I Know Your Secrets
What is strength? Is the ability to beat up thugs? Is it the ability to stop moving cars and rip doors off hinges? And how does physical strength stack up against something with the ability to control your every actions?
This is Marvel’s second Netflix exclusive and it’s a worthy follow up to Daredevil. It’s still mature and explicit, but its tone and visuals are quite different from its predecessor. While Daredevil was a violent, action-packed crime drama, Jessica Jones gave us a psychological thriller like none other.
When dealing with a sadistic, violent, obsessive, sex fiend, disturbing imagery is to be expected. When said villain is a man with the ability to use mind control it’s shocking on a whole new level. Self-mutilation, suicide, proxy murder, rape…watching helpless people of all ages commit horrible acts is terrifying on a new level, not just for Marvel, for any psychological thriller. It all comes together and gives us one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe.
Kilgrave is brought to life by David Tennant, who is the perfect actor for the part. His charisma and sense of humor perfectly counteracts his violent and sadistic side, making his lack of empathy all the more horrifying. Yeah, he’ll force a room full of people to kill one another…why not? To him it’s all a big game.
The rest of cast shines as well. Ritter is perfect Jones, Rachael Taylor is perfect for Trish, Wil Traval is perfect for Will Simpson, and Colter is PERFECT for Luke Cage. Oh, and it goes without saying that this is a Marvel show, so there are ties to the larger universe as well.
Despite these ties, this is a wholly unique entry. This is the darkest installment to the franchise, not visually, but on a thematic level. The trailer warned us weeks ago: Kilgrave leaves a trail of broken people behind him. Sure, it makes for a cool line in the trailer, but they certainly mean it. Jessica Jones is broken. She relies on alcohol and isolation to take it one day at a time. She pushes friends and loved ones away and embraces her abrasive attitudes towards strangers. It makes for some compelling drama and establishes some of the strongest characters we’ve seen to date.
That’s not to say the show is without its flaws. These may seem nitpicky, and they are, but they’re worth mentioning. Despite the dark subject matter, the show doesn’t quite nail the tone. There are times when the show wants to be disturbing, cerebral thriller…but at others it plays like a black comedy and at others still an action-adventure. It leads to some jarring moments where we’re not sure just what the show wants us to feel. Juxtaposing bright, colorful visuals with bloody, horrifying violence is fine so long as the show can, in a way, “pick a side.” But when we see and hear a hodge-podge of different things, it does make us wonder just what the showrunners want us to feel. The action, likewise, could stand to be improved, especially after Daredevil did such a superb job in showcasing the pulpy violence of a street-level hero.
These are small complaints in an otherwise amazing series. It’s been a long time since a show made us question so many things. On the surface we always wonder who we can trust. Who is under Kilgrave’s control? Who has ulterior motives? Are these people good guys or bad guys or something in between? But the questions go deeper than that. Does being physically strong even matter when your brain is susceptible to control? How does strength factor into the many relationships we form in our lives? Does strength equal power? And the most important question of all…what is strength? Is it the ability to fight? Is it the ability to fight back? Or is the ability to move on?
Alex Russo loves to talk about movies. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.