Hail and Farewell to Jessica Jones

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as Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man, and The ... victim (who doesn't need to be saved by a man). ... If Disney+ or Hulu wanted to develop its own series using any of its.

June 2019 #65

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Hail and Farewell to Jessica Jones By Steve Sternberg

Marvel’s theatrical movies focus on the more well-known world-saving superheroes, such as Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man, and The Avengers.

its Netflix TV shows featured

lesser-known “street-level” heroes, whose grittier,

more

personal,

neighborhood-

centered stories lend themselves to more series-long plotlines (as opposed to one- or two-part blockbuster action movies). As Netflix’s five-year partnership with Disney-owned Marvel comes to an end, it has canceled all five of its original scripted series based on these heroes – Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil, The Punisher, and Jessica Jones. This coincides with Disney ramping up efforts for its own streaming service, Disney+ and taking full operational control of Hulu. Netflix is moving toward owning more of its own content, and it did not have an ownership stake in any of its Marvel series – each season required paying a hefty license fee to Disney-owned ABC Studios. Although officially canceled back in February, Jessica Jones’ third and final season had not yet aired, and will be available on Netflix on Friday, June 14th. __________________________________________________________________________________________

NBC’s Perfect Harmony is the best new comedy pilot – see the next issue of The Sternberg Report for an evaluation of all new fall series.

The Sternberg Report ©2019

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Jessica Jones has the distinction of being Marvel’s first female lead and title character in either television or movies. It stars Krysten Ritter, one of the most casually charismatic actors on television. She is pitch perfect as the reluctant hero, haunted by her past, with

extraordinary strength (although notably, not invulnerability, so she can be hurt). While Season 2 finished shooting before the #MeToo and Times Up movements (It debuted last March, appropriately on International Women’s Day), both its first and second seasons tapped into the current American zeitgeist like nothing else on TV. While strong women abound on ad-supported TV, from superhero shows to crime dramas to action series, virtually all of them have central relationships with men, report to men, or are otherwise dependent on men to some degree. This has to do with the conservativeness of broadcast executives, and writers thinking they need to be more traditional for a broadcast network (and its advertisers). With more episodes per season !7-22) than cable or streaming dramas (10-13), relationships lend themselves to more padding of storylines. Maybe there’s also a feeling that these dynamics appeal to a broader audience (broadcast networks need higher ratings for a show to survive). Then again, it could simply be a function of having many more male than female writers and directors. Jessica Jones shatters that mold by presenting a strong, brooding, independent woman on her own, who plays by her own rules. She’s flawed, she swears, she drinks too much, she has indiscriminste and casual sex – the type of female character you rarely if ever see television. She’s a hero and a victim (who doesn’t need to be saved by a man). She turns the noir elements of the show upside down – she’s more hard-boiled detective than femme fatale. And it’s not just Krysten Ritter’s title

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character – most of the strong, independent characters in Jessica Jones are women – including Rachael Taylor as her best friend Trish “Patsy” Walker, the excellent Carrie-

Anne Moss as a high-powered attorney who has helped Jessica out of several jams, and the wonderful Janet McTeer, as her mom. Notably, roles often played by women, the assistant and the girlfriend (in this case boyfriend), are reserved for men – Eka Darville and J.R. Ramirez, respectively, are both excellent here. Season 1 was a strong commentary on male/female relationships and the abuse of privilege and power, focusing on topics such as mind control, addiction, rape, retaliation, revenge, and redemption – subject matter seldom dealt with on television, and not at all in the Marvel universe at large. Great heroes are often defined and elevated by great adversaries, and the mind-controlling Kilgrave (David Tennant) was one of the best TV villains ever. Season 2 was more personal than season 1 delving into the events in her past that contributed to making Jessica Jones who she is (and revealing how she got her enhanced abilities). Krysten Ritter gives a remarkable nuanced performance, making her character believable and likeable (not an easy task for a character with super strength, who drinks too much and has no qualms in breaking the law if it suits her idea of the greater good). In the first episode of season 2, a new male rival investigator who wants to take over her business tells her “I don’t take no for an answer.” Jessica responds, “How rapey of you.” New terrain on television to be sure.

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All 13 episodes of season 2 were directed by women. Another first, and another factor that makes this iseries mportant and historically significant. I haven’t seen Season 3 yet, but it drops on Netflix this Friday. Marvel will be hard-pressed to develop another television series with the grittiness and social significance of Jessica Jones. If Disney+ or Hulu wanted to develop its own series using any of its Netflix Marvel characters, it legally might not be able to do so for two years after its final season (making it less likely, but not impossible). I’d love to see Krysten Ritter reprise her role on a fourth season of Jessica Jones, or even as a guest appearance on some other Marvel series.

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