Jessica Jones has my favorite first season of all Netflix’s Marvel shows. (Granted, I skipped Iron Fist, but a few YouTube clips convinced me I made a wise choice. I don’t care about The Punisher either.) Now I have a cold take on its sophomore season. Therefore I reckon it’ll be less read than my hot take on that misnomered movie about a limited amount of Infinity Stones in a war of finite duration. Let’s spoil its central mystery after the jump.
Half of the first third feels like it was made of deleted scenes. It’s well written yet without much forward propulsion. If you try to marathon it in one day, odds are you’ll zonk out instead of appreciating the character developments. Things kick into gear once the villain is revealed. Shockingly the scenes that seemed pointless actually pay off in the final third.
Krysten Ritter is so good that she makes Jessica Jones compelling even at her least likeable. Unlike how cathartic it was to see Jessica stick it to jerkfaces in season one, it becomes uncomfortable watching her lash out at Malcolm & Trish. No AA for JJ? She’s a violent drunk. “Demon In a Bottle” was deemed too controversial for Iron Man, but Jessica & Valkyrie can be demonstrably alcoholic? With so much focus on Trish & Malcolm backsliding into addiction, it’s so odd only her mom confronts her about her drinking. Everyone just presumes Jessica can just metabolize that volume of liquor fine even though her powers aren’t that impressive. This a fantastic deconstruction of hard drinking noir detectives. Booze doesn’t make you cool; it just helps you alienate friends & family. Your liver doesn’t want you to emulate Jessica!
Jessica really should see a therapist. Her most indomitable superpower is denial! Too bad Ty Burrell is probably too busy & expensive thanks to Modern Family to reprise Doc Samson. There is a scene where she attends one court mandated anger management class, but she acts like her trauma is worse than everybody else’s there.
Jessica was literally resurrected by IGH without dragon bones? She complains a lot about being tortured by their experiments, but it seems like she only vaguely remembers bits of what happened. They needed more show than tell on that. Otherwise it just sounds like she’s ungrateful for them saving her life & giving her superpowers without side effects. IGH didn’t even keep her to study their successful process or conscript her into being a child soldier. It’s either really conscientious or really inept at being a nefarious shadow conspiracy. It did only need to frame one person in a cover up, so at least it’s efficient.
Kilgrave (missing an “l” as well as heliotrope skin) was an exciting threat for an MCU property because he wasn’t an evil doppelganger of the protagonist. Not only is season two’s antagonist a more powerful dark reflection, she’s also a problematic parent as if to make up for the delay. It sounds bad, but it’s miraculously spectacular! How amazing is Janet McTeer? She grounds Alisa Jones’s midlife murder crisis in mundane frustration of the life she could’ve had while maintaining a regal bearing. Give this woman an Emmy! The toxic spell she casts over her estranged daughter subtly evokes that of a fairly tale’s wicked
stepmother, which can only be shattered by true love’s bullet. (It’s underwhelming that for all the hysteria over superhumans, they can be put down without anything special.)
Jessica Jones was originally intended to be Jessica Drew, so it’s apropos this features Dr. Karl Malus since he debuted in Spider-Woman. (Ironically Brian Michael Bendis said he was glad Marvel didn’t accept his original pitch because it’d be bad continuity when Alias is still founded upon retcons like Purple Man not being dead.) He’s more sympathetic than the comics, but he feels squandered since he doesn’t make any freaky monster hybrids before his suicide to pay for his scientific hubris. (Much like Luke Cage, his research actually yielded very positive results & was less unethical than it could’ve been. Why can’t these groundbreaking geniuses receive reputable endowments?) Without his bio-engineering (or at least until The High Evolutionary gets adapted), the MCU’s terrestrial supervillains will remain limited to abusing Stark tech. Agents of SHIELD could always retroactively make him responsible for Griffin, should it ever deign to show him.
Patsy Walker is the cause of & solution to all of this season’s problems! She’s more proactive than than the eponymous anti-heroine. She’s actually The Big Bad of this season if you believe in leaving well enough alone. To give her despondent step-sister closure, she starts kicking the IGH hornet’s nest on Trish Talk. This sets Alisa on her murder spree (even though she’s supposed to be restrained & sedated each night). Her attempts to become superpowered results in her hospitalized, Dr. Malus exploded, & Alisa busting out of prison. To recompense, she kills Alisa with a fantastically aimed headshot when it’s clear Jessica can’t untangle herself from her mom. How’d she beat the cops that had a head-start to Playland? More importantly, Patsy is now just one costume stolen from Tigra away from being Hellcat!
Jeri Hogarth is still not likable. She spent the first season trying to screw over her wife in a divorce so she could marry her secretary then inexplicably threw her new fiance under the bus when she saved her life from that mind-controlled spouse. So I really don’t care about her health crisis. When did Inez find time to coordinate that healing scam upon her? Revealing that one of her law practice partners is involved in money laundering for human trafficking doesn’t make Jeri more endearing. She doesn’t even turn her partner in to the authorities; she just blackmails her firm into dictating the terms of her severance.
Nuke (still no American flag tattooed on his face) gets killed off early, so he won’t cross over into Daredevil season three’s adaptation of “Born Again” or join the street level Netflix equivalent of The Offenders. Meanwhile The Whizzer has a pet mongoose named Emil! Not only does he not look like the typical speedster, his yellow hoodie pops against the drab settings. Investigating superhumans was the premise of Alias, so it’s a bummer he dies at the end of the premiere. It initially looks like he’s killed by someone with a form of telekinesis, so it’s underwhelming to learn Alisa just used her strength to knock scaffolding onto him. How was she able to get in position when he has superspeed? Why didn’t anyone notice a woman single-handedly tearing down scaffolding?
For a superhero show, there’s frustratingly little action. Jessica may be freakishly strong, but it looks like a sideshow trick in comparison to the wider MCU. Since she’s been stripped of flight & durability (she has a healing factor instead), they really ought to have amped up her strength levels. Even regular guys are able to put up a fight against her? Alisa cracks open an aquarium tank with her fist in an episode cliffhanger. This is a great set-up for a unique action scene! The next episode starts with Jessica running out of the aquarium doors instead of showing us how she dealt with the calamity inside. The most exciting shot is of a guy being torn apart … filmed from outside the van he’s in. The least banal episode is the one where Jessica is bedeviled by visions of Kilgrave. While the drama works, it really could’ve used a big set piece pay off. The series would still function as a private eye reconnecting with her serial killer mom devoid of sci-fi elements, but why not capitalize on them too? Patsy’s “I Want Your Cray Cray” music video is its most out of the box sequence.
There are neat pulpy covers commissioned for each episode. Just like how each installment was written & directed by women, all of these were made by female artists. Unfortunately they’re not attached as title cards to those episodes. A few David Mack paintings do make appearances within though.
Despite seeming less wholesome, this addresses many issues raised by Supergirl much better! Jessica actually has guilt over the murders she’s culpable for, unlike the hypocritical Maid of Might. She’s a vigilante that actually has a nuanced emotional response to murder. Jessica is powerful enough to join the Avengers, but she’s not pressured to go into superheroics against her temperament like Supergirl did to Mon-El. (Although she may be less self-destructive if she had a superhero team supporting her like the comics.) Unlike James Olsen, Trish realizes she’d die pretty quickly as a vigilante without superpowers. Like Alex Danvers once was, she’s jealous of her stepsister’s abilities.
The second season of Jessica Jones is much better than Daredevil’s. It’s not as quick-paced or action-packed as The Defenders, but its story is more engrossing. Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg helmed another solid noir character study. Even the aspects I didn’t love are more akin to idiosyncrasies than outright flaws. I just wish it was more visually dynamic. I am excited for Jessica to come face to face with a full-on Hellcat in season three! Hopefully Luke Cage season the second won’t disappoint either.