Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, & The Punisher have all been cancelled. Jessica Jones is the last Defender standing. Well her series is done after season three, but it’s the last of Marvel’s Netflix shows to be released. Although I refuse to let go of Kilgrave not being purple, Jessica Jones season one was great. I liked season two more than most thanks to Janet McTeer’s superlative performance as Alissa Jones. Netflix hasn’t released any fun stills to riff on, so I’m falling back on my own natural resource of
cat action figure photos. (Marvel & Netflix care about it so little they didn’t even make any mock covers for it like last season.) Now let’s pour one out with SPOILERS for Jessica Jones season three! Will it finally pay off Chekov’s Stilt-Man?
This season is too damn long! It could’ve ended around episode six had Jess & Trish not been inexplicably incompetent. Iron Fist season two showed ten episodes is enough. Cloak & Dagger proves this even with commercial breaks. If it really needed to be thirteen episodes, couldn’t they have peppered in some kooky cases of the week to distract from how thin the story was stretched? Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias comics were very anticlimactic & banal. This season leans too far into that.
Jessica begins the season by trying to honor her mother’s heroic aspirations for her by working pro bono cases. I’m not clear on how her sliding scale works financially since we see one required a trip to Mexico. She apparently has enough money to hire a new assistant, Gillian, who snarkily disdains her. She has a tighter working relationship with Detective Costa, who gets fleshed out. Not only is the lighting brighter, Jessica is in a better headspace than before.
Why doesn’t Trish Walker wear a vibrant Hellcat costume? Unlike Jessica, she likes them. The could’ve been an elegant way to add visual contrast. There is a scene where she tries on yellow tights & a mask then declares “Hell no!” Anti-fan service is so condescending! I don’t even like the classic Hellcat costume, but I still want her to beak up the monotony by wearing a cat costume with some effort behind it. The incognito mugger get-up is the opposite of what I want! (The Beatrix Kiddo meets Wonder Girl she tried on looked slick.) They introduced Melvin Potter the super-tailor specifically so everyone could ignore his services? Patsy should’ve heeded her mom’s fashion advice!
The inciting action this season is Jessica getting stabbed in the spleen with a common chef’s knife by a normal human. She has the same weakness as Cicada? I understand she’s not invulnerable, but this still seemed way too easy to grievously harm her. Even without impervious skin, wouldn’t a normal knife be deflected by her superstrong body? Luke Cage’s Kryptonite was an exploding bullet, & Iron Fist got depowered via a magic ritual. This is so mundane it’s insulting to Jessica. This is a Punisher-level mutilation! I’d be more receptive to the realism of her medical crisis if Daredevil hadn’t shrugged off having a building & a mine collapsing on him. She defiantly claims she won’t let this define her as a victim, but it still feels icky putting her through this to begin with. Her taking her medication with alcohol to maintain her hardboiled brand is so foolhardy. (The seriousness of her condition is undermined by ignoring it for the rest of the season.) The upside is the doctor’s spleen puns.
Greg Sallinger is a smug polymath genius psychopath. We’ve already seen this type on numerous shows, with & without superheroes. His victims are frauds & cheaters, which makes him more of an evil Mr. Terrific. He doesn’t even execute fools, which is his whole motivation from the comics. Is his vendetta against phonies a Holden Caulfield callback inspired by his surname? Despite homages making a comeback in Cloak & Dagger & Gotham this year, Foolkiller doesn’t wear his Zorro costume. He’s never even called Foolkiller because that has too much zest. Russian Doll’s Jeremy Bobb plays an odious creep well, but there’s nothing particularly unique about this toned down C-lister. He does have his hypocrite act together much better than the rest of the cast.
Not only is he a grab bag of serial killer cliches, the show doesn’t reimagine him in a way that feels MCU specific. His purported crusade is nebulous but not in an intriguing manner like the comics Foolkillers. Adapting his successor would’ve had more cultural relevancy. Although he’s got an engineering degree, he doesn’t make a Purifier disintegration gun to spice things up? Jess fighting Paste Pot Pete instead was suggested. This season looks even duller now that the notion of Double J vs. Triple P has been planted in my noggin. Couldn’t we at least gotten a swan song for Bullseye & Typhoid Mary? (Bullseye is allowed to leave the seat down because he never misses. Petition to redo Avengers Endgame by replacing Clint Barton with Ben Poindexter.)
Learning more about Sallinger undermines the spleen stabbing. We see that he chokes out his victims & only starts stabbing them once they’re secured for their photo shoots. If he changed his MO to prevent exposure, why settle for maiming? He specifically tailed Erik yet didn’t try to attack him? So he only succeeds in wounding the wrong person in front of a witness. Why not wait to nab Erik when he was alone as he does later?
As solid as Eka Darville & Carrie Anne Moss are, I only care about Malcolm Ducasse & Jeri Hogarth when their subplots directly connect to Jess & Trish. Not only is Hogarth’s firm unethical, its activities are downright criminal. Sarita Choudhury is distractingly gorgeous, but that doesn’t justify Hogarth selfishly blowing up her life. (Between this & The Perfection, Netflix is doubling down on lesbian cello erotica.) These scenes feel like they were grafted on from How To Get Away With Murder just to pad out the length. (Can any HTGAWM viewers verify this comparison?) Tiffany Mack of the dearly departed Hap & Leonard plays another lawyer with a less improbable name than Florida Grange.
Jess triggers a poison booby trap in the train car Foolkiller is storing his victims’ pieces. This would be a cool moment for her to show off her powers by smashing through it. She fails! Hellcat has to open the hatch for her. It’s not even that he planned his cache to be unbreakable to superhumans. An angry punch barely damages Foolkiller. What is the point of having a superstrong lead if she’s never strong enough to make a difference? Her only notable feat is flipping a gazebo. Henceforth Jessica Jones shall be dubbed Gazebo Flipper!
Sallinger had helpfully warned that that any action against him would be made to resemble harassment to the public. Jess stresses to Trish the importance of taking down him so that he can’t be cleared on a technicality. Then when they rescue Erik from his clutches, they remove all the evidence from the scene including the victim? How are they surprised there was no case against him? Way to drastically undermine the competency of the protagonists! Their baffling action only makes sense for filling more episodes. Jess is worried about Erik being incarcerated for blackmail in consequence for testifying against Foolkiller, but she didn’t know in advance Erik could die from exposure to too many guilty prisoners. Surely they could arranged some medical workaround at trial?
Benjamin Walker plays
President Abe Lincoln,Vampire Hunter Erik Gelden, whose hamburgers sound delicious. He pays off his gambling debts by blackmailing guilty people he targets with his superpowers. He gets migraines from proximity to evil people, so you’d think he’d select a loanshark adverse to drowning him in their own pool. This superpower is vague. If his power is activated others’ objective deeds, wouldn’t Jess’s past make her presence painful? If it’s triggered by their subjective guilt, wouldn’t remorseless Foolkiller have no effect on him?
Erik is the very obscure villain Mind-Wave minus the ostentatious helmet, lackeys called ESPer-ts, & telepathically controlled Think Tank. I would’ve liked to have seen a sci-fi tank in the MCU! Would we have gotten it if Agents of SHIELD had snapped him up instead? He still won the lottery with this role.
Although they botched nabbing him red handed, they could still put Salinger away with evidence from his first murder that Jessica unearthed. She overplays her hand by mocking him about it, so he kills her stepmom. Naturally Trish tries to murder him in return. (He expected Jessica would come after him, but doesn’t appear to have any contingencies to avert his death.) He now has a photo of Trish trying to kill him that he’ll release if arrested (another reason for a masked Hellcat costume), & blackmails Jessica into destroying the DNA evidence to keep her step-sister from The Raft. Instead of asking Malcolm if he can delete the photo, she complies. (You can pump sewage into the floor of a crime lab?) Trish is furious that Jess unilaterally chose to save her instead of punishing Sallinger & preventing him from murdering more innocents. This debacle also gets her only detective friend placed on leave.
Sometimes this seems more like a Hellcat series than Jessica Jones. The episodes focusing on Trish (the first directed by Krysten Ritter) are the best in the season. Rachael Taylor is equally as great as Ritter. She subverts the notion of a spoiled actress coasting by showing all the effort she puts into her vigilante work. The episode about Dorothy Walker’s funeral was especially good, including he flashbacks about how savvy yet emotionally abusive Dorothy was during the gestation of It’s Patsy! (It was part of TGIF!) She instilled her daughter with a work ethic akin to Spider-Man’s.
While the first ten episodes were so straightforward as to be dull, the final three suddenly get complicated. Through a series of unfortunate events, Erik convinces Hellcat to kill a few murderers who’ve escaped prosecution. Now I am very confused by the morality of this season. The appeal of vigilante stories is that malefactors who’ve escaped the legal system can be vanquished. So by this metric Hellcat is the most heroic character. (She’s also blackmailed by Jeri via a ridiculous zoom & enhance of a reflection.) Patsy could definitely use some therapy, but it seems wrong to frame her as a supervillainess since the series hasn’t been consistently anti-killing. Is this actually anti-vigilante propaganda, despite showing us law enforcement is either corrupt or unable to get results?
The season’s theme seems like the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. (Or in Jeri’s case, this is also true of bad intentions.) Erik’s family fell apart when he exposed his father’s sexual abuse of his sister. When he & Trish pool their powers to thwart evildoers the law can’t, they escalate to murder. So is this cynically saying not to try to do good? It repeats the trope that only the unworthy seek out superpowers. Jessica is allowed to be heroic, mostly because she’s the title character.
Jessica goes out of her way to keep her stepsister from slaying Sallinger. He is easily tricked into confessing to being a murderer on tape & arrested. What a fool! Jess easily breaks his camera & hard-drive to destroy the evidence against Trish, which means the whole crime lab escapade was unnecessary! Meanwhile Jess & Malcolm take turns telling Trish she’s horrible while chained up as if they intended to further drive her away. They suck at interventions! Malcolm’s ethical argument against her is particularly absurd. She began & ended her vigilante career without killing non-murderous scum, so the assertion that she’s rabidly addicted to killing rings false. Rather than feeling like an abuse victim who becomes an abuser like her mother, it comes off more that her remaining loved ones are goading her to further violence during a breakdown with their dismissive non-empathy. Patsy slays Sallinger while he’s in police custody. Am I supposed to feel bad about that? Because I don’t.
I’m glad they didn’t waste time having Jones & Hellcat battle each other before teaming up. Unfortunately they reverse the order. That’s much worse! So everybody who hated Trish last season for being selfish & entitled (while her stepsister was also being selfish & entitled) is vindicated as they throw her further under the bus. Hellcat has to be sent to The Raft because she doesn’t regret killing four murderous people. Jessica feels bad about killing three people (one under mind control) so she keeps her liberty. (It’s unclear how many ninja she killed during The Defenders.) While their final fight would’ve looked better if Hellcat had a real costume, perhaps putting them both in normal clothes symbolizes neither has the moral high ground? (Nah, they just cheaped out.) I really wanted them to continue supporting & complementing each other as superheroine sisters.
Trish’s arc this season is in character. What’s frustrating is how clunky the plot mechanics were to get her to that point. Sallinger’s threat could’ve been thwarted before he fridged her mom had the case not been bungled on at least two occasions. It’s possible Jessica could’ve still averted her killing spree had she stayed to comfort Patsy instead of doing his bidding. Getting her a psychotherapist would’ve helped much more than chaining her up & telling her she’s a broken monster. What makes it worse is that Jessica contending with a passionate relative who beats people to death is what happened last season. The writers went through all that narrative trouble just to repeat a story most viewers were displeased with.
The lack of redemption for Hellcat would be less unfair if the same standards were applied to everyone. Although cleared of killing Kilgrave, Jessica was never tried for the deaths of Reeva Connors & Dale Holiday. Mind-Wave ought to be shipped off to The Raft as an accomplice to Trish’s crimes & extortion. Hogarth should at least be disbarred on various counts. Ditto Daredevil. Karen Page’s killings were hushed up. We haven’t seen what Luke Cage has been up to since he decided to take on the responsibility of being Harlem’s kingpin, but it seems like it involves plenty of flagrant lawbreaking. He awkwardly drops in to be Jessica’s conscience. (He specifically said he sent his brother to The Raft, which seems to contradict the season one stinger implying he gets superpowers. Did Luke actually arranged for Diamondback to be empowered just to imprison him someplace without rights?) The Punisher remains at large, & none of his astronomical bodycount has been corroborated by an evil-detector. Why is Patsy the only flawed antihero singled out for a reckoning?
Jeri is fittingly denied a happy ending. Erik & Costa may become a new dynamic duo. Turk doesn’t appear as Stilt-Man. Jessica leaves Alias Investigations to Malcolm in a touching moment. After cleaning out her place, she resists the Kilgrave voice in her head telling her to leave town. (As if El Paso couldn’t use its own super-detective.) So what’s she going to do now? The music & her expression give it a triumphal note but no closure. It feels like this ought to lead into The Defenders season two to wrap up all the shows’ danglers for a final hurrah. It won’t, so it seems tacked on & tonally out of place. She just lost her entire family! You can’t trick me into thinking this wasn’t massively depressing!
Melissa Rosenberg has been the showrunner for all three seasons to diminishing returns. This season was frustrating. It rebuilt the ruptured sister bond between Jess & Trish only to obliterate it. Their conflict with Salinger could’ve been resolved much faster had they not been forced to hold idiot balls each time they made progress. It was so embarrassed about being a comic book show it didn’t even mention catchy codenames like Hellcat & Foolkiller, let alone supersuits. (I’m not going to miss that facet of the Marvel-Netflix era.) It barely lets its lead be superhuman. Sending Patsy Walker to The Raft (where she probably won’t be drafted into the Thunderbolts or guest star on the forthcoming Hellstrom series) is a sour note to end on for one of Marvel’s oldest characters. (I’d be even more upset if I was a fan of comics Hellcat.) While it could arguably be the fitting tragic end for Jessica Jones by itself, this feels extra depressing as the unofficial finale to the Defenders shows. I was looking forward to something that felt like a reward for my investment, whereas this squandered a stellar cast by tearing everything down slowly. Not only was it dumped with little fanfare, this season dumps on audience goodwill.
Hasbro should send a gray version of Minn-Erva’s scarf to everyone who bought Jessica Jones. Jyn Erso’s hijab can be modified as well. Jessica’s drinking problem is her hands are permanently fists.
Dark Phoenix is doomed at the box office. Who could’ve foreseen this? Fox wasted no time throwing it under the bus. I knew they should’ve made a Sauron movie instead! (It appears there was a script in the 80’s that would’ve combined him with Proteus, who’d also be a wonderful movie villain, although he probably would’ve been neither a pterodactyl nor Scottish.) Realizing the Comics Code prohibited vampires & werewolves but not pteranodons was the best loophole!
Recently there was a pitch for Beast & Omega Red movies with Mr. Sinister as an overarching villain. Of course the editor’s assistant was more concerned with linking X-movies cohesively than Simon Kinberg.
CORRECTION: My review of Dark Phoenix erroneously referred to the D’Bari as “broccoli aliens.” They are actually more akin to celery. We regret this error & have since amended the article.