year. Trouble is, it's a thirteen-episode season. But let's talk about the good stuff first. Far from being a token of a female superhero, Jessica is a full-fledged character, and Krysten Ritter does a great job of portraying her. She's moody, boozy, rude, and sarcastic, but buried below her gruff surface is a streak of empathy.

Her superpowers aren't as remarkable as lot of the other people in the Marvel canon: She can't shoot fire out of her fingertips. She's not a rapid healer. She is, however, incredibly strong, and can jump great distances. Those less showy powers really work in the realm of a television drama. The stories by necessity are more about her than her abilities. The antagonist is fantastic, too. David Tennant plays Kilgrave, a man obsessed with Jessica who has the power of persuasion. And lest you think that doesn't sound so horrific, imagine a person who can talk people into hurting and/or killing themselves and others with a single sentence.

Superheroes are best used when their remarkable powers serve as a stand-in to tell more human stories, and Jessica Jones accomplishes this admirably, digging into weighty issues like PTSD, abuse of privilege, and self-control. 99% of the supporting cast is terrific. It includes Carrie-Anne Moss as a shark of a lawyer, Rachael Taylor as Jessica's adoptive sister, and Mike Colter as Luke Cake, who has unbreakable skin and will be getting a series of his own soon.

If Jessica Jones had wrapped up the season at episode nine, it would be making my end-of-the-year ranking of my favorite shows even more agonizing. Thankfully, it does me a big favor by tripping over itself in episode ten and crawling painfully to the finish line. Suddenly, the audience is spending an inordinate amount of time with the one supporting character who is neither interesting nor acted well, a shrill neighbor named Robyn. Facing off against Kilgrave is apparently not enough of an obstacle for Jessica, so additional baddies come out of nowhere. Parts of episodes start spinning off into irrelevant tangents. A character is essentially given an on/off switch for evil, so that he can be whatever the writers need him to be for a particular scene.

Despite that disappointing succession of episodes, the season as a whole was very entertaining. But with its best material at the front end, I worry that Jessica Jones may have already given us all the entertainment it can. Still, I'm on probably on board for Season 2, though I'll be going into it with a certain amount of trepidation. Hey! Neat little trick you've pulled off, there, Jess.

Jessica Jones - Season 1: B+


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