Sorry, Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, as much as I love you guys, there’s no getting around the truth that Marvel’s best TV work is being done over on Netflix. The first product of the two huge studios’ partnership was of course the brilliant Daredevil, with a number of series set to follow, eventually leading to a big ol’ Avengers-style crossover miniseries titled The Defenders. And next to join the Netflix ranks is Jessica Jones, which stars Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) as the title character and has now officially got its logo (up top) and synopsis (via ComicsAlliance):
After a tragic ending to her short-lived super hero stint, Jessica Jones is rebuilding her personal life and career as a detective who gets pulled into cases involving people with extraordinary abilities in New York City.
That is pretty much the exact setup for “Alias”, acclaimed comic book writer’s much loved early 2000’s series about Jessica Jones, which was quite a change of pace from the current comic-book incarnation of the character as the part-time superhero wife of Avenger Luke Cage. Printed under Marvel’s R-rated MAX imprint, “Alias” was a gritty, mature story that took the pretty superhero Jewel – as Jones used to call herself – and put her through the wringer.
The first set pics we’ve seen of a bloody, messed up Ritter already seemed to imply that things would be getting pretty grim on Jessica Jones, but speaking to Zap2It, Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg confirmed that we’re in for some dark and hectic times.
Rosenberg: “It starts [at the source material] and goes all the way dark. The tone that Brian Michael Bendis set is what attracted me to the project in the first place. It was very gritty and real, and we just keep going with that.”
Loeb: “[“Jessica Jones” pushes the R-rated envelope as much as “Daredevil.”] We have the ability to say you’ve seen the trick once, now come back and see a whole new magic act. What we’ve always talked about is this is much more of a psychological thriller in that it is about what people do to each other on a very visceral and emotional level, and how that either forges you or breaks you.”
Rosenberg also clarified that while Daredevil got extremely violent in places, and Jessica Jones will certainly have its fair share of crimson, it’s more the mental aspects that are especially harrowing.
“For me, what’s dark is where a character will go in their own psyche. It’s not necessarily about stripping someone’s clothes or pulling someone’s eyes out; it’s about how far can you let a character go. That’s what’s attractive about that is she can go to some very questionable places in her own psyche. That’s, to me, the darkness.”
Ritter is of course the hero of this piece, so while she may be getting dark, somebody else will be getting darker. Or purpler. That somebody will be Doctor Who‘s David Tennant who will be playing the villainous Zebediah Killgrave, better known in the comics as The Purple Man. In the comics, his body produced pheromones that allowed to control people around him and as a result of his power, he boasted purple skin. While it’s still uncertain whether this TV version of the character will end up sporting his famous coloured skintone, Loeb did reveal that Killgrave will have the ability “to push people to do what maybe they would not ever have done — or maybe they would have” in Jones’ case.
“Those were the things that were much more exciting than whether we were able to do the hundred foot fall or any of the other things that you would think about. That’s not to say we didn’t do that because we are Marvel, but it really was always about who is she, how damaged is she and how the hell is she going to get through this day? The amount of tension that you feel when you watch each episode, we’re hoping that you’re uncomfortable. We hope that you’re just compelled to watch the next one because this is good stuff.”
“In the same way that Vincent D’Onofrio [as Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin] carried his half of ‘Daredevil’ and Charlie Cox did such a good job of being Matt Murdock and keeping up his side of good … one of the things that we’re very proud of is there will be times when you’re uncomfortable OK with what it is that Kilgrave is doing and maybe you shouldn’t be. Then what Melissa does so elegantly is suddenly remind you, ‘Oh no, he’s really a horrible person.’ That’s really the fun of what’s going on.
“To watch Jessica and Krysten go through the trials of what he’s putting her through and then finding out the many-layered reasons as to why those things are happening, that’s really the part of the show that makes it so intriguing, that makes it so compelling. I have to give Melissa and the writers credit in being able to take a story that is so incredibly unique and has never been done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be able to see how these two people effectively play off of each other.”
As I previously mentioned, in the comics Jessica Jones eventually marries and has a child with fellow superhero Luke Cage, and the show is set to introduce Mike Coulter as the invulnerable Avenger, before he eventually gets his own Marvel\Netflix series down the line. But don’t think that Cage is in Jessica Jones just to help launch the character though, as Loeb explains.
“We don’t really see it as a springboard as much as if you did not know there was going to be a ‘Luke Cage’ show, there’s a very compelling, interesting story about a character named Luke Cage who she’s involved with. Their relationship is what’s important, and then what happens before then and what happens after then gives us an enormous amount of room to be able to do it, but by no means do you feel like it’s a planted spinoff. It literally is ‘this is a story and in this story he is one of those characters.’”
Loeb also explained how the character of Jones is one that we haven’t really seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
“The character of Jessica Jones is as different as any other that we have in the Marvel universe. She’s remarkably strong and yet remarkably damaged. She’s as remarkably dry and witty as she is emotional and real. For us, it’s an opportunity to expand out the kinds of storytelling that we’re doing on the street-level heroes.”
Another landmark for the character in the MCU is that she is the first female superhero in this universe to land her own show/movie. But according to Rosenberg, she doesn’t quite see it that way.
“The trap that we fall into is the ‘female’ in front of the ‘superhero.’ I never approached this as I’m writing for a woman; I’m writing for a character. Industry-wide, it’s like if you’re writing for a guy it’s a ‘character.’ If you’re writing for a woman it’s a ‘female character.’ That alone sets some boundaries in place.
“That’s, I think, why there are so few juicy, interesting roles for women, superheroes or otherwise, is that women are defined gender-first, people of color are defined race-first. If you just are approaching it from the point of view of ‘what’s a complex, interesting, messed up, cool character to tell?’ and then you cast it in your mind as a woman or anyone else, you’ve got complexity then and you’re no longer limited.”
With the success of Daredevil there have already been lots of fans clamouring for the character to appear in Marvel’s movies, and with how good Jessica Jones is sounding, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happened here. But as Loeb points out, while that may eventually happen, what these Netflix characters – the Defenders, so to speak – do is give us a complete different side of the story to the one being told by The Avengers movies for example.
“This is where people are trying to not necessarily make the world a better place but make the neighborhood and in some cases make their own lives a better place. It’s one of the things that we’ve always, when asked what’s the difference between what these heroes do and what the Avengers do, the Avengers are there to save the universe, and the characters that we’re presenting, the Netflix group — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist — are really here to save the neighborhood.”
Or as Roseberg added: “She’s trying to save her apartment.”
Jessica Jones is scheduled to debut sometime in last quarter of this year. For those of you who need a primer on the character, here’s a great little video to watch.
Last Updated: August 4, 2015