I just recently finished the Netflix and Marvel show Jessica Jones and it honestly had me on the edge of my seat for the entire season. Here I’ll be talking about the show – what I liked, didn’t like, etc so there will be spoilers and like the show, issues of abuse, sexual assault, abortion, and more will be addressed.
The show follows Jessica Jones, a gifted person with enormous strength living in Hell’s Kitchen of New York City and somehow both the hero and antihero of the show. She’s a private investigator who struggles with PTSD and a past of abuse, assault, and manipulation. And this show is so important – I have yet to see another show deal with abuse, rape, abortion, manipulation, addiction, and more in the same direct way that Jessica Jones has.
One of the things I loved about the show is Krysten Ritter and her work as Jessica. I’ve only ever really seen Ritter in more comedic roles so seeing her in such a dramatic and dark role was new but I really loved her performance. And the fact that the show is mostly women as main characters is also amazing because Hollywood’s fear of diverse casting and shows makes finding fully fleshed diverse characters like the ones in Jessica Jones a rarity.
The main villain of the season is Jones’ ex – a man by the name of Kilgrave, who like Jessica, is a gifted person and we really need to talk about him. Unlike with Jessica, we find out later in the season that his powers are actually a virus he emits after his parents experimented on him as a child but his gifts allow him to control people with his words for a period of time. He forces people to do so many things – follow and take pictures of Jessica, cook him meals, kill themselves, erase security footage, love him in numerous capacities, and so much more.
Kilgrave, in his many ways, is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve ever encountered in a fictional show and in much of real life too. The thing that makes him that is he’s like so many men that I’ve encountered in real life – just with a supernatural gift to help. He feels like he’s owed things – love, affection, material goods and he manipulates and abuses his way into getting just that. And it’s more than that too – he deals with minor annoyances by telling a magazine vendor to throw hot coffee in his own face or telling a man to stand on the side of the road staring at a fence ‘forever’ for being annoying.
And if he can’t use his gift (as is the case for Jessica), he still spouts abuse and manipulation into getting what he wants. Kilgrave repeatedly used others to control Jessica – often threatening harm or death upon others if she didn’t follow his orders. He gaslights people, plays the victim, never feels responsible for his actions and their consequences. Kilgrave has left a trail of broken or dead bodies behind him trying to get what he thinks he deserves and even until the very end, he feels no remorse or responsibility for that pain and destruction. I wrote a few months ago about fictional villains and Kilgrave fits the true villain mold – he doesn’t really seem to think that his actions are bad or evil.
Through Kilgrave’s actions and gift and Jessica’s PTSD, the show hits upon abuse and addiction. Episodes flash back to traumatic experiences Jessica went through while with and under the influence of Kilgrave. Triggers remind her of all the horrible things she went through because of him and his words – having sex without any sort of actual consent, breaking the law, killing. And Jessica isn’t alone in dealing with trauma – other characters in the show deal with their own. As Teo Bugbee writes:
No matter where you turn in Jessica Jones, there are remnants of the wreckage someone has left behind, and part of the anxiety for these characters comes from living with the knowledge that it will be impossible to save people from more trauma. Trauma in Jessica Jones is a tragedy, but also an inevitability.
Jessica Jones is a show that’s very different from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a show that’s significantly darker both in story and in filming than other productions – in part because the show deals more with abuse, addiction, and sex than other MCU show or movie. I really loved the show for many reasons, despite being utterly terrified by the main villain. (And the fat joke within minutes of the first episode was definitely really annoying.)