“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” releases its 13-episode first season on Netflix this Friday, and based on the first reviews, you might want to carve out some time in an already-crowded fall. Starring Krysten Ritter as a semi-retired superhero-turned-private eye, the series, created by “Dexter” and “The O.C.” veteran Melissa Rosenberg, continues “Daredevil’s” practice of using the episodic format and lack of broadcast restrictions to push the kinds of stories Marvel properties can tell. “Jessica Jones” is about saving the world than saving one’s self, with Ritter’s Jones still reeling from the psychological trauma inflicted by David Tennant’s Kilgrave during her stint as a costumed crimefighter. Even in the seven episodes provided to critics, the precise nature of that trauma remains somewhat vague, but the reviews agree that RItter fills in the expository gaps with a strong, clear performance, almost unrecognizable from her turns on “Don’t Trust the B——” and even “Breaking Bad.”
Going “dark” isn’t exactly a novel move for superhero stories, but given that milestones like “The Killing Joke” have increasingly seen their reputations suffer over the way they depict violence against women, it’s well past time for a woman’s trauma to be at the center of the story, rather than a stepping stone on the road to a male character’s development. If there’s a common complaint, it’s that the show seems a little too fixated on Tennant’s Kilgrave, to the detriment of developing other characters around Jessica. (Mike Colter’s Luke Cage will eventually come to the fore in the forthcoming “Power Man and Iron Fist” series, so don’t worry about him too much.) But many of the reviews are outright raves, and nearly all agree that “Jessica Jones” is like nothing else on TV.
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” premieres on Netflix Friday, September 20.
Maureen Ryan, Variety
Two mainstays of film noir are the tough-talking dame and the cynical private eye, and one of the pleasures of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” is that it unites both types in one thorny and fascinating character. The show, which features an exceptional performance from Krysten Ritter and sure-handed guidance from executive producer Melissa Rosenberg, is not just a contender for the title Best Marvel-related TV Property; in a supremely crowded TV scene, it is one of the year’s most distinctive new dramas.
There’s no doubt that this series operates in a different, more tonally complex key than the mainstream entertainment “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” or the admirable but chipper “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” That’s no knock on those shows; this drama is simply darker, more bittersweet and more sexual (in other words, this is not a show to watch with your pre-teen).
At the core of its scarred, tenacious heart, “Jessica Jones” is about how hard it is for one woman to trust the world — and herself. Rosenberg does a fine job of weaving that theme into a taut story that has the requisite chase scenes, rain-slicked streets and cliffhangers. It’s an attractive package, but it’s Jessica’s willingness, even at her lowest moments, to drag herself out of despair and fight her self-doubt that makes the drama not just relatable, but haunting.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
Her story isn’t a power fantasy, but a nightmare. It’s a superhero saga as rape survivor tale, where it doesn’t matter how strong you are — or even that you can fly like Superman himself — because there will always be someone who can find a way to hurt you and make you feel like less than nothing. “Jessica Jones” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has taken Bendis and Gaydos’ hard-boiled private eye tale and made it even harder. It’s by far the darkest and most adult of any of the current wave of comic book TV shows (Jessica’s swearing alone would make Agent Coulson blush), and instantly one of the best, even if it suffers at times from tunnel vision.
Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” looks and feels a bit like a cable antihero series — but it’s really more of a post-hero story, making it fascinating and unique in a marketplace that doesn’t lack for costumed do-gooders of all types. Working off a relatively new Marvel character created by Brian Michael Bendis, series creator Melissa Rosenberg is approaching Jessica Jones as a piece of hard-boiled noir, with Jessica as the brooding hero rather than the femme fatale. Jessica is haunted by her past and prone to outbursts of anger, self-medication with prodigious amounts of cheap booze and world-weary voiceover narration that propels the story. That she happens to be outrageously strong, able to leap to the fire escapes of tall buildings in a single bound and heal impressively fast, is secondary because even if the world can’t hurt Jessica Jones, she’s doing a pretty good job self-flagellating on her own.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, ScreenCrush
Like the conspiracy thriller of Captain America’s “Winter Soldier,” or space fantasy of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel succeeds with a focus on genre, not heroes. Jessica Jones isn’t a superhero series; it’s super-horror. Marvel’s first taste of true terror, flavored with a dash of noir. Jessica Jones is a superhero “Silence of the Lambs.” Drop the anticipation of a familiar spectacle, and it’s goddamn extraordinary.
Within Jessica Jones lies a world full of suffering at every turn, broken souls longing desperately to heal. Jones breaches its most emotionally challenging in emphasis of its title hero’s victimization, and all those left traumatized by the tragic hold of unanswered violation. Excitement and a more driven story lie within Jessica’s creative wits to solving procedural cases, rather than her brute, often clumsy strength. That kind of depth might just be Marvel’s biggest revelation to date; a brilliant blend of horror-noir, and a tragic case study in empowerment.
Allison Keene, Collider
Though two men, Kilgrave and Luke Cage, have a huge impact on Jessica’s life, “Jessica Jones” is a series that makes its women powerful and in control. From the badass fight scenes and dominating personalities to the series’ most intimate moments, the women are on top (often quite literally), and it gives the series a unique sensibility. It’s never trying too hard to position its women in power; rather, it does so naturally. While “Jessica Jones” can be dark and tortured and very sexy, it never feels gratuitous. That’s a huge success for a series that could have easily — like so many others on subscription services, both on TV and streaming — slipped into the pitfalls of excessive vice for its own sake. “Jessica Jones'” power comes from its restraint, but also its clear direction.
Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
The cinematography captures the Gothic beauty of the real New York, its skyscrapers reflected in gutter puddles, lighting up a violet night that suggests Jessica’s archenemy, Kilgrave (David Tennant), might be lurking down the next alley. And Jessica’s life feels authentic for an ambitious-but-lonely New York woman: She has a sweet workaholic friend (Rachael Taylor) and a ruthless client (Carrie-Ann Moss, in the gender-swapped role of high-powered lawyer Jeri Hogarth) but spends many nights alone, Rear Window-ing neighbors like Luke (Mike Colter). All of this could’ve made for a gritty character drama if it weren’t for the noir clichés (saxophone music, shadows through glass) and a procedural structure that’s very “CSI: Marvel. The show’s” biggest weakness is the same as Jessica’s: It starts out with extraordinary potential, but somewhere along the way, it loses what make it special.