There are some pretty massive Jessica Jones spoilers here, so be sure to binge before reading.
If Marvel wanted to prove that it can do more than pump out an endless supply of cookie-cutter superhero movies, it's certainly done it with Jessica Jones. The second entry in the company's slate of Netflix dramas is a tight, haunting noir filled with frank sexuality and questionable morality—precisely what you won't see from the House of Ideas on the big screen.
Here, superpowers are pushed to the background in favor of engrossing characters locked in a dark, seedy world where hope is just a rumor and salvation lies at the feet of a hard-drinking, cynical private investigator with PTSD and a chip on her shoulder the size of The Thing's pinky finger.
However, despite the absence of magical hammers and star-spangled shields, Jessica Jones is still a Marvel property, and as such, it has a whole universe with 70-plus years of history to play in. As Jones plays out as a self-contained noir, it also seamlessly ties in with Marvel's other Netflix shows and the rich comic book history that the company is known for.
Whether or not any of these references pay off down the line is anyone's guess for right now, but here's how Jessica Jones ties into the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Hero For Hire
If you've ever read the Alias comic—which Jessica Jones is based on—you knew that the broad-shouldered, thick-skinned Luke Cage would have to be involved in the show in some way. In the comic book universe, Cage and Jones are married with a daughter and seem to have one of the few stable relationships in the Marvel U, so there's no way the show could survive without a "Sweet Christmas" or two.
With his own Netflix series on the horizon, it only made sense to establish his character here, then expand upon him during his solo series, which will fill in the gaps in Cage's crime-fighting career.
In Jessica Jones, Cage is shown as the owner of a bar in Hell's Kitchen and something of a neighborhood folk hero. But don't worry, he doesn't spend the entire series pouring pints for Hell's Kitchen's yuppies; his powers are on full display during the show ... as is his healthy libido.
Hellcat In Waiting
One of Jones' few friends in the series is local radio show host and all-around American girl Trish "Patsy" Walker. Though she seems like just a trusted member of the supporting cast at first glimpse, Walker actually has a long and surprisingly dense comic book career.
She began life in the '40s in the teen humor book Miss America Magazine, which was a title put out by Marvel when it was still known as Timely Comics. She was part of a roster of teen icons at the time that included Millie the Model and Kid Colt.
Before the rebirth of superhero comics in the '60s, these books were Timely's lifeblood and helped the company survive after the Comics Code Authority nearly destroyed the business. Walker was one of the rare Timely-era characters to actually survive the Marvel revolution of the '60s when she re-emerged in 1976 as the feline femme fatale, Hellcat.
Portrayed by Rachel Taylor in Jessica Jones, Walker's radio show host gig may be new, but her fighting skills aren't. Beneath that chipper talk show facade is a woman who can dislocate a kneecap just as quickly as she can charm an audience.
Another aspect of Walker worth keeping an eye on is her connection to the mystical world, something that Netflix's eventual Iron Fist show is no doubt going to tap into.
The Night Nurse Returns
One of the familiar faces to link Daredevil and Jessica Jones is Rosario Dawson's character, Claire Temple, aka the Night Nurse. This mender of superhuman wounds could act as the through line for all of the Netflix series, as she's also seen forging a friendship with Luke Cage as the story unfolds.
Could a simple, human character like the Night Nurse be the one who ties this whole Defenders thing together? Well, with the emphasis on humanity that Netflix is placing on these series, it only makes sense.
Resident juice connoisseur, and most likely former captain of his high school football team, Officer Will Simpson is just one of the many villains on the show, but while he seems like nothing more than Kilgrave's muscle/Trish's bootycall, he also has an important comic book history.
In Frank Miller's seminal Daredevil storyline, "Born Again," Simpson goes by the alias Nuke—a chemically enhanced mercenary hired by Kingpin to take down the Man Without Fear. Armed with a robust arsenal and signature pills (his reds and blues) that make him an unstoppable killing machine, Nuke and Daredevil nearly destroy Hell's Kitchen during their battle.
A much more toned-down Simpson appears in the series, where he's a mere shell of the destructive force of his comic book counterpart (he and Jones only manage to destroy a kitchen, after all). Though he's beaten by Jones, we last see ol' Nuke as he's being taken away by some shadowy operatives.
And what's IGH, by the way?
Oh, by the way, there's a second season of Daredevil coming out in 2016. And there are always rumors that it'll be based on "Born Again." Take from that what you will…
Her Boss Is Iron Fist's Attorney
Her gender may have been swapped for the show, but Carrie-Anne Moss' character Jeri Hogarth has a long Marvel history—one that could tie in with Iron Fist (whenever it finally decides to air). In the Marvel Universe, Jeryn Hogarth is Danny Rand's (aka Iron Fist) attorney. He's also the executive of the Rand family estate as Danny is overseas learning all of the mystical mumbo jumbo that turns him into a superhero.
Hogarth isn't just a throwaway Easter egg for comic fans, though. For any Iron Fist show to capture the spirit of the mythology, she'll be a necessary part of the story. And since Hogarth also worked for Luke Cage and Iron Fist's Heroes for Hire business, it's also a possibility that she'll play a role in next year's Luke Cage.
Though Jessica Jones will likely be the most grounded of all Marvel's Netflix shows, it's possible that it's the most important bridge to get all of these properties lined up for The Defenders.