Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2
Actors: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez, Carrie-Anne Moss, Janet McTeer, Callum Keith Rennie, Leah Gibson, Rebecca Demornay, Terry Chen & John Ventimiglia
Directors: Uta Briesewitz, Rosemary Rodriguez, Mairzee Almas, Deborah Chow, Anna Foerster, Liz Friedlander, Zetna Fuentes, Jennifer Getzinger, Neasa Hardiman, Jennifer Lynch, Millicent Shelton, Minkie Spiro & Jet Wilkinson
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Lisa Randolph, Jack Kenny, Jamie King, Raelle Tucker, Hilly Hicks Jr., Gabe Fonseca, Jenny Klein & Jesse Haris
Studio: Marvel Television/Tall Girls Productions/ABC Studios
Ahead of the March 8 release of the second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix, I scrambled to finish watching the first season of Marvel’s The Punisher, as these Marvel Netflix shows can boast minor connections. It turns out there was no such link to be found, but it made for an easy comparison to how the two shows were constructed. Punisher suffers under the standard 13-episode structure for these shows, as there just wasn’t enough plot there to justify them. The first half of the season was drawn out and terribly slow, which was even more frustrating given how clearly it telegraphed where it was going. And then you have JJ S2, which was far less predictable and much more engrossing. Aside from a single flashback episode, I didn’t find any of this season to be lagging or obvious.
This season follows a similar story structure as the first, as the titular heroine is forced to face an aspect of her past that haunts her. Instead of the terrifying Kilgrave, this time it’s tracking down those responsible for the experiments that gave Jessica her powers. But what’s most interesting here is that while Jessica faces multiple challenges and antagonists, the real villain of the season, from start to finish, is an unlikely one: her best friend/adoptive sister, Trish Walker.
Jessica learns, thanks in part to Trish’s investigation, there are others out there who were granted superhuman powers by the rogue scientists of IGH, and worse still, those subjected to those experiments and those involved in administering them are turning up dead. Jessica is once again forced to face her traumatic past, and it threatened to undo her completely.
Trish Walker is a key character here. She’s the one driving the plot from the start. She thinks she’s out to help people, but it’s clear she’s trying to find a purpose, to fill an emptiness inside her. At first, she sets out to be a crusading journalist, emulating her boyfriend, who’s a respected TV reporter and anchor who has reported from war zones. Later, Trish becomes obsessed with being more than human, trying to emulate Jessica. She looks for purpose in others instead of examining herself, her strengths, her own ambitions. She covets what others have and have achieved, and it drives her to make bad choices, all under the guise of “helping others.” Rachael Holland does a solid job of conveying Trish’s self-delusion and desperation.
Krysten Ritter and Carrie-Anne Moss both deliver solid performances, as their story arcs demand them to demonstrate vulnerability reluctantly. I read an article that suggested Moss’s character, lawyer Jeri Hogarth, is a villain in the show, but I completely disagree. Her arc is one of the most grounded, and while she hardly becomes a soft and cuddly personality by the end of the series, she does achieve something of a triumphant resolution. J.R. Ramirez is incredibly charming as Jessica’s love interest in this season; he’s so thoroughly likeable. I’ve not seen any of his work before JJ S2, but I see he’s no stranger to comics shows, as he has appeared on Arrow in the past (a show I don’t follow).
Easily the most impressive performance of the series was from Eka Darville as Jessica’s associate, Malcolm. He has the most encouraging story arc in the season by far, as he builds himself up from a hanger-on to an ambitious young man who rises above others around him. He’s the only one who sees the mistakes Trish and Jessica are making, and while he speaks out, he also stands by his friends because he’s loyal and wants to ensure they’re OK.
Word of advice: to get the most out of the twists in the story, avoid spoilers specifically about actress Janet McTeer’s role in the story. When her name turned up in the opening credits of the episode that introduced her into the story, I checked her out on IMDB, as I was unfamiliar with her work. That was a mistake, because that led to me stumbling upon a major spoiler. McTeer’s performance at first is rather ham-fisted, but that’s clearly intentional, as deeply exploration of her character reveals an earnest quality. One eventually even comes to like and sympathize with her despite the ugliness that resides within her.
The show is noteworthy for how it weaves strong messages of women taking back power. From Jessica’s response of “How rapey of you” to a man who says he won’t take no for an answer on his job offer to Trish’s confrontation of a Hollywood director who took advantage of her when she was a child, the “Time’s Up” imperative is a key theme throughout the series. Of course, this brings me back to Trish’s self-destructive and self-absorbed story arc. Her #MeToo moment isn’t to expose a man who preyed on her in her teens, but rather to force him to give her something she wanted for her ongoing crusade.
As a comic-book fan, the Easter Eggs are a lot of fun. Obscure characters from the Whizzer and Karl Malus turn up here, but the producers and writers of the series have altered them significantly to fit into the world of Jessica Jones. In the context of the 21st century, the Whizzer wouldn’t really work, so his name is more of a joke than anything (though he’s a key catalyst for the story). And in the comics of the past, Malus was a typical evil scientist type, but here, he’s far better realized and well rounded as a character. He’s actually quite likeable at times, and his greatest flaw isn’t greed, but rather his ability to rationalize everything he does. Another treat for us comics fans is the abundance of David Mack artwork that’s incorporate into the scenery (thanks to Ramirez’s character’s status as a talented artist).
Some of the moments I enjoyed the most are those in which Jessica shows off the tricks of her trade. Despite the personal nature of the overall plot, Jessica Jones remains a private-eye show, and the writers choose to show the title character at work, showing how she gets information and access when it would otherwise be unlikely.
I appreciated the tragic and sad tone of the conclusions of Jessica’s and Trish’s story arcs, but the final minutes of the last episode of this season tack on some minor happy endings for the characters. This stems in part to address a couple of outstanding plot threads, but those final moments felt like such contradictions to the unconventional downer resolutions. I understand why those guiding the show included those more encouraging moments, but I think it would have been more daring to stick solely with the more depressing elements alone. 8/10