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Jessica Jones – AKA 99 Friends (Review)

Jessica Jones has always been more interested in the style and aesthetic of noir than in its storytelling.

The show’s visual aesthetic and stylistic sensibilities hark to noir. Jessica Jones is a cynical hard-drinking private investigator, who routinely works cases involving cheating spouses. She narrates her harsh reflections of life as she studies the world through the lens of a camera. Meanwhile, sad saxophones play in the background of lonely establishing shots of New York as the city that never sleeps, while our hero works alone late into the night seemingly accomplishing nothing. That is to say nothing of the actual opening sequence, with its impressionistic flair.

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While Jessica Jones borrows a lot of the stock archetypes and set-ups associated with noir, its storytelling is more of a hybrid between conventional superhero drama and feminist psychological thriller. The problem is that Jessica Jones never actually feels comfortable with its main character’s profession. Despite the fact that Jessica Jones is a licensed private detective, the eponymous character spends precious little time actually detecting stuff. Jessica’s investigations are generally in pursuit of Kilgrave, with her profession treated as a background detail.

AKA 99 Friends demonstrates how uncomfortable Jessica Jones is with this aspect of its title character. Over the course of the show’s thirteen-episode run, AKA 99 Friends is the closest that the show comes to offering a straightforward “case of the week” episode. Unfortunately, it is pretty terrible.

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Jessica Jones – AKA Crush Syndrome (Review)

The biggest problems with the first season of Jessica Jones are structural in nature.

Writing a season of television is tough. It is particularly tough when the season is heavily serialised, requiring the production team to break the story down into a distinct number of easily digestible chunks. It is especially tough when the season is going to be released all at once for public consumption, allowing the audience to watch as many episodes as they want as frequently as they want. Is a thirteen-episode drama released all at once effectively just a twelve-hour movie with conveniently timed bathroom breaks? Or is it the same as any other drama?

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Jessica Jones struggles with this. It begins struggling with it quite early and continues struggling with it until the final couple of episodes. There is a sense that the production team are not entirely sure what the ideal mode of consumption is for Jessica Jones. Is the show supposed to gulped down in three or four marathon sessions, or is it meant to be savoured over a longer period of time? Do the episodes need to stand on their own or should they flow together? Do the team have to worry about repeating certain story beats (“capture and escape”) too close together?

Jessica Jones never quite answers this. The show has a strong enough cast of actors playing an interesting enough selection of characters that it is easy enough to forgive these problems. The world feels well-formed and the immediate story beats are generally interesting enough that the show never drags or feels repetitive. However, it does occasionally wander down certain storytelling dead ends. AKA Crush Syndrome and AKA It’s Called Whiskey take the show down its first such narrative cul de sac.

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The X-Files – Badlaa (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Badlaa is a disturbing and unsettling piece of television.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about it might be the fact that this is the last truly memorable monster of the week.

"Well, this sure beats the way I got in."

“Well, this sure beats the way I got in.”

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Harsh Realm – Kein Ausgang (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

So, what does an average episode of Harsh Realm look like?

After all, the show was cancelled after only three episodes had been broadcast. Those three episodes were all written by the creator, and formed something of a loose introduction to the show. Inga Fossa ended with our protagonist finally accepting his place in the virtual world and his mission to defeat General Omar Santiago before the dictator can destroy the real world. There is a sense that the show had yet to even demonstrate what a regular episode of Harsh Realm might look like. It was over before it had even begun.

Jumping into action...

Jumping into action…

Kein Ausgang is the first episode of Harsh Realm to be written by somebody other than Chris Carter. As such, it is an important milestone in the development of the series. It is also the first of two episodes written by Steven Maeda, who would prove to be a pretty reliable set of hands in the life of the young show. Based on his contributions to Harsh Realm, it is easy to see why Carter drafted Maeda over to The X-Files in the wake of Harsh Realm‘s cancellation, even if his contributions to that show were a little more uneven.

Kein Ausgang offers an interesting glimpse of what Harsh Realm might have looked like going forward, if Fox had waited more than three episodes to cancel the show.

Shining a light on it...

Shining a light on it…

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