A slow but sure start to the super-sleuth's new batch of episodes.
Being the shameless, overworked History student that I am, I am proud to say that at the time of writing this review, I have binged my way up through Episode 7 of Marvel’s new offering, and whilst I will not talk about anything beyond the first episode here I want to preface this review by stating that I fully expect my knowledge of what comes later down the line to impact my opinion on the first hour. Whilst each episode of the show can be fully-appreciated on its own merit, the production style of the series is fully-intended to invite binge-watching, and so as the first part of a longer narrative, this first episode is somewhat flat. However, with the advantage of hindsight, it improves vastly.
But, as the episode title declares we should ‘Start at the Beginning’. We find ourselves not so much thrown into as gently lowered back into Hell’s Kitchen, the New York district previously plagued by supernatural ninjas, a megalomaniacal kingpin and a purple-suited mind controlling sociopath (so just your average corner of the MCU, then). In the aftermath of Kilgrave (the aforementioned sociopath)’s death, our titular hero, the PTSD-suffering superhero Jessica Jones is attempting to resume an ordinary life. Only, her idea of normal is a lot bleaker and more violent than ours. As we are reminded in this initial hour, Jessica has a bit of an anger problem (understandable, really) and within minutes there are pizza trays spinning through the air like shurikens, and broken bones aplenty. Krysten Ritter’s sardonic private investigator remains the most interesting and engaging lead in all of the Marvel Netflix-verse, equal parts unsympathetic asshole and relatable victim. Unsurprisingly, she has the best lines in her show, with clapbacks packing as much punch as her own enhanced fists. An early highlight of the series here is her comeback to the cocksure Pryce Cheng’s declaration that he “won’t take no for answer”, “how rapey of you.” We see her both vulnerable and confident, and its a testament to Ritter’s acting chops that she can pull off both with equal shine.
As a show that is quite literally about female empowerment, the role of Jessica’s adoptive sister and quasi-sidekick Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is also of note. Whilst Taylor can come across as somewhat-preachy, her love for her sister is evident in her attempts to help her explore her dark and traumatic past. Similarly, Carrie-Anne Moss is back on fine form as the sharp-suited shark Jeryn Hogarth, a shady lawyer who is just as much Jessica’s foe as her friend, although the episode teases exploring a side to Hogarth that we haven’t seen before – her vulnerable side. The final returnee from Season 1 is Eka Darville’s recovering addict, Malcolm, who has made a startling evolution over the course of the series from waster to blossoming-hero, and its rewarding to see the fruits of his labour start to pay off here. The only notable newbie to talk about here is J.R. Ramirez’s Oscar, although he’s given very much to do in this episode other than stare anxiously.
The plot of the episode revolves around the mysterious IGH, an organisation teased in the first season to be behind the transformation of teenaged Jess into a super-strong ‘gifted’, but they are only teased here, via the brutal execution of the paranoid guest star Robert ‘Whizzer’ Coleman (Jay Klaitz), a speedy experimentee whose SFX is so cringeworthy that the Flash needn’t worry about competition any time soon. As Jessica stumbles across an old medical facility, repressed memories start to resurface, teasing a season-long mystery that, whilst being revealed faster than you’d expect, isn’t developed much until around the midpoint of the series. But that’s getting too far ahead. For now, all you need to know is that IGH is probably evil, and experimented on a lot of people, including last season’s homicidal police officer, Will Simpson (Wil Traval), who makes a fleeting return here.
Initially, there were a lot of concerns that David Tennant’s absence in the season would feel like a gaping hole, but honestly, you’ll only miss him for the first few episodes, and we all know he is poised to make a return in some form later down the line. Whilst the pacing here is slow, it plants a lot of important seeds for later down the line. If you judge the episode on its own merits, its hard to find a huge flaw in it but it does very much feel like a prologue to the real meat of the story. But, as the first chapter in an absolutely-fascinating new slice of televisual superheroics, it shouldn’t be missed. Keep watching – I promise its worth it.
The entirety of Jessica Jones Season 2 is available now on Netflix.