Tagged: Krysten Ritter

Mindy Newell, Jessica and Kara

Superman Supergirl Dave Gibbons

So it turns out that I maybe I do have a TARDIS, because I was able to finish watching Jessica Jones and to catch up on Supergirl.

You remember that basically crappy review of Supergirl I gave a couple of months ago? Well, the show is getting there, though, im-not-so-ho, they aren’t taking advantage of what could be some great story arcs. Except for Alex Danvers. And Cat Grant. And Hank Henshaw. But more on that in a bit.

I watched “Strange Visitor From Another Planet,” an hour that really could have called “Why Did You Abandon Me?” Hank Henshaw, a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, struggled with the personification of survivor’s guilt and abandonment in the appearance of a “White Martian,” a member of the “other” Martian race responsible for the Martian holocaust – a literal “Strange Visitor.” And while the psychological voices from beyond the grave – including his wife and two daughters – chastised J’onn J’onzz for abandoning them by not joining them in death, Cat Grant dealt with her own, different kind of survivor’s guilt and abandonment issues when her “Strange Visitor” turned out to be the child she had chosen to abandon in her drive to become a professional success, now all grown up and wanting to know why she hadn’t loved him enough to stay. “Bizzaro,a twist on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, borrowed – well, stole – the origin of the sad creature from DC’s New52 reboot, only instead of Lex Luthor creating the “monster” from splicing Superman’s DNA with human DNA and injecting it into a teenager, it was Maxwell Lord splicing Supergirl’s DNA with the human DNA of comatose young women who “resembled” Kara Zor-El. I thought the show sorta fell down on this one – it was essentially a “monster of the week” episode with Bizzaro Supergirl dying at the end and Maxwell Lord becoming “The Man in the Glass Booth,” kidnapped and imprisoned – for now – at DEO headquarters. Which is rather illegal, and I assume will lead to further ramifications down the line.

One immediate ramification of Max hanging around the DEO, though, is that he just happened to be handy when the alien chest-hugging flower called the “Black Mercy” dug its tentacles into Supergirl’s rib cage and inflicted her heart’s desires upon her in a hallucinatory mind-game. Many of you will recognize this as an adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1985 Superman Annual #11 story, For the Man Who Has Everything.

It’s not a bad adaptation, but if you remember FTMWHE, it’s not quite up to par in comparison, especially in the Krypton sequences. Granted, the show’s budget had to be a serious factor in producing this episode, but in Superman’s dream world, we really become invested in Kal-El’s life on Krypton and in Kryptonian society. Kara Zor-El, however, never leaves her home. She just sits in the “living room” talking with her parents and Aunt Astra, who was never banished to the Phantom Zone. Oh, yeah, and we also meet a prepubescent Kal-El, though there is neither mention of nor a visit from Jor-

El and Lara. And though there is mention of a serious boyfriend, we don’t meet him nor do we see anything else of what Kara’s dream life if Krypton had not exploded entails.

In Superman’s dream state he has no memory or sense of anything wrong – well, the dream does start becoming increasingly disturbing – but Kara’s immediate reaction when waking up in her bed on Krypton is one of confusion and a sense that something is definitely wrong. But as the Black Mercy continues its psychic invasion, Kara starts forgetting, and by the time “virtual reality” Alex shows up she has accepted her life for what it is and does not recognize her “Terran” sister.

It’s a good attempt, but not one for the ages. For one thing, for a story about Supergirl’s lost dreams, it’s a fantastic showcase for Alex, who totally steals the scene(s). Alex’s quest to save her sister, her devotion to her, is really what this episode is about – and I don’t know if that’s what the writers had in mind. In fact, lately it almost seems that the title should be Supergirl’s Sister, Alex Danvers. She has become the most well developed character on the show (with Cat Grant coming up behind and Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz nipping at Cat’s heels). It’s too bad, because this could have been a real showcase for Supergirl/Kara Zor-El.

And, again, wasn’t it convenient that Max Lord was on DEO premises so he could help develop the “virtual reality” psychic connection thing-a-ma-jig that got Alex into Kara’s dreamland in the first place?

However, Melissa Benoist did a bang-up job in displaying Supergirl’s anger and rage and hurt and sorrow when she woke up. Echoing Moore’s words, she spits out “Do you know what you did to me?” and then “Burn” as she lashes out with her heat vision against Non, the evil – and oh so incredibly boring – Kryptonian who’s Aunt Astra’s husband, and who exposed her to the Black Mercy in the first place.

There’s a lot more plot about Non’s plan to destroy Earth (or something – I’m not quite sure exactly what he wants to do), but there’s a twist at the end that really disappointed me, which now means that it’s 

Astra is killed by Alex.

This is right up there with the whole “fooling Cat Grant and convincing her that Kara isn’t Supergirl” storyline. I mean, Boo! Hiss! Really, Bernanti, Adler, et.al., killing off what could have been a fascinating character and story arc? Again, Boo! Hiss!

And as for JJ – it left me shaken and stirred, with that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve had a horrific nightmare which stays with you all day, or after you’ve made the mistake of watching a double feature of Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) on Turner Classic Movies.

SPOILERS HERE FOR ANYBODY WHO HAS ALSO BEEN LATE TO THE PARTY!

What really got me was the straightforward and uncomplicated denouement of David Tennant’s Killgrave – a simple twisting of his neck, a quick dislocating of his cervical vertebrae, a horrific rupturing of the right and left common carotid and vertebral arteries, and he’s as dead as the Tyrannosaurus Rex that King Kong killed using the same method – only with a lot less fight than in that epic battle. It was so straightforward, not what is usually expected when dealing with the gifted, as the show’s super-powered individuals and others called them; in comic-book land fights are usually a chance for the artist to strut his stuff, consisting of many panels and sometimes many pages of balletic and brutal brawling. What I thought, as Jessica approached Killgrave, was that she was going to rip his tongue out, which would certainly, I think, have been an apt Sisyphean punishment for him – King Sisyphus of Ephyra was punished by Zeus for his hubris, lying, greediness, and self-aggrandizing by being condemned to push a gigantic boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom before reaching the top, repeating this pattern forever and ever and ever.

Killgrave with his tongue is essentially powerless, and as I said, it would have been a fitting punishment; but Jessica said she was going to kill him and she did. But though it looked simple it wasn’t; Jessica Jones literally killed her demon. But the question is: Will it be enough? Stay streamed.

I am in no way dissing Krysten Ritter or anybody else in the cast of this superb show – Krysten Ritter was nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award, but I think it’s sin that no one else was nominated (Jessica Jones was ignored by the Golden), especially David Tennant.

I now have an even bigger crush on appreciation of David Tennant.

He’s getting handsomer and handsomer and handsomer.

His acting chops just keep getting better and better and better.

Mindy Newell: Jonas And Jessica

Mindy Newell: Jonas And Jessica

David Tennent Jessica Jones

Did Jonas come to visit you last week?

If so, I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe.

Jonas, of course, is the huge winter storm that not only dumped record-breaking amounts of snow on the Mid-Atlantic States and Eastern Seaboard up to Boston, but also caused major coastal flooding in areas that are still recovering from Sandy, like the Jersey shore. An 84-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was shut down, and 500 cars, trucks, and buses were stranded in the blizzard for almost a full day, with the National Guard delivering medicine, food and water, and gasoline (to keep the cars running and warm) to hundreds of people.

Governor Shamu – I mean New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – finally got the message and left New Hampshire, where he has been campaigning to come back to the state that he ostensibly governs. Everywhere there were travel bans; Mayor Bill de Blasio even banned food deliveries. The airports, of course, cancelled all flights. The U.S. Postal Service – Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds – ignored its motto. The supermarkets were cleaned out – I walked down to my local market at about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and the only thing left was Soylent Green. And all I wanted was Diet Pepsi and a pack of Salem 100’s.

But compared to many, I was lucky. My power never wavered, my steam radiators steamed. The most I had to worry about was digging my car out yesterday in order to go to work Sunday – and even that turned out incredibly easy, because my downstairs neighbor Lois, her wonderful husband Corey, and their kids did all of the work for me. In fact, all I had to do was clean the windshields and make sure that I could pull out of my parking spot easily. On top of which Lois saved that spot for me by parking her car so that it takes up two spaces, so that when I got home all I had to do was text her to come down and make room.

Yes, those whose cars take up two spaces in my parking-challenged city usually make me curse like a sailor – okay, that’s not hard, but otherwise I doubt I would be able to get to the hospital tomorrow for fear of driving around and around and around the blocks upon reaching home for hours, so today I forgive them and myself.

Aside from the walk to the Soylent Green store and not having to dig out my car, I basically did absolutely nothing, which sometimes is the best thing in the world. I played solitaire on the computer, I did the New York Times crossword puzzle, and then I caught up on Jessica Jones, courtesy of Netflix. I realize I’m a little behind the curve here.

The eponymous, hard-drinking anti-hero is played by Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars), who is joined by Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, Rachael Taylor as Patsy “Trish” Walker, and David Tennant as Killgrave. JJ is dark and ugly and all about the underbelly of the superhero fantasy – the trauma, the amorality, the death, the pain, the anger, the fear, the regret, the isolation. It’s the post-traumatic stress syndrome of the genre. There is no joy in this world. Booze is for dulling the memories, sex is for physical pleasure, marriage is just a road to the inevitable divorce, and love is denied – or at least suspect. Anyone and everyone connected, even incidentally, by the “power enhanced” is scarred physically or emotionally or psychologically, or left for dead or dead. No one is innocent. And no one gets out alive. Not really.

So pretend that I’m Killgrave and that I have the power to control your mind:

In case you haven’t done so yet, watch Jessica Jones.

And keep the kiddies away.

Emily S. Whitten and The Very Real Jessica Jones

jessica_jones

Well, Jessica Jones, you have my interest. So: I haven’t seen all thirteen episodes of Marvel and Netflix’s Jessica Jones yet (hey, la Casa de Emily gets busy around the holidays), but I did get in a good four episodes with my Marvel watch party buddies, and all of us were left wanting to see more.

I was excited about Jessica Jones before it came out and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. The show is in line with Daredevil in feel, but possibly even grittier in atmosphere; and by that I don’t mean harsher – I mean more real. Jones is a relatable “superhero,” primarily because she’s not a superhero. She’s a regular person in many ways – in the sense that she’s not perfect, she doesn’t have her life together, and she’s not stellar at picking the wisest way to handle a crisis.

She’s also rude, abrasive, and somewhat paranoid – but given the world she lives in, instead of putting me off that actually makes me like her, because it’s probably how a lot of us would react if we were dealing with the guilt, trauma, and danger she’s experienced. And I mean, yes – she also happens to have superpowers. But they are not the biggest focus of the current storyline, nor are they a solution for her problems. I like that, because I like seeing the less-than-perfect side of a “gift” like superpowers. And, because the sheer normalcy of her issues highlights the challenges raised by her special abilities.

I also really enjoyed seeing those abilities slowly being displayed. With Jones, you don’t get a lot of flashy, showy superhero stuff – what you get is someone who’s trying to do her job like a regular person, but resorts to lifting a car’s back wheels off the ground just as much as is needed to stop the criminal she’s trying to serve a subpoena on from getting away. You get someone who, rather than leaping tall buildings in a single bound, jumps high enough to awkwardly shimmy onto her best friend’s balcony when she needs to borrow some money. That’s not to say that her powers aren’t impressive (and I am sure I will see more as I continue the season); but that the way they are introduced is the more interesting for being revealed in very utilitarian situations.

And then, of course, sometimes for being abused – as when a couple who are enraged by the destruction that took place in New York during the Avengers movie tries to take out their anger on her as one of the superpowered bunch. Instead, they end up being treated to a rage-tantrum in which Jones tears up their house while, quite rightly, pointing out that she’s also dealt with unfair loss and pain, but isn’t blaming random people for her suffering. (And I also liked the allusion to The Avengers and the consequences of the destruction in the city – too frequently superhero stories don’t really address the collateral damage and trauma to civilians caused by Spidey or Superman or the Avengers or whoever pursuing a bad guy across a city. I don’t like the awkward way Jones refers to other superheroes without naming them, and I’m not sure if that’s because of a rights issue or weird scripting – but that’s a small complaint).

It was also a treat seeing Luke Cage’s abilities being brought to light. The introduction of his fighting style was pretty hilarious – the way he rolled his eyes at the barroom brawlers trying to pick a fight, and then knocked one out with the most casual backhand I’ve ever seen. And it was perfect for the style of this show and the aforementioned utilitarian aspects of superpowers being highlighted. The introduction of Cage generally is something I’m enjoying; including the slow build of his backstory and character as he gets to know Jones and more about her past impact on his life is revealed.

That’s another thing the show is doing well – the slow build. I realize that a lot of people may want to see a pilot that is chock-full of information and really grabs them in one sitting; but since this show has the opportunity (as did Daredevil) to grab an audience over a series of episodes that are all immediately available to watch, I don’t mind that it’s taking advantage of that still rather new media “format” to adopt a somewhat decompressed style of storytelling. It makes some aspects of the story, like the introduction of new characters, such as Patsy/Trish Walker, feel much more natural and real. While the initial focus of the show is Jones, and we don’t, at first, even know exactly what her past relationship with Walker is, the development of that and of Trish’s personality, from a perfectly put-together radio host to a more nuanced person who deals with a troubled childhood and a current intense fear of danger after what happened to Jones before the events of the show, is enjoyable because it’s not particularly hurried. There’s no info dump, and that’s a relief.

The decompressed style also allows for incorporation of characters like Will Simpson and Malcolm Ducasse without the feeling that they’re being thrust in our faces, and with a greater chance that we won’t see plot points involving them way ahead of time. It allows us to feel with Jessica as she, e.g., discovers that one of the few people she regularly interacts with and has generally tried to help and sort of look after is actually spying on her and betraying her movements to her enemy. In other words, it makes them less predictable bits in a Jessica Jones-centric story, and more like parts of a fully imagined world she happens to move through and interact with without knowing how any of her choices are going to pan out.

That world has a great noir-ish feel; it’s definitely not today’s New York, but is older in style and more homey while at the same time feeling more dangerous. (Although I did notice the reference to the 5th Avenue – Bryant Park entrance to the 7 line and wonder if that little homage to the newest way to handily access the Javits Center for New York Comic Con was intentional.) Yes, there are big fancy glass-and-metal skyscrapers housing, e.g., high-powered attorneys who pay Jessica to deal with difficult issues; but there are also neighborhood bars that have clearly been around forever and are definitely not part of some big chain or conglomerate, and buildings that may not be up to code but definitely have a lot of “character.”

Jones’ New York is both a setting I feel like I’m experiencing through her eyes, and a place that fits well with the world as seen through the lens of Daredevil; which bodes well for an eventual melding of the two. I like the way it does feel just slightly different from Murdock’s world; and hope that when Cage gets his own show, and Iron Fist his, we also get slightly shifted perspectives of Hell’s Kitchen through their personal experiences and views.

Speaking of high-powered attorneys, I’m enjoying Carrie-Anne Moss’s role as Jeri Hogarth, a hard-nosed, cynical lawyer who is also in the midst of an acrimonious divorce from her wife while engaged in that most clichéd of affairs, a romance with her younger, prettier secretary Pam. I’m also enjoying the way they’re exploring that side-plot – through sad little scenes like Jeri taking secretary Pam to lunch and running into wife Wendy Ross-Hogarth, who reveals to Pam that they are about to enter the restaurant where Jeri proposed to Wendy. The whole scene is awkward and painful for everybody in a way that is very realistic, and I appreciate as well that it shows this interaction with a same-sex couple, highlighting that the ugly issues involved in divorce span across all pairings in relationships.

In the same vein I appreciate that all of the women of this show are allowed to be unlikable. They’re allowed to be harsh, and imperfect, and paranoid, and weird, and humorous, and passionate, and ruthless, and loving, and conflicted, and scared, and tough, and smart, and successful, and fatalistic, and stupid, and angry, and cruel, and destroyed, and determined – and all in the mixed-together, messy way that real people are. There are no female characters in this show who fall into a stereotypical category; and the same goes for their relationships with the other characters.

And as we’re talking about relationships, one of the most important ones is Jones’ relationship with the villain of the story, Kilgrave, and it’s as fascinatingly disturbing as he is. We get to see glimpses of her past with Kilgrave as the plot moves along – and it’s creepy and sad to see the Kilgrave of flashbacks playing with her like a living doll subject only to his whims, dressed up for a night on the town, or told to casually dispatch an innocent woman using her superpowers. It’s sad as well to see her current suffering from the PTSD left over from what Kilgrave made her do. It heads up the point that no matter how strong she or any hero is, they can still be vulnerable, and their powers are not a magic cure-all.

It also addresses how slow to heal psychological wounds can be. As we see more of Kilgrave in the present we see how truly sadistic his use of his powers really is, Krysten Ritter realize that the magnitude of his past abuse of Jessica could be anything. When he, for example, doesn’t even allow people to retain the basic dignity of using a restroom to go to the bathroom when he’s bending them to his will, it shows his inherent cruelty and his all-encompassing disregard for anyone but himself. And when we realize how much of his will is focused on exacting revenge on Jones, who managed to defy him and also left him for dead, her paranoia and barely controlled reactions start to make a whole lot of sense.

I also appreciate that the show doesn’t try to present any of this as acceptable – it’s wrong, and twisted, and not even the littlest bit okay. And it results in a view of the villain that’s intriguing because it shows us just how petty and pathetic he is, despite how powerful he also is. The contrast between what he can do and what he uses his ability to do shows how truly despicably small he is; and reflects perfectly the truth of an abuser’s personality. It’s a nuance that a lot of shows don’t manage to get across; but this show really sticks the landing.

Yes, indeed there are many things this show is doing well; and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me as I finish the season. So off I go to see what other crazy things are about to go down in Jessica Jones’s New York; and until next time, Servo Lectio.

 

Emily S. Whitten: Hyped for Jessica Jones

JessicaJones

Jessica Jones is the next up in Marvel’s series of Netflix TV shows, and I am beyond excited for it. I was excited for Daredevil, I loved Daredevil, I am excited that there’s going to be more Daredevil; but if possible, I think I may be more excited to see Jessica Jones than I was even to see Vincent D’Onofrio playing the Kingpin. Why? I’ll tell you why.

Jessica Jones is an odd duck in the Marvel universe. When the story opens, she’s not a hero (anymore) and she’s not a villain. She’s tried the hero thing, and has now made the choice to walk away from it. She’s had a horrific traumatic experience, and is now trying to live life on her own terms. In fact, she’s pretty much the Harry Dresden of NYC (without the male gaze and other weird holdovers from the early Dresden Files books. Sorry, Jim Butcher; I’m a huge Dresden fan, but those early stories have a few issues).

Like Harry, she comes from a tortured past of literal manipulation and has major trust issues; wields a ton of power; and because of her abilities, keeps getting sucked in, no matter whether it’s what she wants or not, to the greater world of the super-powered heroes and villains. And also like Harry, her past, her powers, and her present issues often make her life a big ol’ mess; and have given her some serious attitude.  I love the complexities and rough edges of her character; and I love that Marvel appears to be presenting a three-dimensional, imperfect (and therefore human and relatable) woman as the second headlining female in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following on the excellent and nuanced performance of Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. Jessica Jones is a no-nonsense badass with a rebellious streak and (well-founded) control issues, and she’s not trying to make friends; but she also has a heart that is still looking to do good.

This is illustrated in the Netflix tie-in comic that I picked up at NYCC. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Michael Gaydos (the same writer and artist team who did the original 28-issue comics series), the comic references Daredevil’s run-in with Turk in the Daredevil Netflix series, and shows Jessica Jones tracking Turk down; but not to inflict Daredevil-style justice on him. Instead, she’s there to collect on child support payments that he owes. As she says, “I don’t know what messed-up house you grew up in that made you think it’s okay to be the way you are; but you brought kids into this world, and if you can’t be there for them like a grown-up, the least you can do, I mean the very least, is provide for them; so that maybe the cycle of nonsense that created you stops with you.”

It’s an interesting sentiment to punch home in the tie-in introductory book; and it emphasizes that in Jones’ world, a) your past doesn’t provide an excuse for you not to try to fix your future (something she’s dealing with herself); and b) what she cares about are the individual responsibilities and characters of the people she deals with.

Although I confess I am not deep into the lore of Jones in the comics (I haven’t explored too far into the MAX line, although of course I have all the Deadpool stuff), from what I know the original series also took this track of being more personal and less grandiose, so it seems Netflix is sticking with the flavor of the source material, which is great. Netflix is also sticking with the gritty, intense feel of the MAX line of comics. The show’s trailers continue in the dark vein of Daredevil, and Krysten Ritter has so far done an excellent job of conveying Jessica’s complex character in the trailers. It’s clear from her portrayal that this character’s story is deep, and messy, and complicated; and that makes for good TV. This is the kind of character I can’t help but want to see more of.

Netflix also looks to be delving into even darker, more disturbing territory than Daredevil with the introduction of Jessica’s nemesis, Killgrave (the Purple Man in the comics), played by David Tennant (who is always good value, as the Brits say, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in this). Although I don’t know all of the indignities Jones suffered at the hands of Killgrave, even the thought of someone having the power to manipulate one’s behavior is chilling, and the hints of her past in the trailers are über creepy; so I’m sure what we’ll see in the show will be pretty terrifying. And I like that, as with the Kingpin, the villain here didn’t start out as e.g. an all-powerful god of mischief, or the ruler of his own little country. He did, however, start out as a spy, so it will be interesting to see what they might do with that in the show.

It will also be cool to see how Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) starts to fit into the Netflix/Marvel universe. He’s the next character slated to have his own show, and he appears in the Jessica Jones trailers and is listed as appearing in all episodes. Given that Jones and Cage have both a working and a romantic relationship in the comics, it makes sense to introduce him here; but I’m curious to see how he fits while she is the main character; and to what extent she will then be appearing in his series. Regardless, in the brief appearances I’ve seen so far, I’m liking the character.

The bottom line as we ramp up to Jessica Jones is that it looks like we’re in for an intense, chilling, suspenseful, intricate story enveloping a character with a fascinating tale to be told, possibly set as an investigative procedural; and I really love investigative procedurals. It also looks like Netflix is going to continue its strong start with Daredevil as we move into round 2 before going on to Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and finally, The Defenders. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but it seems that Marvel’s idea of tying this string of shows into each other and then into an ensemble cast affair may just turn out to be as awesome in reality as it sounds in concept. And on that note; when Jessica Jones rolls around on November 20, I am so. There.

And in the meantime, Servo Lectio!