'Jessica Jones': A superhero show for adults

Story highlights

  • "Marvel's Jessica Jones" is much darker than your average comic book TV fare
  • The show is available for streaming on Netflix on Friday

(CNN)Jessica Jones isn't your friendly neighborhood superhero, and "Marvel's Jessica Jones" isn't your average comic book-based TV series.

The main character, a private eye who comes equipped with superpowers, is surly, sarcastic and, at times, a "total a**hole," star Krysten Ritter said.
And the milieu? The seedy underbelly of New York, which includes Killgrave ("Doctor Who's" David Tennant), a man who psychologically abused Jessica and dominates countless others through mind control.
    In some respects, the darkness is no surprise. The Netflix series, which releases its 13-episode run Friday, is executive produced by Melissa Rosenberg of the TV show "Dexter," about a serial killer who helps solve crimes.
    Being on Netflix has given "Marvel's Jessica Jones" freedom to go to some dark places, says Rosenberg.
    "The only thing we couldn't do was drop f-bombs, which we wanted to," she said at New York Comic Con in October. "One of the things that's unique about this character is that (Ritter) is not afraid as an actress, and Marvel as a studio, to let her make some stupid-ass decisions, to be wrong, to look ugly as a character.
    "And that defines the show: You can have a character that's actually really f***ed up, but there's something at her core that lets you stay with her."
    Ritter agreed: The show is "pretty edgy."

    Upping the ante

    Comic books have been moving away from PG-rated territory for a while. Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" re-created Batman as a brooding misanthrope, forever banishing the Pop colors of the '60s TV series to memory, and such graphic works as "Watchmen" and "The Sandman" have addressed adult themes in forthright ways.
    But, with a handful of exceptions, movies and TV shows based on comic book characters have been relatively family-friendly, with such cheerful entries as TV's "Supergirl" and "The Flash," and the big screen's "Avengers" and "Ant-Man."
    Netflix's style has not gone unnoticed.
    " 'Marvel's Daredevil' was a large step forward with its street-level storytelling, gritty violence, and heretofore unseen brutality (in the Marvel universe)," Aaron Sagers of Blastr.com said of a previous comic-based show on Netflix. "But 'Jessica Jones' raises the bar even higher and will be regarded as the best thing Marvel has done."
    Sagers was skeptical at first that the show would be able to tackle the subject matter of the comics.
    "I didn't think they'd be able to pull this one off because of how heavy it gets. I am pleased that I was wrong," he said.

    Enter the villain

    Tennant's Killgrave also marks a step away from the bright colors of many other comic book adaptations.
    "He's truly terrifying and represents our worst, most selfish instincts to get whatever we desire, at whatever cost," said Allison Keene of Collider.com.
    The themes of the show also run deeper than expected, Keene said.
    "(It) deals with complex themes of guilt, obsession and grief," she said. "It is also much more of a character study than I was expecting."
    Still, it might not be easy to take. Asked by "Marvel Live!" what fans should eat while binge-watching, Ritter didn't hesitate.
    "Drink, and whiskey," she said.
    If that's not adult, nothing is.