Jessica Jones is not the typical televised comic book fare. The stories are gritty, the characters are flawed and the reality they all inhabit is very dark. The main female protagonist is a hard drinking, foul mouthed jerk while the antagonist has moments of seemingly genuine emotion that suggest maybe he's not all that evil after all.
It's not what you would expect and that's why it works.
This is what Marvel does best; serve up a fictional tale with a real world back-drop featuring characters so honest you'd swear they actually exist. The House of Ideas has done this for years in print and from the moment the film Blade burst upon the scene, followed by X-Men and Spider-Man, their cinematic universe has followed suit.
Basically Marvel offers a glimpse of everyday life seen through the eyes of everyday people in extraordinary situations. The Marvel Universe is just a few beats off from the one we live in and Jessica Jones represents the best of both.
Despite the bloody violence and sometimes frighteningly brutal death scenes, this is a story about hope.
It's not surprising then that the bulk of season one centers on a girl named Hope, who is arrested for the murder of her parents. She is not responsible for their deaths however due to being compelled to act by Killgrave, a villain also known as The Purple Man.
Killgrave has perhaps the most dangerous, most deadly, power in comics. He's not a bruiser, he's not immortal and he's not visibly evil but he's absolutely lethal. One word from him means the difference between life and death and when he uses someone to do his bidding, that person is forever affected by it.
The violation he perpetrates on his victims has far reaching consequences and that's where Jessica herself is.
Having been previously controlled by Killgrave prior to the series' opening, Jessica is very aware of who he is and what he's capable of. As the story progresses, it becomes very clear very quickly she is the only one that can take him down.
Krysten Ritter is expertly cast as the superpowered lead and does an excellent job of pulling the audience in. Her character looks more like a villainous thug than a hero, her attitude is bad and her lifestyle is morally questionable. Her view of the world around her is warped by the hard life she's lived and every time she could perhaps see the best in someone, she sees the absolute worst.
But at her core, Jessica is a good person trying to heal. She wanted to be a hero until the real world dragged her down and now she's just trying to exist wihout too much pain. Finding Killgrave gives her purpose and allows her to look beyond her own situation.
Once again she sees the evil that is dealt to others and once again she is able to set aside her own issues to help someone else. She discovers what it is to truly be a hero and finally understands that being a hero does not mean being perfect.
Jones is the quintessential Marvel archetype in this way; she doesn't want powers but ultimately knows she must use them to make a difference. She's been hurt, she's been damaged, but the world refuses to stop for her troubles so she must get up and keep going.
It's this realism, this self-aware characterization, that makes Marvel projects consistently successful and critically acclaimed. Loyal fanboys and casual viewers alike are not being talked down to and they're not being spoon-fed tired cliches hiding behind capes and cowls.
Marvel delivers on a scale that is both realistic yet grand at the same time. Jessica Jones may feature indestructible Luke Cage and chemcially enhanced super soldier Nuke, but each man is very real and very broken.
Marvel has perfected the formula for winning television and Jessica Jones is one of the best examples of it.
With Daredevil season two on the way and Luke Cage being filmed right now, it's obvious that Marvel's partnership with Netflix was not only a smart move but one that is delivering on every front. Marvel has once again made great strides with new yet familiar stories and they're just getting started.