In season 2, Jessica Jones became more of a superhero show – but that’s not exactly a good thing

jessica jones season 2 marvel netflix kilgrave alisa jones krysten ritter david tennant janet mcteer

No, Kilgrave – and, indeed, the first season of Jessica Jones as a whole – worked because there was a certain truth to him. The character served as part of Jessica Jones’ exploration of rape culture, of pervasive and insidious attitudes that can be observed in real life. A lot of the drama and tension comes from the fact that audiences are familiar with him, and those like him, both on a diegetic and extra-diegetic level; there’s something recognisable about Kilgrave, something that maps onto real life experiences.

Across season 2, we follow our eponymous hero as she’s drawn deeper and deeper into a convoluted conspiracy, uncovering information about the shady organisation that are responsible for her powers. It’s something that Jessica Jones isn’t particularly well suited to: the conspiracy angle is weak, and the return of a key character from Jessica’s past marks a genre shift that the show can’t sustain. In essence, it’s because little of this is analogous to real experiences. A huge amount of the strength of Jessica Jones previously came from its ability to use the trappings of the superhero genre to tell a story about trauma and surviving abuse; here, it’s weighed down by old tropes and familiar archetypes. Where the fantasy angle of Kilgrave’s powers was used to great effect to tell a story about genuine human experiences, that’s not the case in season 2.

Very heavy spoilers for Jessica Jones series 2 here, particularly after episode six – wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve seen the whole season, personally.

Not sure I quite got this article right – often the way when you’re writing quickly to meet a deadline, moreso after having binge-watched something. (One day, I should write about my growing disdain for binge-watching television programmes. It’s often a necessary evil of my job – gotta get the clicks within the optimal search hours – but I do think that television criticism, and actually in a broader sense television viewing, suffers from binge-watching.)

Anyway, though, this article. It perhaps might have been better titled “Jessica Jones loses sight of human experiences”, or words to that effect. In short, my feelings are that the best parts of Jessica Jones season 1 were the moments when it was least like a superhero show – when it reflected real life, even if only in an allegorical sense. The fact that it’s increasingly like a fairly over-the-top and convoluted superhero show in S2 was a bit disappointing – it felt like a genre shift in a show that didn’t need one. (Again, I have fairly complex thoughts on “superhero” as a genre definition, but that’s for another time.)

Still! I hope you like this article – or, if not the article itself, at least the basic gist of the ideas that are going on within it. Let me know in the comments below what you think!

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The problem with poor pacing, and increasingly overlong television

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Having a more flexible runtime makes sense – generally speaking, the traditional forty-five-ish minute slot for a drama or the twenty-five-ish minute slot for comedy are fairly arbitrary ideas imposed by the demands of advertisers rather than anything else. There’s nothing inherent to the stories that dictate they hold this structure, so the opportunity to be a little bit more malleable and adaptable can be worth pursuing.

Yet it’s debatable whether this approach is really effective, and whether the freedom that’s been allowed has ultimately been a good thing. There’s an argument to be made that, over the past few years, it’s led to a slew of poorly paced television series; slow and plodding, not using their runtime effectively. It’s not so much that a serial has to be filled with incident, but that there’s a sense that not every minute has to be earned in the way that perhaps it used to be – in turn leading to more meandering, more superfluous storytelling.

This article brought to you by the hour I spent watching the first episode of Seven Seconds, though could just have easily been brought to you by the interminable thirteen hours spent on Jessica Jones series 2.

A while ago, I changed up my approach with how I write about television; I decided, basically, that I was only going to write about a show when I’d seen the entire thing. Just a different way of looking at it, taking the series more holistically basically, and a way to stop myself getting too complacent – after a while, I figure I’ll probably switch it up again.

But anyway, this led to a lot of Netflix binge-watching, which was always frustrating – with the above Seven Seconds, ten episodes totalled around eleven hours entirely (there was one episode which was seventy-five minutes long, which is pretty much never necessary) and it worked out that if I watched all ten episodes, then spent another three hours or so writing an article on the show, my final pay would work out as less than minimum wage. Which I was not wholly impressed by. So I wrote this article about why TV episodes are too long instead. Though admittedly I’d probably mind less if I was paid more. So, you know.

(Some months later, a more well established TV critic, the name of whom escapes me, wrote something similar titled something to the effect of “overly long episodes are the TV equivalent of manspreading”, which is a much better title than mine. Made me laugh, anyway.)

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The Defenders is less a story, and more a drawn out contractual obligation

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It’s not so much that The Defenders is bad, exactly. Bits of it are quite good. The leads are, if nothing else, good at their job and keep the show afloat even as the script drags it down. Equally, though, it has to be said – it takes a special kind of programme to waste Sigourney Weaver. At the end of the day, there’s never really a sense that someone went into this with a story they wanted to tell, or any particular vision they wanted to realise.

Me on The Defenders, which I found quite disappointing on the whole.

Actually, “disappointing on the whole” is being far too kind – wasn’t it just staggeringly bad? Quite apart from the fact it managed to waste Sigourney Weaver (!!!) it moved at an absolutely glacial pace while still doing very little. One of the big things that stood out to me, actually, was that it couldn’t find the time for a scene between Matt and Claire, despite how important they’d been to one another in Daredevil. Just such a lack of focus on or interest in the characters (to say of nothing of moments of outright sloppiness, like poorly staged fight scenes and tonally mismatched musical cues), it was ultimately pretty substanceless.

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Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky on The Defenders, how to break into the industry, and more

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[Conveying character and theme] is the main job of a costume designer. We carefully read the script and have many meetings where we discuss ideas. Essentially you want to convey a character’s present, as well as the past and even some of the future. Color and texture is important as well as silhouette. Economic status, state of mind, state of health, country of origin, political leanings—these are some of the many notions to be conveyed through costume.

An interview I did recently with Stephanie Maslansky – she told me a few interesting things about Sigourney Weaver’s character in The Defenders, as well as some great tips on how to become a costume designer!

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The Defenders catch-up: What happened in Jessica Jones?

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We’re not far from the debut of Netflix’s superhero team up extravaganza, The Defenders. It’s set to unite Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, bringing each one together from their own shows to fight a new evil that threatens New York.  

There’s just one problem though – what if you can’t remember what happened in the other shows? It’s been a while, after all, and you probably don’t have the time to binge watch them all ahead of The Defenders’ August 18th broadcast date. No need to worry – here’s your explanation of everything that happened in Jessica Jones…

Here’s a summary of Jessica Jones, which was the best of all the Marvel superhero shows. This one is absolutely, completely, worth the watch.

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Jessica Jones: Why Kilgrave is Marvel’s Best Villain

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In some ways, it’s simply the character himslf – his attributes as a villain. In the early episodes, there are plenty of examples of his petty sadism, and his childlike desire for retribution (consider when Patsy insults him on the radio, and his response to that) which becomes genuinely quite terrifying when he uses his powers to enact his every impulse. At the same time, though, David Tennant imbues him with a sense of charm and charisma – there’s almost a desire to like him. This is perhaps in part because he’s so well known as the Doctor; there’s time when I do think he channels his previous performance here, to great effect – the fact that we do, at times, like him and think he’s approaching normality makes the character far more insidious. In that way, then, he becomes an even more apt metaphor for rape culture, and the manner in which those sort of toxic attitudes are so pervasive, yet also hidden.

With everyone getting ready for Luke Cage, I thought it’d be a good time to look back on Jessica Jones, with an article about what made the odious Kilgrave such a fantastic character.

(I think I expressed the above poorly in places, particularly that bit about liking Kilgrave, because that’s not really the right way of putting it.)

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TV Review: Jessica Jones (Episodes 4 – 6)

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Here’s the next set of reviews of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the new Netflix series. I’m quite enjoying it, as it goes.

AKA 99 Friends (1×04)

Something that I’ve really liked about this show, but not commented on yet, is the use of voiceovers. It’s really effective; Jessica Jones has a great, noir-style atmosphere, and a lot of it comes from those voiceovers. Typically the show does really well in terms of tone and atmosphere, though; once again, without appearing, we get some frightening Kilgrave moments as we start to meet some of his other victims. Personally, the young child who had been taken over stood out to me particularly, as did the story of Kilgrave’s chauffeur.

Also an interesting thing, that I’ve not yet commented on: this is the first Marvel property with any LGBT characters in it – that’d be Hogarth the lawyer, her wife, and her girlfriend. Obviously, it’s great that they’re part of the story, and that Marvel is beginning to make some strides towards a more diverse cinematic universe, but I do wonder about their relevance towards the whole plot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the characters exist, and I do find the plotline interesting (Hogarth is remarkably callous) but it does feel a little disconnected from the rest of proceedings. I wonder how it’s going to proceed from here.

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AKA The Sandwich Saved Me (1×05)

This could well have been the best episode of the series so far, in fact. The flashback sequences were particularly well handled, with their gradual revelation of Jessica’s past. It was quite poignant, actually, seeing her “before Kilgrave” state, where she was much happier, and working with Patsy to create the Jewel persona – actually genuinely going out and trying to save people, like Malcolm, because she likes helping people. All of that cut down, stopped in its tracks, because of Kilgrave. I’m really hoping we follow this thread with the flashbacks, and explore more of the past there.

Kilgrave himself finally got some substantial scenes, and he is terrifying. David Tennant is doing a really phenomenal job with this; in many ways, and I think intentionally, he’s channeling certain aspects of his portrayal of the Doctor here, to make Kilgrave all the more loathsome and slimy. In a way, you’d almost be inclined to describe him as charismatic – but that’s not right, because there’s always something much more insidious and disgusting lying beneath the surface. As a character, he’s never failed to be compelling yet; the final scene of this episode, where Jessica sends him the picture of herself, is genuinely unsettling.

marvel jessica jones netflix kilgrave phone david tennant aka you're a winner

AKA You’re a Winner! (1×06)

With this episode, we start to delve into the past between Jessica and Luke a lot more deeply. It was a really interesting angle that they’ve included here; I don’t know if Jessica killing Luke’s wife was ever part of the comics, and if it was, it’s certainly not something I was already aware of. That’s nice, actually, not knowing the direction in which this is going, because it’s added a really interesting layer to the relationship between Luke and Jessica, which should prove to be pretty compelling as they move through the series.

Two other, rather wonderful, moments stood out to me. For one thing, it was really great to see Jessica in her element here as a PI, really being able to show off her skills as a detective. Of them all, this episode has probably done the best job of demonstrating just how good at her job Jessica is – which makes sense, really, given the focus of the episode.  The other standout moment I was referring to was the ending, with the slow revelation that Kilgrave was buying Jessica’s childhood home. It was chillingly effective, particularly in terms of the camera pan to reveal the street sign, with the names Jessica has been reciting as a coping mechanism all throughout the series. Really enforces just how loathsome a villain Kilgrave is.


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TV Review: Jessica Jones (Episodes 1 – 3)

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On 20th November Netflix released their second Marvel Television Program, which in this particular instance is Jessica Jones, which is based on Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias comic series. I’ve never read it, personally, but I’ve heard some very good things. Obviously, here be spoilers.

AKA Ladies Night (1×01)

Two things stand out in the first episode: Jessica and Kilgrave.

Krysten Ritter is pretty damn awesome as Jessica Jones. Her performance is fantastic, and I really love the character; she’s bitter and sarcastic, and struggling with alcoholism and PTSD. It’s a subtle and nuanced depiction of such a character, which is realised extremely well. She’s a really compelling character, and I think it’s brilliant that these stories are beginning to be told; it’s great that this is a show with a female lead, and it’s even better that the lead is such an atypical one. Jessica Jones is, in short, an excellent lead character.

Kilgrave, who’s the villain of the piece, isn’t exactly in this episode as such, but his presence is very much felt; AKA Ladies Night does a brilliant job of setting up the Purple Man, making him genuinely terrifying. All of that “we don’t say his name” from Daredevil last year seems like child’s play, at this point – without even a second of screentime, we know exactly how brutal and sadistic Kilgrave is, and it’s terrifying. I get the impression he’ll be a really compelling, memorable villain.

jessica jones marvel netflix krysten ritter review

AKA Crush Syndrome (1×02)

This episode picks up where the last one left off, and develops the plotline further; Jessica starts to pursue Kilgrave, hoping to prove the innocence of Hope, the young girl who shot her parents under Kilgrave’s instructions.

We see Kilgrave for the first time this episode, albeit only partially; the full reveal is still being held back, which makes his appearances all the more tense. Kilgrave is genuinely quite frightening; he’s brutal and sadistic, and he just doesn’t care about people. Jessica Jones is doing a really great job of setting up this central villain as someone to really, really give a damn about. They’re making great use of the motif of purple light, too – any scene with even the slightest hint of purple in its palette is significantly more tense than it would be otherwise.

Luke Cage is also developed a little more in this episode, which was nice to see. Interesting that he already has his powers by this point; I wasn’t expected that, I must admit. Looking forward to the next episode, and seeing how they further the relationship between Luke and Jessica.

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AKA It’s called Whiskey (1×03)

We’ve got some more revelations about Jessica this episode, and particularly her past. It’s quite interesting, actually; I’m starting to get the impression that Jessica killed Luke’s wife, and that was why she was spying on Luke. If I’m right (and that seems to be what the show is suggesting, so if I’m wrong I’ve heavily misinterpreted something) then this should prove to be an interesting change to the dynamic between Jessica and Luke; obviously I know the pair of them end up as a long term couple, but I think this aspect with regards to his wife is a new development of the show itself? Regardless, it’s a nice concept.

Kilgrave’s story is furthered as well; his targeting of Patsy is frightening in its sadism, but also it’s pettiness – it’s a childlike act of retribution, carried out on a larger scale because of the scope of his powers. Scary stuff, especially considering how nice Patsy comes across; they’ve done a good job of endearing her to the audience as Jessica’s old friend. Once again, this was another great episode.

This review was recently posted on the Yahoo UK website.


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