Anti-spoiler warning: For the most part, I’m going to write assuming that you haven’t read the Alias comic books that serve as the source material for the show because there appears to be a good amount of overlap.
This is Jessica Jones. She’s a hard-drinking private detective in New York City. She’s tough, strong, and waits in dark alleys to take pictures of people boning.
Oh, and she used to be a superhero, but you really wouldn’t pick up on that last bit based solely on the first episode of Netflix’s new Marvel series, the second of four that it has planned. There isn’t a mask, only the briefest glimpses of powers and definitely no costume. Nope, much like the comic book from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos that it’s based on, Jessica Jones leans hard on the noir imagery, leaving the superheroics to color the background.
But in an interesting way, the first episode is a fairly traditional superhero origin story. It just happens to be Jessica’s second.
When we first meet Jessica, she’s found a shaky balance in her new life. The skills she previously used as a crimefighter lend themselves naturally to a new gig as a private detective, albeit in a much sleazier way. The opening scene, in which an angry client learns from Jessica that his wife is sleeping with his brother, resembles the opening pages of her comic. That guy goes flying through the frosted glass door of her office with a headache and a bill to pay.
On top of her work “helping” individual clients, Jessica also has a pretty sweet corporate gig with Jeryn Hogarth, a high-power lawyer played by The Matrix’s Carrie-Anne Moss. This version of Hogarth is gender-swapped from the pages of the Marvel comics, where the character was a close friend to Wendell Rand, the father of Iron Fist. On the show, Hogarth is a consistent source of money for Jessica, even if the private detective resists making it even more consistent. She recently turned down a full-time job as the firm’s in-house investigator, and Hogarth voices some other concerns about Jessica’s growing alcohol use. But that isn’t enough to stop the lawyer from passing along the odd process-serving job whenever a strip club magnate needs to be taken to court, allowing Krysten Ritter to sparkle like her character’s “laser eyes.”
One of the characters mentions that Jessica’s “one of the them,” one of the few instances thus far in the Marvel universe of superheroes being recognized as a larger phenomenon. In the early days of the MCU, the films treated the Avengers as truly unique beings, but now we’re getting a broader picture of just how many powered people there are out there.
Also, Hogarth is cheating on her wife, but I’m not sure what that has to do with anything yet. Will Jessica be spying on her boss before long? I’m thinking “Chekhov’s philanderer.”
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There’s also the matter of the guy that Jessica might be be stalking. Although he goes unnamed in the first episode, anyone with a Twitter feed knows that the target of Jessica’s insomnia-fueled stakeouts is none other than Power Man himself, Luke Cage. By the end of the first episode, it’s unclear whether Luke is donning a yellow T-shirt and busting up bad guys yet, but it’s easy to imagine that punches can’t be too far off. For now, he seems content keeping his bar clean and occasionally hooking up with lonely patrons, including Jessica.
Yes, there was a sex scene in a Marvel TV show! And a rather graphic one at that. (I was half-expecting Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to start playing.) It comes with the territory, though. Netflix really couldn’t make a Jessica Jones TV show and not include, as Bendis describes it, “weird sex.” And it’s certainly weird in the sense that it’s not the kind of scene that we’d typically see on TV. The first tryst between Jessica and Luke is sexy and kind of talky, then a little sad. That might have something to do with the picture that she finds in his medicine cabinet, perhaps a connection to — paraphrasing — the case that just won’t let her go. Was Luke the subject of a previous investigation, involving the woman in the photo? What we do know is that whatever happened between Luke and Jessica in the past, most likely unbeknownst to him, is barf-worthy for her.
NEXT: Searching for Hope