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Marvel's Jessica Jones episode one: first impressions

The first episode of Jessica Jones is very, very good.

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Like its counterpart Daredevil, Jessica Jones begins with a single case. I won't go into the details: You should watch it for yourself when the entire series hits Netflix on Nov. 20. But here's what you should know:

If the rest of the series is anything like the first episode, screened tonight for the rapt audience in New York Comic Con's Main Stage panel room, it will be very, very good.

Writer/showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and director S.J. Clarkson craft a first episode that deftly introduces the audience to the majority of its cast, their lives and their relationships to each other as it throws its titular character headfirst into a very significant case. Fans of Alias, Jessica's comic of origin, will recognize a handful of scenes ripped straight from its pages, and Jessica's characteristic narration gives the whole show that familiar hardboiled noir feel. Moreover, Jessica Jones is full to the brim with women interacting with women: there's Jessica, of course, but also Carrie-Anne Moss as attorney Jeri Hogarth, Rachael Taylor as Jessica's best friend Patricia "Trish" Walker, and Erin Moriarty as Hope.

Of course, one of the problems of hanging a story around a female character with trauma in her past is that it can be difficult to escape the dominant themes of stories about women with trauma. Generally, they feature as people who need to get saved instead of doing the saving. In comics, Jessica Jones existed along a spectrum of female characters from the deeply wounded to the entirely-safe-for-children's-television. It would have been a real shame if the first female superhero to get top billing in a Marvel cinematic project were to have been consumed by her own narrative or metatextual baggage.

And indeed, Jessica panics. She runs, she breaks down crying and she retreats to calming techniques. But not even for one episode does Jessica Jones allow the audience to assume that Krysten Ritter is here to play the victim, the waif or the final girl of this psychological thriller.

No, Jessica used to be a hero, we're told, and although she herself doesn't make the connection, the link is clear. Nobody likes bad news, but you can either deny or do something.

And Jessica Jones is doing something.

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