Wow this is late, it’s been nearly a month since the series was released, and considering that I pride myself on getting a review out in good time this is incredibly late, my apologies.
Jessica Jones is a pretty solid fan-favourite, I think that’s entirely fair to say. Her first series painted a portrait of a woman who has built a shell around herself out of snark, sarcasm, and alcoholism, and why wouldn’t she? She’s lost her entire family, was adopted into a deeply broken home, and has suffered greatly at the hands of a super-villain who has proven one of the darkest in television history.
No doubt she was one of the best parts of the lack lustre Defenders, maybe even the Netflix/Marvel project as a whole, and she’s the second character to get a second season. Here’s hoping it keeps the upward-swing going. Consider this your Spoiler Warning because it’s been a few weeks and there’s a lot here that can’t be discussed without a few reveals.
In The Corner, Upside Down With A Bottle – Jessica
Coming to terms with having killed a human being, even one as as loathsome as Killgrave, and now bombarded with the pressure of being a publicly known powered person (we don’t use words like vigilante or super-hero) we find Jessica as she’s forced to confront her past whether she likes it or not. She doesn’t.
I like setting an origin story after we already give a damn about the character, perhaps one of the reasons the recent Black Panther film worked so well is because we’d already met T’Challa and grown to like him enough to want to know more. We knew enough about Jessica to know how she got to her place behind a desk and deep in a bottle but left some questions about the actual origin of her incredible strength. It’s a classic super-soldier-serum/weird medicine story with roots in the Captain America project, it may be a little over-done but it has ties to the history of Marvel’s Universe, and creates a rather interesting bond… more on that shortly.
Her hallucinatory antagonist, a memory of Kilgrave, appears for an episode to drive home the burdens that Jessica has taken on her back. We thought she’d come to accept Riva’s death as Kilgrave’s fault, and we may even have thought her capable of forgiving herself for his death too, but it’s a harsh reminder that Jessica is still human, and barely holding onto that fact as she confronts herself in her new villain, and her old one.
Jones is the only one of the Defenders who embraces the noir style which I adore, we accept her ability to monologue over a scene without question, but would we accept it so readily from Nelson, Cage, or Castle? Definitely not from Rand. And yet Jessica’s internal perspective comes so naturally to the series, we see things from her flawed perspective, misinterpreting a murder outside her house as a frame job, rather than an act of preservation. It’s in the moral ambiguity of everyone around her, the conflicted feelings toward her “sister”, the untrustworthy actions of Hogarth, even Malcolm has gone from innocent victim to a player in the private investigation game. Which brings us too…
In The Bleary Eyed And Angry Corner…
An interesting question for you. Who’s the real villain in Season 2?
Could it be the mother and step-dad combo of mad scientist and mad science project? Certainly they’re responsible for the most deaths, the threat that drives the story in the beginning. Alisa’s barely controlled strength and mood swings make her dangerous, as does Malus’ obsession with his work and devotion to his project/girlfriend, but both of them come good in the end, and despite being on the run from the law are both doing what they think is best.
I loved the gas truck scene, it was a neat parallel to the hostage taking scenario with Kilgrave in the season before, a redemptive glimmer, something to give us hope, and while Kilgrave blew that opportunity away, Alisa takes that moment of shared heroism to bond with her daughter, find something to anchor her to humanity. If anything I found the explosive suicide of Dr. Malus more out of place, dramatic, and I suppose somewhat reasonable, I just wouldn’t have expected it of a character so deeply in love.
Could it be Trish? Devoted to her adoptive super-strong sister, but mad with an unspoken jealousy and her comparative helplessness, sliding deep into addiction to a combat performance enhancing drug that she abuses to make herself useful, but the psychosis that comes with it drives her to act recklessly, endangering herself and alienating the people who love her. Certainly the finale would paint her as the bad-guy.
This, I think, is a story about addiction and obsession, and how they can consume and destroy the relationships needed to heal them. Let’s look at this from the perspective of Jeri Hogarth, who we already know will do some seriously dumb stuff in pursuit of her own goals, and when she finds out she’s dying she goes off the rails. Her self-destructive spiral and lack of personal connections to begin with cause her to lose control of her life, desperately reaching out for something, someone to hold on to, and losing everything in the process. She’s mostly a B-story this time around, but Hogarth functions as an analogue to the dynamics around Trish, Alisa, Malcolm, and Jessica.
A Note On MCU References
Spot a few of the obvious ones: comments regarding the Raft, the prison for enhanced persons currently holding Captain America’s Secret Avenger team; I particularly liked a throwaway comment from “bad cop” Detective Sunday, “I know how you people like to team up”. Digging a little deeper, it turns out the Whizzer is a smarter joke than you might think, his pet mongoose Emil is a reference to the original character who was infused with mongoose blood by a doctor called Emil, thank you to the guy who found that one out.
A note on the action genre as a whole, I particularly liked the way the character Inez is used to show the real consequences of collateral damage, and what really happens when someone is thrown through glass. We’ve seen Jessica throw people through glass doors a few times, only once have we seen someone walk away with the scars to show for it, and a glimpse of someone lying on the floor, riddled with shards of glass.
Plenty to see and take in, and it’s definitely a good series, but nothing exceptional and that’s a little sad. Already it feels like the showrunners are losing momentum on the character concept and that’s an unpleasant thing to have to say after only two seasons and a shared lead in Defenders. There are restrictions on what characters Netflix have access to of course, but they captured lightning with Jones, Daredevil, and even Punisher, so to feel like the end is already coming is disappointing.
I loved the story of Trish’s drug issues and what her history made her into, of Malcolm burying his addictive behaviours in other destructive habits, and of Jerri’s painful decline from arrogant and brilliant lawyer to patient and victim. I loved the tragic finale, and I even loved the gigantic flashback episode, and I still loved Jessica herself.
But put it all together and it all felt a little more after-school-special/PSA, where it began with such promise of conspiracy and intrigue which rather vanished in the face of a collection of personal problems. Still, Jessica has some credit to burn, and I still think she’s worth another season. Luke Cage on the other hand has some making up to do already, and he’s up next. Hopefully this time I’ll get a review out on time.