Jessica Jones, Netflix’s second Marvel series, debuted late in 2015 on the heels of the success of Daredevil. The series stars Krysten Ritter, of Veronica Mars and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 fame, as the titular character. Prior to the series’ beginning, Jones ends her superhero career tragically, after being mind-controlled by Zebediah Kilgrave (David Tennant) to kill Daredevil, however she attacks Scarlet Witch instead. Jones’ mind is restored by Jean Grey of the X-Men, and Jones starts her life as a private investigator in New York.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The first episode of the series begins with Jessica Jones introducing herself as a PI while surveilling a woman who is cheating on her husband with her husband’s brother in the throes of car sex. Unlike many other Marvel superheroes, Jessica clearly has a more cynical view of the world as she describes her new career as “looking for the worst in people.” After finding evidence for clients, she offers two options for how they should deal with the information: “Knowing it’s real means they’ve gotta make a decision. One, do something about it. Or two, keep denying it.”
Jessica herself often has to choose between these two options. She is traumatized by her experience being mind controlled by Kilgrave (aka. Kevin Thompson) while she was still an active superhero, and she can’t deny that she caused problems while being mind-controlled nor forget about the harm she caused. However, while she is unable to walk away from her own memories, she is able to distance herself from the problems of her clients, until she finds out that her new case is related to her past with Kilgrave.
Jessica is approached by Barbara and Bob Shlottman, who are trying to find their daughter Hope, a NYU student and captain of the track team. First, Jessica follows the path Hope might have walked, which leads her to the apartment of Hope’s best friend, who tells her that Hope has been dating a new guy and disappeared a while ago with no notice or explanation.
This triggers some suspicions regarding Hope’s whereabouts for Jessica. She continues her search and finds out that Hope has used her credit card at a lingerie store, even though the card was given to her for emergencies only.
After noting Hope’s unusual behaviours, Jessica stops by a location she had previously gone to with Kilgrave. The restaurant’s manager stated that he has seen Hope before with a man who made various ridiculous requests such as insisting that other customers were moved because he wanted to sit at a specific table – the exact same table he sat at to celebrate his anniversary with Jessica. This latest strange detail makes Jessica certain that Hope is under the same Kilgrave mind-control that she was.
To celebrate their “one month anniversary” together, Kilgrave took Jessica to a lingerie store, a restaurant, and finally a hotel, which is almost the identical pattern that emerged for Hope through Jessica’s investigation. Furthermore, it has been almost exactly a month since Hope was last seen or heard from by her family and friends, and Jessica becomes certain that Hope is in danger. Since Jessica knows that Hope is likely to be at the same hotel Kilgrave took her, she has to make a decision – deny that Hope is under Kilgrave’s control or rescue her.
Jessica decides to escape the city alone until she realizes that she does not have the means to purchase a plane ticket out of the city. When Hope’s credit card is denied, she is forced to reach out to her estranged best friend, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor).
Although Jessica is insistent, Trish does not believe that Kilgrave is alive. She blames Jessica’s suspicions on lingering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and reminds her of his death certificate. Jessica explains that Hope’s appearances at a lingerie store and restaurant exactly mimic Kilgrave’s one-month anniversary celebration with her and that she must have failed to kill Kilgrave in her past attempt. Trish provides Jessica with cash but is hopeful that Jessica will choose to save Hope instead of escaping alone.
It isn’t until Jessica is in a taxi, on the way to the airport that she changes her mind. The cab driver drops her off at the hotel, where she immediately pulls the fire alarm in the hopes that Hope would emerge from the hotel room (once again, the exact same room Jessica had stayed with Kilgrave). When no one appears, Jessica lets herself in and finds Hope laying helplessly on the bed, screaming that she “can’t leave” no matter how much she wants to – Kilgrave ordered her not to move. Jessica tries to comfort the girl by telling her that she knows and believes her, that it’s not Hope’s fault. Jessica drags a kicking-and-screaming Hope from the bed (the consequences of disobeying Kilgrave’s orders are physically painful), but the prospect of reuniting with her parents, who have arrived at the hotel, calms Hope. The Schlottman’s only have a few moments of peace together before it becomes clear that Hope is still under the influences of Kilgrave’s mind control. As the elevator doors shut behind them, Jessica sees Hope pull a gun from her purse and hears shots fired. She rushes to the ground floor, only to find Hope standing between her bloody, lifeless parents in the elevator car. She looks at Jessica blankly and says: “Smile.”
Overwhelmed, Jessica walks away as Hope, whose mind is restored, screams at the sight of her dead parents and her hands around a gun.
Ultimately, the episode ends in tragedy with Hope’s parent’s deaths and Kilgrave with the advantage. Although Kilgrave only appears in the episode through Jessica’s PTSD flashbacks, his presence is felt as he is closely watching the events that are happening around Jessica as she follows Hope’s path. Throughout the episode, I found that the fear is in not knowing exactly who Kilgrave is. For now, we only know what Kilgrave is capable of but not anything about him. Meanwhile, we know Jessica as a person – her trauma, her personality, her relationships – but we don’t know much about her superpowers.
Despite only being an hour long, this episode has the quality of a Marvel movie. The contrast between the hero and the enemy is neatly portrayed like other Marvel productions, but Jessica Jones is also unique by having a protagonist who is much more humane than for example heroes like Iron Man who is quite obsessed with building his superpowers stronger. For Jessica, her superpowers are not the primary tools for her to solve issues. Because she avoids it, she is known as a private investigator instead of a superhero in the city, and she lives in an apartment with a broken door and noisy neighbours. Jessica attempts to solve psychological issues without using superhuman powers, which the viewers of the series could find more relatable than other heroes.
Jessica Jones starts with a successful episode, capturing the viewers’ attention with a psychological battle that ends tragically. What is Jessica going to do? Deny that it has all happened? We will find out in the next episode!