The Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has quickly been established as a darker, more adult, and otherwise dangerous place, following the debut of the critically-acclaimed Daredevil season one. Upcoming Marvel/Netflix TV series will likewise unfold within the same neo-Noir version of Hell’s Kitchen where Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock resides, starting in Fall 2015 with Jessica Jones. The latter program stars Krysten Ritter (Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23) as its namesake, with David Tennant playing the show’s main antagonist – Zebediah Kilgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man.
Jessica Jones is quite a different character than The Man Without Fear, where it concerns her depiction in Brian Michael Bendis’ original “Alias” Marvel comic book run; likewise, Kilgrave is a far cry from the threat posed by Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) on Daredevil, in his comic book form. As such, it’s reasonable to expect that the Jessica Jones Netflix series won’t simply amount to “Daredevil with a female lead,” so to speak.
Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg addressed that very point when she spoke about the Marvel/Netflix show during the 2015 TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour. As you see from the quote below (hat tip Indiewire), her description of Ritter’s Miss Jones stands well apart from the Charlie Cox version of Mr. Murdock (a hard-working, but humble, fellow who regularly consults his local priest about his double-life as a righteous lawyer by day, law-breaking vigilante by night):
“Jessica is about paying rent, getting the next client. She’s dealing with a fairly dark past. She’s trying to get through the day. She’s not really trying to save the city, she’s trying to save her apartment. At her core, she wants to do something good. She wants to contribute to the world. But there are a lot of personality issues for her that can get in the way.
“Jessica Jones is a brawler. She gets drunk, she gets pissed off, and boom, you’re down. She doesn’t wear a costume, she doesn’t have a mask. She’s just who she is.”
The Jones character, for those unfamiliar, is a ex-superhero who has taken on the job of being a private investigator, while she copes with PTSD from her world-saving days. It’s not clear yet how much the Jessica Jones Netflix series will mess around with the character’s comic book backstory, though Bendis has already indicated the show is faithful to its source material (at least in spirit) – a Noir TV show “but with its own palette” separate from Daredevil‘s.
Marvel Television’s head Jeph Loeb, when he spoke at the 2015 TCA event, likewise emphasized that Jessica Jones was designed to be a Noir-inspired series that differs from Daredevil, starting in the early planning stages of the show’s development:
“When we first sat down and started talking about ‘Daredevil,’ what we said was, for all intents and purposes, it was a crime drama first and a superhero show second. One of the things we’ve talked a lot about is that ‘Jessica’ is in many ways a psychological thriller first and then a superhero show second.”
Jessica Jones, in many ways, is more of a typical Noir protagonist than Matt Murdock; with her dark history, heavy drinking, and the career that she leads (investigating crimes on the hard-hitting streets of New York), Jones wouldn’t be out of place in your average detective story (her super-powers aside). Similarly, Kilgrave – a nasty fellow who, in the Marvel comics, can control others with his words (using pheromones secreted by his body) – doesn’t fit the crime boss archetype like Kingpin; rather Kilgrave, like many other Noir antagonists, is a schemer who uses the protagonist’s own insecurities and mental weak spots against them (literally, in this case).
Rosenberg may be most famous for writing the Twilight movies, but she’s very much experienced at crafting taut thrillers revolving around troubled anti-hero types – as evidenced by her work on Showtime’s Dexter TV series. Indeed, Loeb also informed the TCA crowd that the psychological game between Jones and Kilgrave will be a tense (and unnerving) one to watch unfold, on the Jessica Jones TV series:
“What you get out of ‘Jessica’ is a sort of hold-your-breath tension as to what’s going to happen. When you see the dynamic between Krysten Ritter and David Tennant… that question of ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and ‘What could happen next?’ and how that’s driven by character is something that is so important to not just the scripts but also the way the show is shot, and the way that everyone reacts, and the way those two react with each other.”
The supporting cast of Jessica Jones, like Daredevil, features a number of noteworthy television show character actors, such as the Matrix trilogy alum Carrie-Anne Moss (Vegas), Rachael Taylor (Grey’s Anatomy, Crisis), Eka Darville (Spartacus, Empire), and Erin Moriarty (Red Window, True Detective). However, the most noteworthy cast member next to Ritter and Tennant is no doubt Mike Colter (The Following, The Good Wife), who is playing Luke Cage before the character gets his own Netflix series in 2016.
In short: Jessica Jones has the makings of a well-acted neo-Noir series that is compelling on its own terms, while also serving as the pivotal next step in the expansion of the Netflix corner of the MCU. If the show delivers on that promise, then it will keep Marvel Television’s winning streak in Phase II of the MCU going strong, as well.
Daredevil season one is currently available on Netflix. Jessica Jones releases in Fall 2015, followed by Luke Cage season one and Daredevil season two (a.k.a. Daredevil V Punisher) in 2016. Iron Fist and The Defenders will arrive sometime thereafter.
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