AKA Ladies Night
Earlier this year, Daredevil hit like a bullet from Netflix. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a pop cultural juggernaut, the movies tend to still be for families, an idea that Daredevil ran counter to with its dark interpretation of the character. The question of course comes, how does one top that? Both in ambition and perhaps even in tone. Jessica Jones is that answer. Based on the Alias series back from the ye olde days of Marvel MAX by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos, it was well-known at the time not just for being the first comic of its kind from Marvel, but also for its unrelenting depiction of PTSD and the often failed attempts of the protagonist Jessica Jones to pick up the shattered pieces of her life.
The question that comes to mind though: is how do you adapt a story that was able to be built up over a period of several years into one season, how do you help Jessica stand out in a market that’s remarkably improved with its depictions of women, and for that matter introduce a Marvel heroine who’s standalone who’s also damaged in a less marketable to mass audiences way? The answer that the Melissa Rosenberg-penned premiere gives is to hit the audience with a sledgehammer and see what happens. The tone for AKA Ladies Night is completely unlike anything that Marvel has produced up to this point, perhaps even Daredevil for that matter. That’s largely due to the episode’s dipping directly to the source material in ways both direct and tonally.
While Krysten Ritter’s version of Jessica is more conventionally attractive than Gaydos’ version of the character, she retains the major qualities that defined Alias’ Jessica: the dogged sometimes even beaten persistence, the half-hearted attempts to hide her underlying problems, and of course the sailor mouth. That said, Ritter gets a lot to chew on with the noir tone of the episode. While Jessica has super powers, they’re just another means to an end, they don’t define her, and while the damage she’s suffered is stated, Ritter wears it on her face… although the piles of booze certainly help as an indicator as well.
The other principal actors in the show get a healthy amount of scenery to chew as well. What little we get of Kilgrave (David Tennant) is pretty tense, even by Tennant’s fairly macabre standards in previous roles such as Secret Smile. Mike Colter gets more of a chance to shine as Luke Cage, although that comes with fairly little development in character traits that are mostly told to us by Jessica rather than shown, at the very least though he’s fairly likable and that necessary chemistry is there. Jeryn Hogarth also shows up, although in the habit of Marvel’s propensity to alter established characters, this time Jeryn is still a lawyer but female, and one of Jessica’s many employers. That said, she acquits herself very well in the limited time the plot gives us time to explore, and with the promise of more to come.
That said, while this is only the first episode: the ratio of female to male principals is very promising. In an industry that’s fairly dominated by male actors, it’s promising to see a show that’s so far 3-2 in favor of women. While that’s not necessarily an indicator of quality, the first episode itself justifies this cast, especially with the type of trauma that Jessica has suffered, it makes a bit more sense for her to gravitate towards female figures, which is healthier in the type of arc trajectory the show has scrawled out so far.
In terms of the show’s own mechanics, it’s for lack of a word, less pretty than even Daredevil was, thanks to S.J. Clarkson’s directing. While there was a bit of trepidation on my part about making the first season of the show what was essentially the culmination of Jessica’s personal journey in the comics, the first episode does give justified reasons for this. It pulls even less punches than Daredevil, the cast isn’t quite as pretty, and there’s a lot less in the way of a hope spot. Beware ye who enter, for this show will hurt.
4 Whiskey Bottles out of 5
– Luke’s “It’s ladies night now” gag is kind of adorable isn’t it?
– Is accidentally causing property damage going to be a recurring theme on the show?
– They really don’t want to refer too directly to superheroes so far, eh?
– I’ll be back next week with AKA Crush Syndrome. Each Friday, a new episode will be reviewed. That’s my promise boys and girls.