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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 August 2018

Female super empowerment: Jessica Jones is back

The series returns with its heroine forced to question who she really is

American actress Krysten Ritter plays Jessica Jones.
American actress Krysten Ritter plays Jessica Jones.

Not since November 2015 have we been able to lay eyes on a fresh episode of Marvel’s Jessica Jones – but now all the anticipation to see the flawed heroine is about to be paid off – with 26 helpings of binge-worthy classic noir, nicely drizzled with psychological and criminal intrigue.

It’s no coincidence that Netflix has chosen this Thursday – International Women’s Day 2018 – to bring back its vulnerable, emotionally torn and super-powered killer, impressively realised by the American actress Krysten Ritter in both Jessica Jones and its multi-hero spin-off, The Defenders.

With so many superhero films and TV shows unduly dismissed as fluffy and inconsequential popcorn fare, the first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones upended all expectations to win the prestigious American Peabody Award – as storytelling that expands our horizons.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a story that matters,” according to the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors, who praised Marvel and Netflix for deploying a popular genre to ask unpopular questions about power and consent.

“Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg took a subplot from the original comic series about Kilgrave, a character who uses his mental abilities to bend others to his will, and turns it into a season-long exploration of how a powerful woman can reclaim her life and stand up against her abuser,” the jurors said.

Kilgrave, portrayed by Scottish actor (and 10th Doctor Who) David Tenant, was at once charming and terrifying – a man who did evil things but did not see himself as evil.

Jessica is a former superhero who opens her own detective agency. Back for her second series, in the gritty Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhoods of New York City, this Jessica is forced to question who she really is, how she came by her powers and whether she will survive an immediate and deadly threat.

“Her present is about to slam into her past as the show continues to venture into some cool, sexy, dark and morally questionable places,” says Rosenberg.

“We get to the end of season one and Jessica is forced to kill someone. Even though that person is her tormenter and attacker Kilgrave, she is still taking a life, so it’s this very dark victory.

“On one hand, she’s gotten rid of a bad guy, but on the other hand she’s become what he wanted her to become – so she’s very deep in doubt about who she is.”

Delighted with how deeply audiences have embraced her character, Ritter credits the show’s success to the fact they’ve never seen anyone quite like Jessica on television screens before.

“She kind of represents everything,” she says. “She is male and female. She is strong. She is vulnerable. She is angry. She cries. She is gooey on the inside and hard on the outside. I think that people found her to be pretty refreshing. I know that I did when I read the first scripts years ago.

“I think the success of season one just proves that there was a real appetite for that and it’s really exciting for me to be a part of it.”

The returning cast includes: Rachael Taylor (666 Park Avenue) as her adoptive sister and best friend Trish; Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy) as her fiercely powerful attorney and ally Jeri Hogarth; and Eka Darville (Empire) as her junkie neighbour Malcolm.

Another actor expected to make a substantial impact on Jessica’s emotional journey this season is J R Ramirez (Power, Arrow), who joins the cast as Oscar, a single doting father, talented artist and Jessica’s new building superintendent. Jessica will naturally gravitate towards him, says Ritter. “Oscar and his son are a family,” she says. “They’re Cuban and there’s always food and talking and lots of life and family around. It’s picture-perfect and everything that’s the opposite to what Jessica has. There’s a physical attraction between Jessica and Oscar and that leads to a deeper friendship.”

Another new yet accomplished thespian face on board this season is the Academy Award nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs, Damages), the British actress who already has Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk awards on her mantelpiece. The details of her character, however, are being kept under wraps, other than she plays a mysterious woman who holds crucial insights into Jessica’s past and others like her.

“She’s complicated,” says McTeer, 56. “What I loved about her is that there’s nothing obvious about her. Every time you think it’s going to go one way, it goes slightly another way. It feels really creative, fun and unexpected.

“There are a lot of women spearheading this production – and there’s something really empowering about that and all of these characters that Melissa Rosenberg has written.

“They’re fully-rounded, messed up, complicated, tricky and unexpected and that leads to great drama when they’re all interacting. All the actors have been fantastic and it’s been a thrill to be able to work with these wonderful women. As a woman of my generation – to see these young actresses be empowered is great.”

Ritter, 36, says: “Janet is the fiercest actress I’ve ever worked opposite. I couldn’t wait to go to work with her every day and steal all of her tricks.”

The second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available for streaming on Netflix from Thursday

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