5 Reasons Non-Comic Book Fans Will Be Interested in Marvel's Jessica Jones

by | November 20, 2015 | Comments

Regardless of how mainstream the comic book universe has become these days, a sizable segment of pop culture consumers remains resistant. Then again, these people haven’t met Jessica Jones, private eye. Cracking impossible cases is her specialty, making Netflix’s choice to follow-up Daredevil with this title a shrewd strategy.

The 13-episode first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available today to Netflix subscribers. If you have a comic book geek in your household, you already may have accepted that you will not see said loved one for most of the weekend. Or, maybe you happen to be that obsessed human, and nothing would make you happier than to share your viewing binge with a special someone whose only shortcoming is the rejection of anything involving tights and flights.

Good news, true believers – Jessica Jones is satisfying to both camps. Here are five reasons why this series is the perfect TV drama for viewers who aren’t comic book fans.

It’s a noir detective story that wears its comic book elements like a secret identity.

Jessica Jones

Let’s begin by reassuring anyone who couldn’t care less about the Marvel Universe or, really, any tale that originated as drawings rendered in ink and comic sans font, that we get it. Honestly, with all the costumed heroes and villains on TV, even the most dedicated nerds must be a little numb to the appeal of overly-muscled people shoving each other through walls.

But in a world saturated with masked heroes, maybe the best place to hide is in plain sight. That’s precisely what Jessica Jones the character — and Jessica Jones the series — is doing.

While it exists within the same universe as Daredevil and the Avengers theatrical franchise and will eventually be part of a team-up series Netflix has brewing (The Defenders), the truth about Jessica Jones is that it’s a hardboiled TV detective drama about loneliness, control, and how a human soul recovers from violation.

Jessica Jones is molded in the tradition of great TV detectives.

As Krysten Ritter plays her, Jessica doesn’t smile much. She’ll bend the law and, if the situation calls for it, she’ll twist arms and bruise kneecaps. Jessica’s fiercely protective of the people who are close to her, especially her best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), a successful radio show host.

The gifted gumshoe twisted by emotional and psychological damage is a classic TV archetype; Jessica, who runs Alias Investigations out of a dingy flat, has the daily life challenges that come standard with the P.I. package. Burgeoning drinking problem? Check. Wasted potential? Bingo.

Jessica also possesses immense strength and can jump several stories into the air. The show doesn’t lean hard on her superhuman talents, though. Instead, her most brutal battles are psychological: Jessica’s refusal to exploit her strength leaves her without a sense of life purpose, even before a life-altering crime leaves her burdened with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In that sense, Jessica Jones is a very earth-bound, human story about power and powerlessness, in which the title character happens to be a bit more than human.

It shares a lineage with one of the most respected series on television.

Melissa Rosenberg and Jeph Loeb (Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images)

Melissa Rosenberg and Jeph Loeb (Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images)


Avid comic book readers know how important family history is to any origin story. Creator Melissa Rosenberg served as an executive producer on several seasons of Showtime’s Dexter.

Rosenberg’s involvement with Dexter is worth noting because it means she’s versed in writing multi-faceted heroes who have touched darkness. This is who Jessica Jones is, only she is the absolute opposite of a sociopath. Don’t let the deadpan noir-style narration fool you – emotions are her driving force.

The story handles the topic of trauma with thoughtfulness and care.

Jessica Jones

Too often, television series have used images of violence against women as a plot accessory, utilized to further motivate male protagonists or to make an obvious villain seem that much more ruthless. The victim, meanwhile, is just that: a one-dimensional device, rarely developed beyond her service to a specific, horrible turn of events.

Jessica Jones takes that horrendous trope and demonstrates how to handle it in a way that doesn’t exploit the victims. Jessica’s nemesis, an obsessive narcissist known as Kilgrave (David Tennant), uses mind control to get everything he wants – money, houses, surveillance — and makes his prey commit heinous acts that they’re unable to stop.

Mental gifts are common in the comic book world, as are conflicts that pit unique brain powers against prodigious brawn. In Jessica Jones those concepts clash to illustrate real-world horror in complex ways.

The cast is outstanding.

Jessica Jones

The charm that made Tennant a legendary Time Lord in the Doctor Who pantheon is employed with chilling precision here, making Kilgrave oddly seductive even as he’s tormenting Jessica.

As perfectly cast as he is, it’s hard to imagine anyone besides Ritter in the role. Jessica Jones allows Ritter to plumb the depths of her dramatic intensity; Breaking Bad fans glimpsed some of that in her role as Jesse Pinkman’s doomed lover Jane, but for the most part, she registers as an actress who excels in more lighthearted roles. (You may know her as the B—- in ABC’s sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.)  Here, she matches the darkness of the drama’s color palette, all low lights and hard edges, mirroring Mike Colter’s portrayal of Luke Cage to perfection.

Marvel aficionados know the story of these two, but for the sake of the uninitiated: In the series, Luke is a bartender at a local dive that Jessica is surveilling on her own time. Their meet-cute is appropriately fraught with tension, romantic and otherwise; the ordinarily unflappable Jessica becomes a fly on the rim of a rocks glass when she first sees Luke, lazily circling the glass until she tumbles in, intoxicated. It’s a pairing that seems so right – except it isn’t, not right now. Not to worry, kids; Cage is getting his own series.

In a departure from the comics, Jeryn Hogarth’s character was reimagined as a woman and an attorney played by Carrie-Anne Moss. While Hogarth’s main purpose seems to be to exchange barbs and professional favors with Jessica, Moss favorably rounds out a cast that skews mostly female, and serves another version of what it means to be a woman with power.

Jessica Jones is one of several comic book-based TV titles airing now, featuring female superheroes existing in the human world. On paper she has more in common with CBS’s Supergirl, in that both characters have extraordinary abilities, as opposed to ABC’s Agent Carter. Peggy Carter’s weapons are her will, intellect, determination, and moxie. She can’t fly or punch through walls with her bare hands.

But with all of her struggles and flaws, Jessica feels more human.

TV critic Melanie McFarland is a Seattle-based writer and an executive member of the Television Critics Association. She has been a comic book lover since Ororo Munroe shaved her hair into a Mohawk, and prefers Batman over Superman. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

Tag Cloud

archives GLAAD science fiction Mary poppins Disney streaming service scary Writers Guild of America MGM video Discovery Channel obituary Netflix TIFF Chernobyl book adaptation BET Awards Set visit Crunchyroll Exclusive Video foreign dark MTV Certified Fresh ID CBS miniseries Sundance Superheroes NYCC werewolf Broadway children's TV award winner Crackle free movies nfl Arrowverse Syfy Spring TV spanish language Film Festival Music First Reviews The Academy aapi universal monsters period drama cancelled YouTube streaming movies critics Ellie Kemper Extras french Pop TV Thanksgiving FXX Elton John Biopics AMC Plus reboot Toys adenture rt labs 20th Century Fox scene in color die hard Television Academy TLC Amazon Prime Video zombie Fall TV versus theme song PlayStation Universal Pictures Oscar Television Critics Association Netflix Christmas movies boxoffice ABC Signature Mary Poppins Returns Oscars Shudder Family monster movies dexter docudrama Teen saw Alien RT21 SXSW Apple TV+ stand-up comedy rt labs critics edition emmy awards king kong comiccon finale Peacock BBC anime 2018 OWN VH1 Hulu Sci-Fi Amazon Studios black razzies Fox News Awards Endgame superman TV renewals Emmy Nominations indie Comics on TV Musical movie Captain marvel facebook X-Men cancelled TV shows sopranos DC Comics 71st Emmy Awards Food Network Hallmark Christmas movies YA TCM Marvel young adult Quiz revenge talk show Acorn TV RT History Cosplay true crime a nightmare on elm street pirates of the caribbean Marvel Studios Wes Anderson Mary Tyler Moore movies PBS Musicals Bravo Action wonder woman Tomatazos psychological thriller new zealand sequels Dark Horse Comics Epix women Anna Paquin concert E! hist japan Marvel Television Premiere Dates basketball robots Women's History Month Super Bowl Rom-Com black comedy Ovation trophy 2015 ITV comedies 1990s toronto Interview The Purge Schedule scorecard adaptation live action BBC One Avengers Disney Plus Summer elevated horror dragons Universal SDCC feel good DC streaming service Apple slashers casting scary movies CMT FX docuseries Mindy Kaling dogs 24 frames 007 TV One adventure FOX james bond Winners green book Rock toy story El Rey YouTube Red television Amazon Prime Emmys 2019 news Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Kids & Family Amazon breaking bad Opinion WarnerMedia Winter TV Turner Best Picture Columbia Pictures The Walking Dead teaser witnail serial killer Disney trailers 2016 Horror hispanic heritage month leaderboard Grammys asian-american laika spinoff TNT biopic cancelled television Year in Review mission: impossible rotten movies we love DC Universe unscripted Watching Series biography crossover legend Prime Video cinemax Song of Ice and Fire NBC GIFs thriller singing competition police drama spy thriller WGN romance Shondaland E3 MSNBC Nickelodeon HBO Go Comedy sports canceled TV shows TV movies American Society of Cinematographers sequel Pixar dramedy Funimation golden globe awards Pride Month Martial Arts south america telelvision festival USA Tarantino Ghostbusters medical drama batman Masterpiece Infographic cops VOD satire christmas movies Binge Guide Countdown best Trivia Travel Channel dreamworks NBA rotten A&E Sneak Peek chucky 93rd Oscars Spectrum Originals See It Skip It canceled australia Box Office Holidays Polls and Games Tubi doctor who slasher TCA Awards Pirates based on movie hollywood ABC Family halloween comic natural history Stephen King gangster cooking Reality Academy Awards OneApp Classic Film IFC Legendary Lionsgate international obi wan Showtime LGBTQ nbcuniversal indiana jones supernatural Disney Channel fast and furious Logo kong Instagram Live ViacomCBS Rocky 72 Emmy Awards cancelled TV series parents Awards Tour Country BAFTA Cartoon Network crime drama A24 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina FX on Hulu crime critic resources franchise diversity high school remakes directors worst politics comic book movie Comic Book Sundance Now screen actors guild renewed TV shows Animation Image Comics Best and Worst Drama football Vudu book TBS Black Mirror Mudbound crime thriller animated nature technology mcc 2020 San Diego Comic-Con BET harry potter aliens 99% CBS All Access Adult Swim independent ratings comic books Hear Us Out MCU romantic comedy blockbuster SXSW 2022 History LGBT Brie Larson Esquire Valentine's Day spain Pacific Islander psycho New York Comic Con YouTube Premium Western documentaries heist movie Red Carpet TV Sony Pictures superhero popular binge justice league Comic-Con@Home 2021 stoner suspense HBO Photos CW Seed genre twilight documentary series 4/20 mutant war historical drama king arthur joker reviews fresh zero dark thirty dceu Pet Sematary Calendar sitcom Baby Yoda blaxploitation Podcast spanish disaster National Geographic hispanic Freeform cars APB USA Network ABC Apple TV Plus Creative Arts Emmys Film Video Games 21st Century Fox richard e. Grant know your critic The CW Starz blockbusters spider-man HFPA mob VICE IMDb TV Star Trek zombies Tokyo Olympics Pop films Paramount Network GoT 2021 Fox Searchlight TruTV transformers Heroines debate Star Wars mockumentary prank AMC venice 94th Oscars anthology marvel comics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards DirecTV Character Guide composers space game show Comedy Central SundanceTV kids streamig Rocketman Best Actress rom-coms 2017 Lifetime Turner Classic Movies festivals CNN video on demand Trophy Talk IFC Films Nominations classics HBO Max First Look The Walt Disney Company Lucasfilm The Arrangement political drama target Sundance TV 79th Golden Globes Awards Superheroe worst movies Marathons lord of the rings cartoon vampires art house hidden camera vs. action-comedy travel strong female leads South by Southwest Film Festival cults golden globes The Witch Christmas live event DGA italian kaiju game of thrones Best Director olympics japanese Reality Competition Disney+ Disney Plus spider-verse Paramount cats child's play tv talk Black History Month sag awards BBC America royal family Election streaming comic book movies Neflix ghosts latino 73rd Emmy Awards discovery Paramount Plus comics what to watch dc 90s Spike boxing Cannes Hallmark Mystery posters screenings rt archives Nat Geo jurassic park Fantasy TV Land TCA Winter 2020 new star wars movies Warner Bros. Trailer name the review quibi social media stop motion Hollywood Foreign Press Association Tumblr Britbox Best Actor criterion TCA Holiday ESPN President 45 Walt Disney Pictures jamie lee curtis Lifetime Christmas movies halloween tv Fargo all-time TCA 2017 godzilla Tags: Comedy marvel cinematic universe new york deadpool PaleyFest