Tag Archives: Jessica Jones

Marvel vs DC: The Episodes

Punisher Daredevil Elektra

“I’m not here to threaten you, I’m here to kill you.”

Over the last couple of days, the world (and the heads of quite a few fanboys) have exploded with this Batman v Superman lark. As everyone tries to shout their theory about who would win and why, I want to bring up a slightly quieter little fight that’s been going on in our homes; less a one-on-one versus match, and more a battle royal for the ages. I’m talking, of course, about the DC and Marvel television universes.

Kicking off some 15 years ago, Warner Brothers fired the first shots when it brought probably the most successful comic book to TV adaptation to date to the small screen. Smallville was the story of young Clark Kent growing up in a little town in Kansas trying to – literally – find his place in the world. We spent ten years with young master Kent from high school to his time at the Daily Planet. Even as the ratings started to drop, it was much more successful for Warner than that bloody awful Superman Returns was.

With the rise of Smallville, everyone wanted a piece of the pie and it meant we, the viewing public, were subjected to some of the most awful cash-in TV that we’ve ever had to suffer with. Do we remember the terrible Gotham City set Birds of Prey? Or the ghastly Human Target? Warner and DC seemed to be happy to hope that some of the shit they threw at the wall would stick.

It didn’t. But they weren’t alone; Marvel tried to bring a film property they’d just screwed royally back to TV and make a few quid. Oh Blade, how I tried to love you. But you were so, so bad. Sticky Fingaz – yes, that’s his name – is an okay actor, he was great in The Shield, but as the vampire hunting day walker, man he was bad.

Fast forward a few years and we have found ourselves in an amazing little time in television. Hiding behind the super-high budget HBO style TV that gets accolade after accolade, is a slew of cool TV based on comic book properties both famous and not-so famous and what I’m going to do is put them head-to-head, Dawn of Justice style. Ok, I’m going to put some of them head-to-head – mainly because I’ve not watched iZombie and can’t really see myself doing so anytime soon.


Gotham (DC – 2014) vs. Powers (Marvel – 2015)

Let’s kick things off with the two shows that, while they are based on DC and Marvel properties, don’t really have much in the way of backing from those companies. Produced by Fox and Sony respectively, with the latter being available exclusively to American PlayStation Network customers, these are the two biggest risks, in my opinion, to their production companies.

Bat-baby vs a weird anti-Heroes/Alien Nation thing that never did quite get off the ground for me. Gotham‘s focus on a young Detective Gordon as the scum of the Batman comics rise from the dirt and make themselves known is brilliantly compelling TV that still keeps me glued week in, week out. Powers, on the other hand, was a flat attempt at getting a foot in the door of an already saturated film and television market. I could only bring myself to waste a couple of hours of my life with it before I had to give up.

Winner: Gotham


Supergirl (DC – 2015) vs. Jessica Jones (Marvel – 2015)

Yes, I’m pitching the girls against each other. No, it’s not out of any kind of agenda outside of I couldn’t decide who to put up against who. Anyways…

Supergirl is probably the closest we’ve gotten to having the success that Smallville saw replicated and forced upon us. The story of Superman’s long lost cousin, Kara Zor-El, a girl sent to protect a young Kal-El who, after a twist of fate arrives on Earth long after he has become the Man of Steel is a sadly boring one. We tried, we honestly did. We broke our “three episodes and out” rule trying to find good TV but the show came up short. I couldn’t care less about the characters on screen, the story they are telling or anything else to do with that show, frankly.

On the other hand, Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the dark and twisted tale of a woman struggling to get out of an abusive relationship with a person who uses their powers for nothing but evil. Essentially an investigative journalism drama with super strength and some pretty hilarious sex scenes. Jones divided audiences when she hit Netflix last year, but she’s definitely the stronger of the two here.

Winner : Jessica Jones


Legends of Tomorrow (DC – 2016) vs. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (Marvel – 2013)

DC’s ensemble spin-off, rolling in a few characters from its big sister shows (and a really crap Iron Man wannabe) isn’t really far enough in to make a judgement yet, but the episodes I watched have just been uninspired dross, playing off of the success of the shows that spawned it and not really living up to them, yet. I admit, I will probably let it go on a little longer before I give up, but it definitely needs to up its game.

Marvel’s offering isn’t doing itself any favours either. Basically doing the same thing as Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a massive ensemble piece loading in all those lesser known superheroes from the Marvel universe into a little sardine tin of X-Files style monster of the week episodes and Cinematic Universe Easter eggs. I gave up on this before the first season was done.

Winner: Neither of them. They’re both as pants as each other.


The Flash (DC – 2014) vs. Agent Carter (Marvel – 2015)

DC’s ultimate marathon runner didn’t grab me at first. I thought the show was a bit too Saturday morning cartoon-ish and honestly, I only continued to watch it because it shared a universe with Arrow. I’ll give The Flash its due, it’s a fun little show and it’s decent TV. But seasons seem to sag in the middle with writers seemingly not able to keep the pace up with 22 episode seasons. I don’t hate it, I just wish it was more engaging, more of the time.

Peggy Carter, on the other hand, and her fun little slice of World War II espionage drama, aside from keeping seasons to a brisk 8 and 10 episodes, never failed to be interesting. The story of her double life of secretary by day and investigator by night is woefully underrated. While a third season seems unlikely, the show’s first two seasons are well worth your time.

Winner: Agent Carter – and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with me loving Hayley Atwell a little bit.


Arrow (DC – 2012) vs. Daredevil (Marvel – 2015)

Here we are ladies and gentlemen. The main event of the evening.

I knew absolutely nothing about The Green Arrow when this series first started, but seeing as it was the first of these shows I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it, for a year and a half! I gave up not far into season two and had to be convinced to try it again and stick it out because it improves (and plays as a soft-pilot for The Flash) and so I did. And I loved it. One of the few shows that we watch every week religiously and getting towards the end of season four, it’s still decent. Dodgy mate wearing cheap knock-off Judge Dredd helmet aside.

Now, Daredevil, man. Didn’t we all think this would be dog shit? Yeah, we did. Netflix’s first attempt at getting into Marvel’s universe was dark, brooding, violent; everything the MCU isn’t. And we loved it. With one of the greatest and most terrifying bad guys ever put to screen in Wilson Fisk in season one, Daredevil instantly solidified itself as one of the best TV shows to date, and may that stay true for years to come.

Winner: A solid draw. Both are great TV shows.


Preacher (DC – 2016) vs. Luke Cage (Marvel -2016)

Battle of the upcoming shows? Preacher is the dark and violent DC comic book that AMC are producing. Due in a couple of months, DC seem to be trying their hand at the dark and twisted stuff, while giving it to the Breaking Bad producing AMC to show distance if it fails. I’m certainly intrigued and going in open minded. We can but hope.

Luke Cage, on the other hand, the super strong and indestructible bar owner first introduced in last year’s Jessica Jones looks like it might be the most “fun” of all the Netflix adaptations. Roll on September, this is gonna be a hell of a fight.

Winner: Only time will tell.


Honourable Mentions:

No list like this would be complete without a few “also rans” that either didn’t fit, didn’t make the cut or no-one has heard of. DC’s spin-off of a spin-off Lucifer doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. Which is a crying shame, it’s great television, with a Constantine type feel to it, I fear it’ll suffer the same fate as the Hellblazer adaptation.

The Marvel side of things only has one thing worth mentioning, as far as I am concerned. The rumoured Netflix show that’ll give Daredevil season two’s Frank Castle the spotlight he deserves. Another Punisher movie would certainly be welcome, but the Punisher by Netflix? That would be all my dreams come true.

Overall winner:

Us. The TV watching audience. Because for the most part, this is some damn good television. Competition breeds excellence. Long may it continue.

The Rise of Netflix

orange is the new black

Ahead of this week’s Netflix Original special edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, Owen Hughes guides us through why exactly Netflix is becoming such a dominant force.

In 1997, I don’t think I even had a computer at home. I, like most people back then, rented films that I wanted to watch from Blockbuster or another local video store. Nostalgia alert: At about 11 years old, my mates and I would ride our bikes the 15 minutes down the road to the big Tesco superstore and rent VHS tapes of (usually) WWF main events from the Blockbuster outside. Old Wrestlemania’s, Royal Rumble’s, Summerslam’s etc, that sort of thing. If we could sneak in a Predator or a Terminator amongst the collection, we would. But they were rarities.

In 1997, a company in the US called Netflix probably quite cannily recognised that not everyone had a Blockbuster within a quarter-of-an-hour bike ride from their home, so instead decided to set up a Blockbuster-by-post type affair. Taking advantage of the new Digital Versatile Disc, much lighter and smaller than a VHS tape, you could rent a movie from them and the shiny new DVD would land the other side of your letterbox within days. Similar to LOVEFilM here in the UK.

Much earlier than pretty much any of its competitors, it expanded to launch a streaming service two years later in 1999. I don’t know about whatever internet connection you had back then, but we had a 56k modem in 1999. It would not have taken too kindly to streaming a 90 minute movie.

After years of operating under this model, expanding its streaming service into other regions around the world (including the UK) they basically took a step back and realised that rather than keep paying a license to other studios for their productions, they actually owned the means and the platform to create their own content. Financially, it was pretty savvy. Now that they had a reputation, people would soon start joining Netflix for their shows, and not other people’s. Their brand was to become renowned.

Looking at it purely from an advertising or marketing perspective; Netflix knew exactly who was watching what content, when they were watching it and where. To paraphrase Nick Bailey, the chief executive and executive creative director of Isobar UK, who gave a talk at the University I’m studying at last week, Netflix knew which dramas that their audience viewed most. Thus, taking a model already in place from an older British show – chiefly the story and setting – they created House of Cards, just over 3 years ago, in February 2013 because apparently their audience liked political dramas and Kevin Spacey.

What was immediately different about House of Cards from Network shows, was that Netflix made all of the episodes available in one go, advert free. Can you imagine just how mind-blowing that must’ve been, particularly for Americans, who don’t have the BBC the way that we do? Just a brand new show that you haven’t got to sit through 15 minutes worth of adverts to enjoy? This wasn’t a box-set released 12 months after airing. It was there, all of it, for you to watch as much of whenever you liked. Current subscribers didn’t even need to pay extra to watch this original content. All you needed was an account and an internet connection.

One of the other innovations that has let Netflix flourish so spectacularly is how they have embraced technological advances. Even moving from tapes to DVDs because they were cheaper to post was pretty innovative. Amazon are arguably their main competitor for streaming content on a subscription basis, particularly over here in the UK, yet they lagged behind quite tremendously when it came to streaming on mobile devices, tablets, TVs, computer consoles etc. Amazon previously used their streaming service to drive sales of their Kindle devices, making it exclusive content. Whereas Netflix were at the forefront of this revolution, setting the market-standard that audiences have come to expect from any provider they now use.

Whether reviving shows from the cold, dark, lonely pit of TV hell, such as Arrested Development, The Killing or Trailer Park Boys, or creating brand new stuff like Sense8, Narcos or Master of None, or even collaborating with other studios for shows such as Lilyhammer, or Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, they just seem to be unstoppable at the moment. Free from the same level of restrictions from sponsors, prime-time slots or watersheds, they have been able to create whatever shows they think their audience want.

The Netflix of today are a far cry from the “bargain bin” label they were tarnished with when they first arrived this side of the Atlantic. Hundreds of films, hardly any of which you would want to spend 90 minutes of your life on, was not that alluring. Securing deals to distribute shows in the UK like Breaking Bad is where they mainly earned their crust.

In fact, the most fun you could have had with Netflix back in 2012 was flicking through their endless catalogue of crap looking for the one gem hidden within – but by the point that you found it, you’d be too tired and bored to even bother watching it, as Kate explained a few years back.

Compare that to now… ok, the selection is certainly not always overwhelmingly positive! But comparably they have upped their game on all fronts from what they used to be. Producing their own documentaries, stand-up shows, on top of their Netflix Original TV shows; and now creating movies – award-winning movies, no less, in the case of Beasts of No Nation – it’s no wonder that studios like NBC are getting extremely defensive, trying to exert pressure on them.

It’s not that NBC are entirely wrong. Netflix does not hand out viewing figures, subscription numbers or other statistics (such as how long people spend trawling through their site before giving up entirely) willy-nilly. You can’t even find the overall star-rating for a film on Netflix that isn’t in some way tailored to match your expectations based on whatever algorithm they use; and that’s no surprise. They are under no obligation to share this with anybody. After all, this data mining is exactly why Netflix are getting things so right. This is their audience who they are creating content for. You can understand why they would be apprehensive about publicly sharing this information with the competition.

But the fact that traditional television networks are frightened by the competition that streaming provides just shows how big and influential Netflix are becoming.

They may make blunders occasionally, like Adam Sandler’s unfathomable four-picture deal – critically speaking, I mean, I’d consider it a blunder. The Ridiculous 6 was dire and quite deservingly panned by critics, yet it still became an instant hit and the most watched film across all regions somehow straight after release.

The only way that Netflix could lose grace with their fans would be to, say, I don’t know…? Allow them to see the catalogue of movies and shows available on much larger regions such as Canada and the US, and then to step up their attempts to block people from other regions gaining access to said content. That would just be foolish, right? Regardless of the quality of the product they’re putting out in the UK, for example, no matter how much better it is now than it was four years ago, it would be crazy to start telling people to pay the same amount of money for their subscription when clearly other countries have it better? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but when you’ve already spent the afternoon barbecuing at your neighbour’s garden picnic and come back home to your regular brown, patchy, dried-out lawn…

It remains to be seen how the long-term future of Netflix will pan out. However, already this year, the engrossing true-crime story, Making a Murderer, has become a huge phenomenon after its Christmas holiday release induced binge-watching hysteria around the world. Judd Apatow’s series, LOVE, has been an immediate success amongst fans and critics alike. With a new series of Daredevil imminent, plus more movies like the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel starring Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh, as well as the fourth season of their most watched drama (formerly comedy), the multiple award-winning series Orange Is The New Black – not to mention the dozens of other original content on its way in 2016 – it certainly seems as though there’s a lot to look forward to for the customers who stick around once their DNS-changing service of choice is finally shut down.

Owen will be talking about his favourite Netflix Originals with Steve Norman, Phil Sharman and Chris Haigh on the podcast due out later this week.

Jessica Jones – Season One

marvel-jessica-jones-krysten-ritter

“Maybe it’s enough that the world thinks I’m a hero.”

Netflix have quickly become the kings of event TV. The marketing genius behind throwing all episodes of their latest show up at 8am on release day for us to binge over a couple of days is just amazing. It gives us, the audience, the opportunity to watch the shows at our own pace. It gives the creators a chance to stretch their muscles when they aren’t relying on artificially hyping up week-by-week viewings with cliffhangers and – most importantly for me – it means I can watch and review these shows as the 13 hour movies they are created as.

Jessica Jones is the second of three original series’ in conjunction with Marvel and ABC studios after the surprise hit that was Daredevil. It stays within that same universe, but plays it a little differently than our new favourite blind superhero.

But, the same as everything in the combined Marvel and DC universes, I get to go in as the anti-comic book nerd. I know next to nothing about these worlds unless a film or something has mentioned them first. My comic book/graphic novel history begins and ends with The Mask, one volume of Hellblazer and a volume one compilation of Fables. While I may not always be the target audience for these, I admire the commitment of the production companies involved in keeping me, a non-believer, in their thoughts when they make them.

Meeting Jones (Krysten Ritter) as a New York private eye, we are instantly given a showing of her powers; an insane strength, as she overpowers a client that refuses to believe what she’s dug up about God knows who and tries to take it out on our new hero. That, as she tells us, rarely goes well for them as the client’s head appears through a pane glass window. Little is revealed about the mysterious woman outside of the stereotypes she brings to the table; loner, alcoholic, you name it. Fitting more with an old pulpy noir novel than the bright lights of New York, Jessica Jones clearly spends her life in the wrong place and the wrong time.

A woman who seems to be nothing short of a walking cliché, Jessica is damaged; terrorised by haunting visions of her past and fearful of her future. Still running from a lifetime’s worth of abuse, Jones must break free from a man whose control over her is more than just theoretical. It’s very real and extremely dangerous.

This man, Kilgrave, a monster in more ways than one, has the power to manipulate people and bend them to his will. His “gift” leaves a lasting impression on his victims, affecting them long after he has seemingly left them be. Thinking she has been free of Kilgrave for long enough to finally move on, Jessica feels his presence returning to New York and starts to see his influences all across her city. Enlisting help from her best friend, Trish (Rachael Taylor – of See No Evil fame) a radio personality who seems to have the magical ability to talk sense into Jones when no one else can; and Luke Cage (Mike Coulter – an almost full-time TV actor who is a regular voice actor for the Halo series) an indestructible bar owner who’s only connection to Jessica is also being gifted; the private eye must take the evil mentalist head-on in a game of wits that puts the lives of dozens of people on the line. Success will mean freedom for the tortured superhero. But failure will mean an eternity of suffering for her, and those close to her.

The underlying premise for Jessica Jones is a simple one; a woman who has spent years in an abusive relationship must find the strength within herself to escape her abuser. The draw to go back to a bad relationship and try again, believing an abuser can be changed or they really aren’t that bad is one that many abused people find themselves repeating time and time again with a form of Stockholm syndrome that makes them believe they need to stay and this is an amazingly strong theme across Jessica Jones‘ 13 episodes, followed closely by the belief that what is happening is their fault and to watch Jones fight her way through her own personal hell is to root for every mentally and physically beaten woman that can relate to her situation.

As with everything that comes out of the Netflix TV studios, Jessica Jones has the quality and style to keep almost everyone entertained and invested for not just the first season, but for the entire run of the show. It’s why I’ll be going back to House of Cards in March even though the previous season didn’t quite hit expectations. Jessica Jones‘ first season lets us spend a little over ten hours with this tortured soul and while it doesn’t necessarily hit the highs that Daredevil did earlier in the year, it’s certainly well worthy of your time.

In the titular role, Krysten Ritter is amazing. Having only ever seen her in Breaking Bad before now, I wasn’t too familiar with her and as such I was quite open minded going in and had no expectations. Sadly, I can’t say the same for David Tennant. A man I only really know from Dr. Who, a show I loathe and despise. Everything I’ve seen him in since (maybe excluding the Fright Night remake) has just irked me, so I went in ready to have him be the worst bit of a show I was quite excited about. But no, he steals every scene from his co-stars and his portrayal of Kilgrave comes with a terrifying air and a maniacal look in every frame. Every scene has a flash of purple – a nod to his “Purple Man” moniker from the source comic books – that feels like a nice, sometimes not too subtle, alternative to having a really sinister soundtrack play with every scene he arrives in. And once you spot it, the influence bleeds into scenes Kilgrave isn’t even in, but his presence is most definitely a part of; a beautiful little bit of direction that sits as an example of how and why Netflix as a production company are becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

But Jessica Jones isn’t perfect. And when its holes appear, they seem to be much more obvious because of the quality of show that they are making look bad. For example, the show works very hard to remind you that it’s part of the Avengers universe, to quite a jarring level. We know it’s set in a post-alien invasion New York – and for those that don’t, a quick mention of it will be fine to set the scene for us all. Mentioning it more than once felt unnecessary and as if the show is treating us like morons who may have forgotten after a couple of hours.

Directors and editors do a fantastic job of making Jones’s gifts seem realistic. I suspect this is to save spending a fortune on effects that will date the show and ruin the tone they are going for. “Flying” looks awkward and uncomfortable because it would be, wouldn’t it? Jessica’s feats of strength don’t look unrealistic because to keep herself inconspicuous, she has to limit herself and as such, she isn’t lobbing sweaty fat guys into the sun and just using what she needs to get the job done – dishonourable mention to one awful effect that is so bad, and so jarring, that the fact it happened in the last episode almost ruined my whole experience – but for the most part, everything looks and feels great.

But overall, Jessica Jones is an excellent show. The only thing that stops it being up there with Daredevil, in my opinion, is the simple fact that miss Jones didn’t have an awful, awful film overshadowing it before the show premiered that it managed to blow away in the first 15 minutes. Daredevil has the beautiful, visceral combat that I covet so much. But Jessica Jones is a gorgeously dark noir thriller that, just because I say isn’t as good as its predecessor, doesn’t mean for a second that you shouldn’t be watching it.

These Netflix/Marvel productions are putting a premium on quality and characterisation and as such, have become a name that can easily be mentioned in the same conversation as HBO, FX and Showtime.