It may be trite to say, but Jessica Jones truly does offer a story far different than anything seen thus far in the M.C.U.. Even something as unique as DareDevil contained several of the elements one might expect from a traditional comic book story. In many ways Jessica Jones is a fresh departure from such a formula; not only do we get Marvel's first female protagonist, but a show that successfully dares to tackle some very difficult themes. The show may not be perfect, but it's a truly unique story that is carried by its several damaged, but compelling characters.
Jessica Jones delivers an fascinating villain in the form of David Tennant's Kilgrave. "Gifted" with mind control, he illustrates the damage someone with only selfish ambitions can cause when given such power.
Having always got what he wanted on a whim, Kilgrave is understandably narcissistic. It's a deceivingly simple backstory that actually creates a twisted - but convincing - explanation for his fixation on Jessica. As he says in the series, no one in his life has ever said "No' to him, but her.
It's refreshing to have a villain who's not hell bent on ruling the world or chasing after some cosmic macguffin. His only desire is her and it obviously is an obsession. That is what makes Kilgrave more terrifying then anything, ultimately he's just a stalker with a god complex, but also with the power to act like one.
His motivations being of such a lower nature, gives a much realer feel to the suffering he inflicts. It helps set the stage for the uniting theme of the show: trauma. Jessica Jones makes a point to explore the various types of it, as well as the lingering effects it can have a person's psyche and life.
Jessica's best friend and surrogate sister, Trish Walker (played by Rachel Taylor), is the survivor of an abusive upbringing as a child star. Once reliant on Jessica for protection, Trish's story deals with her overcoming the sense of helplessness she once felt.
Equally as compelling is Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Damaged from the lose of his wife, Luke really shines whenever he and Jessica are on screen together -- something that luckily happens often. Considering how intertwined his experiences are with hers, it would have been easy for his story to feel forced. It's satisfying how they manage to connect it in the end, but it really is the chemistry between Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter that makes it hit home; really selling his grief and her guilt.
Everyone at one point or another is inflicted with such pain, but no one more so then Jessica. Both before and after Kilgrave, she carries around a sizable amount of guilt.
The show does not hide the extent of the trauma Jessica has suffered; making it perfectly clear that Kilgrave raped her. The show aptly handles such difficult subject matter, never sensationalizing it and treating it appropriately. Between both Jessica and Hope Shlottman (played by Erin Moriarty) the show explores the real consequences such a crime can have on one's life. Without neglecting the effects of such trauma, Jessica is still written as a strong and capable character. Krysten Ritter is able to convey both sides of Jessica remarkably.
While her's and Kilgrave's relationship is the fuel for the series best dramatic moments, one can't help but feel that he's too much of the focus. There are points where it feels like the show is "spinning its wheels", most notably when Jessica plans to lock herself in SuperMax and when she attempts to torture a confession out of Kilgrave.
The show may have been better served with a few standalone episodes, side stories that provided a breather from the main arc. While having Kilgrave captured did provide some scenes with a chilling Hannibal Lector vibe, it was more then a little absurd; it's hard to believe Jessica would think any permissible evidence would come of it. Both sequences ultimately felt a bit preposterous and contrived.
Much of the same can be said of Will Simpson a.k.a. Nuke. It feels way too coincidental that the random cop Kilgrave happened to mind control, would also be an ex-special forces operative/crazed super soldier. His guilty conscious and desire for payback are understandable and early on his relationship with Trish and Jessica actually make for an interesting dynamic. However, as Simpson becomes increasingly gung-ho he feels more and more out of place within the grounded nature of the show.
Admittedly, it is satisfying to see such a weird and obscure character brought off the page, but that just makes it harder to ignore that he so "happened" to be the unlucky smuck Kilgrave - by complete chance - choose. Then again it is the Marvel Universe, perhaps if someone else was picked they might have turned out to be Jessica Drew, Moon Knight, or maybe even Squirrel Girl (one can only hope).
At least Squirrel Girl might have been more sensible and less nutty (sorry) then Jessica's neighbor Robyn ended up being. A "tolerable" source of comic relief, her presence becomes truly irritating when she very suddenly becomes important to the main narrative. She - this obviously crazy woman - is somehow able to convince members of the Kilgrave support group to not only confront Jessica, but attack her, despite having never met Robyn before. Jessica may had been dismissive of their troubles, but the fact that she is able to incite them is ridiculous. Furthermore it only serves to enable another character's death, which lessens its impact as it subsequently feels preventable.
While certainly not as loony, the subplot of Jeri Hogarth's (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) divorce was unsatisfying as well. Its great that within such a high profile show characters like Jeri and her fiance Pam can have a homosexual relationship without any character suggesting it's out of the ordinary. Yet it felt so removed from everything else that it was an unwanted distraction. It even prompted moments where Jessica acted out of character -- particularly when she dangled Jeri's ex (the Doctor) over the subway tracks.
Not without its faults, Jessica Jones is worth a watch if for nothing else because it so different then anything Marvel has done before. Aside from those standards, the show admirably handles difficult themes while showing how such issues affect its plethora of fully formed characters; its commendable in its own right.