Ever since her short-lived stint as a Super Hero ended in tragedy, Jessica Jones has been rebuilding her personal life and career as a hot-tempered, sardonic, badass private detective in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. Plagued by self-loathing, and a wicked case of PTSD, Jessica battles demons from within and without, using her extraordinary abilities as an unlikely champion for those in need... especially if they're willing to cut her a check.
"You use sarcasm to distance people."
"And yet you're still here."
When it was announced that Marvel was moving some of its more fringe, street-level heroes to Netflix, people wondered about the more adult possibilities a premium streaming service could offer. While Daredevil was content with bringing bloody R-rated violence to the screen, Jessica Jones The Complete First Season took the notion of "adult" literally and figuratively. Not only is the series sexier than Marvel's cinematic offerings with a flair for flowery rough language, the show handles issues of violence without kid gloves. While built to appear as a hard-boiled 70s-styled detective series, the show serves as an unflinchingly honest look at the ramifications of violence and abuse. It's a knockout first season that brings the comic and character of a hard-drinking detective with serious personal issues to life.
People do bad things, they get caught - one way or the other. Some things may not be criminal, but they still have an impact on the lives of others. Cheat on your wife and someone is likely going to be there with a camera. Often, the gal snapping the shutter is Private Investigator Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). As a freelance P.I., Jones can get the tough jobs done. Jobs no one else can handle. Her frequent employer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) knows Jessica will get the job done - even if she's already tied a few on. Jessica's best friend Trish (Rachael Taylor) does what she can to help, but even the successful talk show host can't make heads or tails of how to stop Jessica's self-destructive behavior.
The thing is, Jessica is special. She's not like other people. She has… abilities. With super-human strength, she can take - and give - a beating. The only person who comes close to understanding her is the lonely bartended Luke Cage (Mike Colter). But even when the pair strikes up a romantic friendship, Jessica can only let him get so close. Her haunted past comes roaring back when a man from her past, a mind-controlling psychopath called Kilgrave (David Tennant) comes looking for her. With Kilgrave on the loose, none of the people Jessica cares about and loves is safe. But how do you stop a monster who can make anyone do anything he wants by uttering a single word?
My first time through Jessica Jones I thought it was a slog. I knew well enough going in not to expect the acrobatic action hijinks of Daredevil, this wasn't going to be that show, but I wasn't expecting something so introspective. From the opening monologue to Jessica demanding Hogarth give her a job to the first time we see Jessica Watching Luke Cage, the pace of this show was very different. Details were coming out in little drips rather than someone turning the faucet on to full. In all honesty, I didn't start liking the show until three episodes in when a lot of the slow puzzle piecing started to come together. By the end of the run, I loved Jessica Jones.
In full disclosure, I didn't much care for the "Alias" comics when Marvel's MAX line was in its infancy. I enjoyed the story but the character writing was pretty weak. It felt like the writers were just finding any excuse to toss in unnecessary swear words just because they could. It was still a terrific story and the comic finished well proving to be the perfect base note to kick off this TV adaptation. Under the eye of creator Melissa Rosenberg, there is a gritty authenticity to the character and the show that I felt like the comic never fully captured. Jessica has powers, but they're not flashy. She can pick up cars and jump up tall buildings, but in the show, it's treated as every day. We never even get to actually see her jump through the air, she just appears on a fire escape or a balcony - and honestly, it's better that way. I don't think there's any way this side of The Matrix that they could have made that visual effect work and even then it wouldn't fit the tone of the show.
Through it all, the principal cast lead by Krysten Ritter is terrific in their respective roles. Mike Colter got the perfect introduction as Luke Cage while Carrie-Anne Moss clearly enjoyed herself playing a corporate hard ass. Then we come to the good doctor himself, David Tennant as Kilgrave. Without giving much away, Tennant nails the heartless asshole with a penchant for purple decor and makes him feel like a very real and personal threat.
Ultimately, it isn't the flash and action (as great as they are) that makes this show work. It's the relationships. Characters actually talk to one another and it's a bit refreshing. There's an emotional vulnerability to every one of these characters, even Kilgrave. They all have a past; darker parts of themselves they'd rather not expose to anyone, let alone deal with themselves. Their actions have consequences and they have to find a way to live with what they've done - or will have to do to survive. Jessica Jones is a hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride from start to finish and I enjoyed it even more the second time through. While she may be a part of The Defenders, I'm more interested in seeing Jessica Jones out on her own again in the upcoming season two. It's fun watching her get into battle alongside Daredevil and Luke Cage, but she's a loner at heart and better off that way.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Jessica Jones The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Netflix and ABC Studios in a 4-disc set. All thirteen episodes are spread out between four Region Free BD-50 discs. All discs are housed in a standard sturdy two-disc styled case with two discs stacked on top one another with identical slipcover artwork. Each disc loads directly to their respective main menu. No bonus features appear on any of the discs.
Much like Daredevil The Complete Second Season, Jessica Jones enjoys a strong 1.78:1 1080p transfer that outpaces Netflix's standard HD streaming. Details are the first real notable difference as I felt like I was able to see and appreciate more of the finer details on the Blu-ray than on streaming. Especially in the area of production design as there are a number of intricate details to soak in from the scenery that tells you a lot about the characters. Facial features and costuming come through terrifically. The show sports a genuinely cool looking tone favoring wintery blues and gray colors. As such, those are the colors that get the most pop. Primaries take a more muted back seat unless called for. Flesh tones retain a healthy appearance.
Also like Daredevil The Complete Second Season, Jessica Jones can be viewed in upscaled 4K UHD with Dolby Vision making this shows absence on 4K UHD Blu-ray unfortunate. Maybe someday they may come around and release all of these Netflix Marvel shows on the format - admittedly that's very unlikely - but for the time being, if you're not on the 4K train, this Blu-ray transfer of the show sports some real muscle.
Much like the show itself, the sound design of Jessica Jones isn't very flashy. Apart from the jazzy opening credits, there is a cold and isolating feel to the show's audio and this DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix captures it perfectly. Dialogue comes through clean and clear throughout without any softness or interference from other elements. As music is really only used to highlight a moment or two, the sound design relies upon ambients and background sound effects. At any given time, there is a constant flutter of background distant sounds like cars passing, or muffled conversations. It's a terrific audio cue that plays up the main character's isolation and it sounds terrific with your set turned ever slightly louder than normal.
Unfortunately, like Daredevil The Complete Second Season, no supplemental material has been provided for this release. It's a real shame because even the most barebones EPK cast and crew interview or even some Comic Con footage would've been great to see here.
I've dug just about everything Marvel and Netflix have brought out thus far. Daredevil is a wild pulpy action spectacular. Luke Cage is an awesome throwback to blaxploitation movies from the 70s. Iron Fist, is well, flawed to say the least but fun overall. Even with all these shows and characters converging in The Defenders, Jessica Jones The Complete First Season is still the best show of the bunch in my opinion. The superhuman characters feel grounded and relatable and the show smartly deals with violence in a very mature way. Every action has a consequence - even when someone tries to do the right thing. It's a great show and if you haven't given it a go yet, nows the perfect time to get caught up! Netflix and ABC Studios have done a solid job bringing Jessica Jones The Complete First Season to Blu-ray. The A/V presentation outpaces the standard HD streaming and looks great on disc. Sadly, like other releases from the series thus far, no bonus features have been included. Even though I do hope this show, as well as the other shows Marvel/Netflix offers eventually make it to 4K UHD Blu-ray, I still have to call this release recommended. The show's too good to miss simply because you may or may not have the required streaming service.