Friday brings the premiere of two of this year's most intriguing new dramas - and neither is on TV. Netflix, home of Marvel's superhero high-wire act Daredevil, presents a new comic-book-inspired fantasy, the dark, serrated-edge private-eye thriller Marvel's Jessica Jones, and Amazon kicks off its ambitious adaptation of sci-fi master Philip K. Dick's dystopian nightmare, The Man in the High Castle.
How should I describe Netflix's sharp-tongued, sharp-witted new heroine, Jessica Jones?
Portrayed with just the right mix of subtlety and impish impropriety by Luzerne County, Pa., native Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Don't Trust the B- in Apartment 23) Jessica is a woman of steel with a penchant for swigging large gulps of Jim Beam.
Think Supergirl as played by Sarah Silverman . . . then add a dash of Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch. As played by Ritter, Jones is clever, very sexy, and she can pulverize you with either her superhuman strength or her sarcasm.
Netflix will post all 13 episodes of Marvel's Jessica Jones at 3:01 a.m. Friday.
Despite her powers, Jessica isn't a superhero. Not anymore. She tried it once and failed miserably, thanks in large part to the silky-voiced nefariousness of her former lover, Kilgrave (Doctor Who alumnus David Tennant), a bad dude who mind-controls people into heinous doing deeds. Now Jessica's just your run-of-the-mill private eye and PTSD sufferer.
Series creator and writer Melissa Rosenberg (The O.C., Dexter) opens the first episode with an ironic nod to the film noir P.I.'s of yore. Jessica offers a low growl of a voiceover straight out of a Philip Marlowe story as she fills her thermos with whiskey and heads out for a stakeout. Her New York apartment is bare as a prison cell. Oh, and she's out of toilet paper.
Jessica's first big case brings her back into Kildare's crosshairs and into a conflict I imagine will sustain the season.
But Jessica's life isn't all about death, destruction, and devilish men. There's romance: She falls for a dishy bar owner played by Mike Colter (Ringer) who has superpowers of his own.
The terrific cast also includes Rachael Taylor as radio talk show host Trish Walker, Jessica's lifelong BFF; and Carrie-Anne Moss as a high-powered criminal lawyer who hires Jessica to handle difficult cases.
With its dark edge, low-key action sequences, and dry humor, Marvel's Jessica Jones is a unique addition to TV's growing Marvel universe.
I did a double take when I heard Amazon planned to adapt Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle. Unlike the stories that inspired Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report, it's not a sci-fi brain teaser. It's not sci-fi at all, but a piece of speculative history, a dark Orwellian thought experiment. It asks us to imagine what life would be like had the Axis Powers won World War Two - definitely an odd premise for a drama produced for a 21st-century audience.
But series creator Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files, Millennium, Harsh Realm) has managed to turn Dick's story into a truly exciting, original espionage thriller. Amazon posts the 10-episode first season on Friday.
Epic in scale, gorgeous, and beautifully acted, The Man in the High Castle is set nearly two decades after Nazi Germany defeats America by dropping an atom bomb on Washington.
The country is divided into three parts. The East and Midwest belong to Germany, and the Pacific states are a Japanese colony. Only the Rockies remain free of occupation.
Alexa Davalos (Defiance, Mob City) stars as a San Francisco native who gets caught up in the machinations of an anti-occupation spy network. She is passed a piece of film and told to deliver it to a small town in the Rockies.
Rupert Evans (Rogue, Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond) plays her Eastern counterpart. A naïve New Yorker who grew up hearing stories about his dad's service during the war, he's recruited by the Resistance to drive a truck to the same town.
Rufus Sewell is deliciously evil as an American-born SS officer on the trail of the Resistance.
Spotnitz creates a rich, detailed world filled with memorable characters and a very clever story line: The film these two young people smuggle across the country tells an alternative version of the war - it shows newsreel footage of the Allies winning!
How could that be? If the film is fictional, why are German and Japanese authorities willing to kill anyone who sees it? Give in to the premise, and The Man in the High Castle will give you chills.
Marvel's Jessica Jones
Netflix will post all 13 episodes on Friday.
The Man in the High Castle