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Jessica Jones Series 1

If Daredevil came with a word of warning then Jessica Jones would require an advisory screen. Whilst the former is filled with violence and dark undertones, the latter is a borderline phsycological horror. It’s unlike anything Marvel Studios has ever produced, with the only project that had the ability to come close being the Disney+ show Moon Knight, which ultimately fell short. It manages all of this while being an excellent detective show too, more specifically a Noir Mystery, right down to the husky voiceover. The series sees the titular Private Investigator take on an old enemy/lover whilst reuniting with old friends and making new ones.

One of Jessica Jones‘ greatest aspects is that it doesn’t feature much set-up. Daredevil was focussed on the founding on Nelson and Murdock, the rise of Kingpin, and the establishment of the city that is Hell’s Kitchen. Jessica Jones has less scope, focussing primarily on the rivalry between Jessica and Killgrave as well as her relationships. Considering the lonliness of the character, it’s a good choice to isolate her story like this but that doesn’t mean that the wider shared universe goes unacknowledged. Nurse Claire Temple from Daredevil makes an appearance and even discusses her history with superpowered individuals, namely the Devil of Hells Kitchen himself although she never name drops him. It’s a nice little “if you know, you know” moment. There’s also the introduction of fellow superpowered individual Luke Cage, who would later go on to get his own series, but he’s not just here for set-up. He’s present in this story because he is important to the narrative and is a particular lynchpin in Jessica’s life, meaning he actively moves the plot and characters forward.

The other lynchpin of the show is Kilgrave, who is one of the greatest villian’s Marvel Studios has ever produced. He also has powers, being able to make people do literally anything he tells them, which makes him a major threat without even having to introduce him immediately. Actor David Tennant embues the character with a pompous air that would make him unlikable, even if he wasn’t using his powers for evil. Unlike Kingpin, it’s difficult to think of him as sympathetic because he revels in his cruelty. He claims his motive is love, because he’s just trying to convince Jessica to get back together with him of her own free will, but he’s still an awful person. When his softer side is finally revealed, along with his tragic backstory, there’s a moment where the audience could feel bad for him…before he reminds you that you shouldn’t. He clearly believes himself to be a victim but the show never agrees with him. His final stand-off with Jessica is a literal stand-off as opposed to the usual one v one fights that many Marvel fans are used to and ends as bluntly as Killgrave deserves. He doesn’t get his final glorious, poigniant, self-reflective moment and that is immensely satisfying.

The style of the show is interesting too. Much like Daredevil, it makes excellent use of colour. There’s plenty of purple, which is Kilgrave’s signature, while flashbacks have their colour subdued to differentiate them from the present. The camerawork is often closer to the ground, keeping focus on the characters without ever getting too close to them, with a decent amount of wide shots. This feels like how Jessica sees the world as a PI, with a focus on individuals but occassionally taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. The show is often seen from her perspective, including her PTSD attacks which are intense to sit through. Frantic camera movements and sweeping motions with an added blur effect that distorts the world around her is a very 2015 way to get the attacks across but it’s effective.

Series one of Jessica Jones is excellent on its own but paired with Daredevil it’s exquisite. Like that show, it’s filled with interesting characters and themes but it’s more trauma-heavy. It’s the most adult production that Marvel Studios has crafted since 1998s Blade but it manages to achieve that without spilling as much blood. This doesn’t mean there’s no blood though, in fact it features as much as Daredevil. This show is a beautifully intense.

Daredevil (Series 1)

When I was a girl, Marvel studios created the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some people may try to convince you that it had a grand plan from its inception but this simply isn’t true. There was certainly a rough outline, with some things more likely to happen than others, but never a concrete plan. This uncertainty is present throughout the ABC Studios series Agents of SHIELD, which eventually diverged from the core MCU timeline into it’s own entity, and in the hit Netflix series’ produced under the Marvel banner.

These shows exists in a bizarre state of limbo, with their canonicity to the larger MCU bordering between non-existent and questionable. It’s present from the very first episode of Daredevil, which was the very first of the lager pantheon of Netflix Marvel shows. Reporter Ben Urich has articles, written by him, framed on his wall about the Hulks rampage in Harlem and the pivotal Battle of New York meaning that the canon of the films do exist here. However the favour isn’t returned as none of the plot points, locations, or characters from the Netflix series’ ever appear in the big screen outings (I know…I discuss it here.) This occurred because current head of the MCU, Kevin Feige, wanted these shows to eventually appear alongside their cinematic counterparts but the people in charge at the time did not, vying for both a television empire and a theatrical one. As a result, Daredevil exists, for lack of a better phrase, as Kevin Fieges headcanon.

The show follows lawyer Matthew Murdoch who, having been blinded by chemicals as a child, uses his heightened senses and martial arts training to fight crime. Simultaneously, he is attempting to keep his newly established law practice afloat as well as friendships with fellow lawyer Foggy Nelson and client-turned-secretary Karen Page. However, as the light rises, so too does darkness to meet it. Across the first 3 episodes, a shadowy figure looms large over the neighbourhood of Hells Kitchen, controlling all the major crime syndicates. This shadow finally reveals itself toward the end of episode 3 as Wilson Fisk, in an introduction that perfectly captures why this series works so well.

Wilsons presence, despite only being off-screen initially, is overbearing. His determination to complete his goal is without question and his willingness to kill whoever stands in his way is more than apparent. Yet, his first on-screen appearance is a gentle one. He stands in an art gallery, musing over a canvas painted in several shades of slightly-off white. When asked by the art curator how it makes him feel he responds by saying that it makes him feel alone. This is a stark contrast to the typical “villain” one might expect. He’s driven by emotion and doesn’t truly yearn for violence…he’s just doing what needs to be done. He’s a grounded character that exists in a moral gray area and this is what this show does so well. There isn’t a single character here who’s presented as purely good or evil, everyone is willing to do something a little sketchy if they aren’t already doing so.

It’s often seen in the friendship between Matt, Foggy and Karen which fractures as the series goes on. It doesn’t happen because they want it to, instead it happens because they each come to harbor a major secret. Even when there is some reconciliation towards the series’ end, it’s clear that the dynamics are forever changed. This isn’t the typical “Act 3 Break-Up”, it has lasting implications. Even their interactions with secondary and tertiary characters change the course of the plot. Aforementioned reporter Ben Urich teams up with Karen as they work to take down Fisk through journalism, with the repercussions being some of the most heartbreaking moments of the show. Meanwhile, Father Paul Lantom’s discussions with Matt provide an interesting look at the moral gray areas which are central to the core of the plot. He also isn’t a holier-than-thou preacher, he’s a down to Earth realist who happens to have devoted himself to God and does what he can to keep Matt on the right path. It’s a really good portrayal of Christianity and preaching God’s word.

Capping it off is the brutal action which is present from the very first episode. With a 16+ rating in the UK (TV-MA in the US), Daredevil makes the most of the violence which is allowed. The prime example is episode 2s famous Hallway Fight which lasts around 5 minutes. It’s shot as a continuous take which makes it feel more grueling and only switches angles when it’s truly necessary to keep that feeling going. By the end of it, Matt is bruised, bloody and tired which is a far cry from the heavy hitters of the MCU like The Hulk or Captain America. Daredevil isn’t a superhero, he’s just a hero who happens to do super things. Then there’s the copious blood, which is more often seem from Fisks victims…particularly an unfortunate Russian who has his head caved in with a car door. It displays yet another core aspect of the show which is how far people are willing to go for their causes. How far do things go before murder is a viable option?

This first season of Daredevil is the blueprint on which the following Netflix Marvel shows were founded. It has a different tone to the theatrical releases, opting to be more grounded and dark, although there are plenty of laughs too. Ultimately, this is why it will be remembered, regardless of whether or not they ever become canon.

Stranger Things 4: Part 2 (Spoilers)

Nowadays, it’s become the public consensus that no TV show has a good finale. People will often point to the likes of Lost, Smallville, and Supernatural but when finales are seen like this it detracts attention away from the ones who get it right. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Breaking Bad and Friends are just a few examples of endings that are as good as it gets. Stranger Things 4: Part 2 comes very close to being in the latter camp, especially considering it’s just under 4 hours long. Any other finale may meander during this time, taking time away from the primary plot and inserting it elsewhere into background characters, but that’s not the case here. There are secondary characters and tertiary characters but they’ve never been in the background. New favourites like Eddie, Yuri, and Argyle get a large amount of focus, as does the returning season 3 favourite Murray, but they’re as important to the story as the main cast. There isn’t a wasted character here and they are all incredibly likable. Even the villains are characters that are fun to hate.

There’s a lot of tension too, which is a difficult task to accomplish over a long period of time. Technically, episode 8 would be the penultimate one with episode 9 serving as the actual finale but it doesn’t feel constructed that way. Both episodes are considerably longer than the ordinary length, with episode 8 coming in at 1 hour 25 minutes and episode 2 clocking in and a full 2 and a half hours. They were also released on the same day, with the first 7 episodes having been released 5 weeks earlier so it feels like the intention is to treat “part 2” as a separate, conclusive, entity. A lot of it is in the characters. The acting in season 1 was good but the majority of the cast were children and they’ve matured into adult actors now. Millie Bobby Brown will likely receive the majority of praise but she deserves it with her emotional, often scary role as Eleven. The rest of the cast are stellar too, selling the stakes and their love for each other perfectly.

It’s a brilliant finale to look at and listen to. Time is split fairly equally between the real world and the Upside Down, which is as dark and dusty as it’s ever been. It’s never too dark that the action is unwatchable and it’s gorgeous when the red lightning is covering everything. There’s a reason that this specific dimension has become so visually iconic, after all. The soundtrack deserves an equal amount of praise. The original score, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really embodies the often foreboding and occasionally emotional tone. Meanwhile, the songs chosen for the “soundtrack” portion of the finale fit wonderfully. There’s the obvious example of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which has re-entered the charts after 37 years and become THE song of the series. It would have been nice to perhaps see one of her lesser appreciated hits like Babushka but there are plenty of other songs to obsess over. Musical Youth’s Pass The Dutchie is a delight and there’s a spectacular needle drop for Metallica’s Master of Puppets.

The only issue with the finale is that it isn’t the conclusion of the entire show. It feels like it should have been, considering the amount of hype surrounding its release and finality of the majority of the story. However (and HERE are the spoilers) it feels like the writers didn’t put in the climactic battle between the team and Vecna. With half an hour to go, Max’s life on the line, and a rift opening in the centre of town, Vecna is successfully injured before the plot cuts to 2 days later. I presume that Max has been kept alive (and very broken) to be used as a vessel by Vecna in series 5 but if this isn’t eventually the case, it undermines her attempted sacrifice. Instead, they opt to kill off Eddie Munson which feels unnecessary. Sometimes people don’t need to die to complete their arc and introducing a brand new character to kill off in the space of a series is played out. Marvel has already done it this week so surely the quota has been met.

If the decision to not have the climactic battle was down to production time, it’s still a little infuriating but it’s understandable. You can only do so much with the time that’s allotted to you. But if it was a conscious decision to prolong the run span of the show, it stings a little bit, especially when there’s still no information as to what form the final series will take. It seems like the story could be wrapped up in another 4 hours and perhaps that is what will happen but it’s likely a couple of years away. Of course, the entire point of having a cliffhanger like this is to bring the audience back the following series but runtime is becoming a real concern. There was a noticeably split reaction to Series 4s runtime, to the extent that some people were unsure if they would tune in and this isn’t just a Stranger Things issue (the MCU is facing a similar problem).

This didn’t stop it from amassing 7.2 billion minutes of viewing time for the week of May 30 – June 5 though, which is the most of any streaming series since the advent of weekly streaming rankings.

Ultimately, it’s a mostly solid end to a solid series. Hopefully, series 5 is as good…when it finally arrives.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer