I can already feel the indignant ire headed my way after posting that title. However, the truth is that Marvel’s Jessica Jones has me hooked, and watching Marvel’s Daredevil is like eating vegetables or doing homework: It’s good, and good for you, but not very fun.
The premise of Marvel’s Daredevil is that Matt Murdock, who goes blind as a child, transforms himself into an ultra-tough warrior. He assigns himself the task of protecting those who can’t protect themselves in his ‘hood, Hell’s Kitchen. Not only does he hand out beatings with effectiveness and efficiency, he also takes severe beatings like a leather punching bag, bouncing back — albeit slowly — for more.
The premise of Marvel’s Jessica Jones — who is also a Defender, like Murdock, in the Marvel ‘verse — is that she’s a private investigator with super-human strength and a horrific past. She, too, is trying to look out for the innocent, especially the ones targeted by Kilgrave, a mind-controlling villain. In her past, Kilgrave made Jones do unspeakable things, and she lives in constant fear that he’ll return for more.
Both of these dramas are well-crafted. They both boast casts brimming with top-notch talent. They both have a realistic, gritty, believable feel. Both shows have earned kudos from critics. So why is Marvel’s Jessica Jones so much more appealing? Let’s break it down.
I See the Light
First and foremost, you can frickin’ see Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I have a big beef with shows that are dark. I don’t mean, dark in subject, like violence and death. I mean literally dark; I feel like I spend the hour squinting at the TV, even though it takes up half of my living room. I want to reach out and dial up the brightness, but that wouldn’t work, because that’s what the filmmakers wanted: DARK. Throw in the fact that nearly everyone is dressed in all black all the time, and I walk away with a headache.
Yes, it’s a seemingly minor problem, but it’s important. Think of a theater production: If they can’t hear you at the back of the balcony, your Tony-winning performance is worthless. Likewise, if I can’t see what the hell is going on, it’s wasted.
Leave Them Wanting More
The number one rule in show business is “leave them wanting more.” The second rule, in my opinion, was stated years ago by Joss Whedon when Buffy the Vampire Slayer still aired: “Give them what they need, not what they want.”
On Marvel’s Daredevil, we see Murdock’s childhood story played out pretty soon after the opening credits of the first episode. In the next couple of episodes, we see more of his backstory with his dad. Now, backstory is necessary, sure, but don’t give it to me all in one exposition dump. First, yawn. I don’t care about that kid and his boxer Dad; I care about the guy bleeding on Rosario Dawson’s couch. Second, if I know the whole story up front, where are you going to go? No mystery.
On Marvel’s Jessica Jones, we are tantalized, we are teased, we are left wondering what happened to her to make her an alcoholic bitch (who we love). By the end of the second episode, we haven’t even seen Kilgrave completely, only flashes of him. And what she did in her past is only hinted at, leaving us wanting to know more, more, more. There’s so much more mystery and suspense on Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Marvel’s Daredevil becomes not so much about the characters, as the corporate bigwigs and their cronies and their machinations. Again, yawn. And while I’m at it, Mr. Robot did a way better job of making companies the bad guys. Take a page.
The Man Behind the Mask
Another reason I’m loving MJJ more than MDD is the main character is more interesting. In two episodes I saw many more shades of Jessica’s character than I saw in several episodes watching Matt Murdock. You can see, in every exchange she has with every character, that there’s a lot left unsaid. On Marvel’s Daredevil, he’s so tough, so imperturbable, he’s one-note. It’s all glib all the time. And, other than his childhood and his boxer/loser father, we know almost nothing about him. What are his soft spots? How does he feel about his best friend and his secretary? What keeps him awake at night? Perhaps it’s the Zorro-like mask that hides his features that keeps us from seeing what’s going on with him, but I’m not drawn into his story nearly as much as Jessica’s.
It Ain’t All Bad
Having said all that, Marvel’s Daredevil is still better than a majority of garbage on TV. It’s just too slow and too shallow, when compared to its sister series. As for fight scenes, they’re pretty fantastic, especially the ten-minute one-shot of an exhausted Murdock taking on a team of men, knocking them down over and over, until no one is standing. Now, if only they’d turn on the lights.