Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones is many things. It’s possibly the biggest surprise spotlight grab by a B- or even C-list comic book charactersince Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s one of the grimmest, darkest, boldest shows out there: a TV show that’s essentially 13 hours of PTSD related to the aftermath of sexual assault. This is even more remarkable in light of the fact that the show is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that Jessica Jones’ graphic sex scenes and shivering junkies and dour musings on futility coexist in the same world as the massive alien invasion of The Avengers or the wacky heist in Ant-Man.
And it’s a huge feminist achievement. This is a show in which rape is a core theme, but one that pretty much entirely avoids feeling exploitative or male-gazey. It’s a show with a female showrunner, Melissa Rosenberg, who’s done her homeworkabout depicting sexual assault and the associated PTSD realistically and responsibly and who knows all the standard tropes for strong female characters and deftly avoids most of them. But perhaps most interestingly, Jessica Jones is our first identifiably post-Gamergate thriller.
The villain in Jessica Jones is the utterly repulsive Kilgrave (the “Purple Man” from the comics), played by geek hero David Tennant, best known for his tenure as the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who. The Doctor, as portrayed in the modern-era Who canon, is pure geek wish fulfillment. He’s unapologetically eccentric, always snappily dressed, going to great lengths to satisfy his eclectic tastes and burning curiosity. He takes delight in sticking out a like a sore thumb, never adapting to the dress code or etiquette of the strange places he finds himself in, forcing them to adapt to him instead. He’s a hit with the ladies, picking plucky young people—almost always beautiful women—to be his sidekicks, the adoring audience to his genius showman act.