Three more series down—the second season of The Americans and Daredevil and the first season of Jessica Jones. And there will be some spoilers here for both.
I enjoyed the first season of The Americans (all rights to image remain with current holder) starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, travel agents who are secretly deep-cover agents for the KGB. This season kicks off with another pair of married agents getting murdered, leaving the Jennings worried they and their kids are at risk. Plus they have to learn the secrets of U.S. stealth technology, worry their daughter is enjoying the opiate of the masses (i.e., Paige starts going to church). Meanwhile their FBI neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich) has to cope with a disintegrating marriage and falling in love with a Soviet embassy secretary he’s turned—or has she turned him. Very well done—I look forward to season three.
I had much less fun with Netflix’s Jessica Jones, the adaptation of the Alias comic from Marvel. Krysten Ritter plays Jones, a superhuman private detective traumatized by both a crappy childhood and having become the slave of Kilgrave (David Tennant), who can force anyone to obey his spoken commands. When a woman murders her parents on Kilgrave’s orders, Jess sets out to capture her old foe and force him As most critics have pointed out, the series and Ritter do an excellent job capturing the trauma of an abuse survivor. However I must confess, at thirteen episodes it was hard for me not to wish Jessica would start to heal, or have a happy day or something to break the tone. I just couldn’t keep up my interest in the character (I am not this heartless towards real people, but my standards for fictional characters are different).
Kilgrave is a monstrous enemy, well-performed by Tenant, and they do a good job showing him strategizing (he has a security service bodyguard him to protect against the kind of ambush Jess stages mid-series). However some of the good guys’ strategic decisions are piss-poor: seriously, it takes until the last episode for someone to think of tackling Kilgrave wearing headphones? When a cop falls under Kilgrave’s power but breaks free later, why not recruit him as a witness that the Purple Man is real? And why exactly did Jessica become immune to Kilgrave’s power?
I thought someone said Kilgrave’s power was virus-based, but that must have been a metaphor as he’s able to command people over a video link. If it’s just immunity developed from being under his control so long, shouldn’t someone be figuring out how to duplicate it? One thing the series, like Daredevil, did do well, is capture the sense of a world where metahumans exist, like the occasional reaction to Jessica’s powers that “you’re one of them!”
Speaking of which, Daredevil‘s second season had two main plots. First, Matt attempts to capture a new vigilante (Jon Bernthal) named Frank Castle (“They call him the Punisher”) whom Nelson & Murdock wind up defending in court; second, Matt’s old, murderous lover Elektra (Elodie Yung) recruits him for a fight against the Hand, a ninja cult. The first plotline is effective, anchored Bernthal’s strong performance (though uncomfortably close to the old stereotype of the psychotic veteran); the second is a mess. I never bought Elektra luring Matt to the dark, reckless side and although the Hand were a part of Frank Miller’s classic Daredevil run in comics, in both the MU and the MCU they’re just a bunch of ninjas (and after Arrow‘s use of the Lazarus Pit the past couple of seasons, the Hand being able to raise the dead is hardly an OMG moment). And by end of season, the plotline involving the Hand’s search for the mysterious Black Sky made no sense. The continuity between this show and Jessica Jones is nice, but DC still rules the small screen.