Netflix’s latest is the second of four Marvel series to debut on the streaming site—including Daredevil and the forthcoming Luke Cage and Iron Fist—in addition to a crossover miniseries The Defenders. If that sentence alone made you feel the Heart of the Universe pound in your chest, then stop reading now, because you’ll love Marvel’s Jessica Jones no matter how flawed it is. And, to be fair, it’s relatively good for a Marvel TV show. Developed by Twilight Saga screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, it’s a dark fantasy that reflects an all-too-real world, one where violence against women is an ever-present threat. Krysten Ritter is well cast as Jessica, a superhero–turned–private eye who feels her powers waning after a tragic incident leaves her with PTSD. Ritter looks and acts like a bruised comic-book heroine: Her amused eyebrow arch could’ve been inked by a line artist, and her dry, I’m so bored with you wit betrays a deep vulnerability.
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. B