JESSICA JONES SEASON 2
Produced by Marvel Studios
Distributed by Netflix
Starring Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, et al
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
It feels like we’re in the “my, how things change” era of the Netflix branch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first two projects from the streaming giant, DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES’ first seasons, came out blazing with deep characters, enveloping villains, good action and set a high precedent for the shows to come. Especially with Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter), which was very much a character deep dive into her troubled psyche and bad habits. Those proved to be precedents the rest of the shows didn’t necessarily live up to, unfortunately. Each series to come after those two debuts had their own set of flaws, either coming from characters taking turns that were souring/off-putting, or the shows spent too much individual effort building to the big DEFENDERS crossover of all the shows, or from lackluster villains, or even all of the above. Overall, the Marvel Netflix Universe went from batting a thousand in its first couple endeavors to being around the five hundred mark now that all of the big four of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have had at least one of their own seasons and the big team up. Now we’re back to focusing on the individual Defenders and settling back into the character studies that made the first couple outings of this miniverse so exciting with a PUNISHER season this past November and now the subject of this piece, JESSICA JONES SEASON 2, and while there feels like a little bit of a return to form for these shows, I also can’t help but get the impression that some of the magic is gone.
Right off the bat and to its credit, season two of JESSICA JONES barely registers her Defenders stint and cracks back down on the misadventures of our title characters. Alias Investigations is actually making a little bit of a headway with the locals, Jessica herself has earned herself a little bit of a rep as being a miscreant who looks out for other miscreants (as well as being a powered individual), but she’s still extremely haunted by the heavily traumatic periods of her life, namely the accident that took her parents and siblings from her and her time under the whims of Zebediah Zillgrave, a.k.a The Purple Man (David Tennant). We see from the get go that she’s still the same hard-drinking, somewhat self-loathing, overly sarcastic Jessica we know and love (and are sometimes irritated by) but she’s got kind of a softened appeal to those in the neighborhood who now come seeking her help. Of course, this is the domino that kicks off this seasons’ storyline when a man calling himself “the Whizzer” comes to her office saying some shady government types are trying to off him.
Not to deep dive into the overall plotting of this season in order to avoid getting spoilery since we’re just a week out, but basically Whizzer’s “they’re coming to get me!” paranoia proves to be very well founded in “they” actually being out to get him. And his untimely and gruesome death ends up being the catalyst to putting Jessica into a direct confrontation with her past, the origin of her powers, and even tackling the fatal fate of her family. Coinciding with this, we start seeing the cracks in the foundation of not only Jessica’s world but also those around her, namely friend from childhood and “sister” Patsy Walker (played by Rachael Taylor), her assistant at Alias Investigations, Malcolm (Eka Darville), and even her legal council, Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss). Basically everyone’s dysfunctions are put on display in this second season both to the benefit and detriment of the show and the characters themselves.
Ultimately, as I alluded to earlier, the show sort of reclaims the former glory of these Marvelflix shows by becoming a character study again but in doing so it actually kind of makes you dislike these characters. Originally they were all somewhat haunted figures but they all had their upbeat quirks that made you like and root for them. Malcolm fought his junkie past, Jeri was a power hungry bitch but she forcefully stood up for people, and Patsy always wants to be more at everything, from being more of a fighter like Jessica, to more of a public figure beyond her youthful fame and where it placed her in adulthood, and to be something beyond a famous pretty face that men tried to use. And Jessica was Jessica; impenetrable but wounded enough on the inside she can occasionally be cracked enough to spill out to the right person, which this season shows several examples of. But, man, when these characters are down, they are downright ugly, and it somewhat takes a high tolerance for self-destruction to watch them hit their respective walls this season.
Another drawback to this season is that, much like DAREDEVIL Season 2 with a lack of Wilson Fisk, JESSICA JONES SEASON 2 has a big Killgrave sized hole in it, outside of some flashback material. There is a villain, a couple technically, but they more fall into the range of “uninteresting nuisance that won’t got away” and a pseudo-villain that provides a different kind of foil for Jessica that I won’t get into because it’s a pretty big spoiler for the mid-point of the season. Mostly this season operates more in shady operators who try Jess’s (and our own) patience and how they shaped her life directly and indirectly from the shadows. The closest we get to an actual antagonist, they conflict way more with Jess’s personality and history than they do with her physically, but as far as a true butting of heads there’s not a ton of physicality in this season. Which is great for emphasizing how much of this show revolves around character traits as much as or even more than the physical capabilities of Jessica and somewhat the characters that orbit her, but it makes this season somewhat repetitive because then the majority of any conflict is essentially ego and tempers clashing, then calming and receding, and over again and again in waves and its more tiring than exciting.
But, I can see the appeal of that, it fits with the shattered emotions of our lead in a way general fisticuffs wouldn’t (and it’s not like Killgrave himself was a hands on villain) but it places basically any and all danger in the show on mood swings. Killgrave wasn’t exactly a psychologically stable person but his every day indulgences were absolutely life shattering and on a high quantity level too, let alone when he was feeling especially malicious. The stakes in this season mean a lot more to Jessica and her immediate circle but they also basically boil down to anger control issues. I dunno. At the end of the day, it was another solid entry into the Marvelflix Universe, but “solid” is somewhat of a shame considering how high a level these shows achieved from the get go just to regress and merely stabilize. The cast performs admirably overall and I do give props to the villain of this season essentially being “emotional imbalance,” a subject that hits home for a lot of people out here in the real world, it just tends to feel frustratingly cyclical over the span of thirteen episodes, but I guess that could be the ultimate aim.
Maybe where I’m coming down on this season overall is that I’m glad this season focused its attention where they did with the emphasis on the emotional fragility some of these characters exhibit but they all acted so immovably stubborn in their own ways that after a full season of these shenanigans in the span of a week I was weary of them all; especially with no hardcore central villain to focus on rooting for them to combat. There were plenty of boxes checked off to making it an intriguing show, but not quite enough to make it an overall interesting and engaging show, at least to my sensibilities. This season of JESSICA JONES did at least succeed in getting back to the gritty (and a shout out to PUNISHER in this as well), street level character pieces that its first season and that of DAREDEVIL did from the outset before losing their way on the journey to THE DEFENDERS. A little less indulging in melodrama for the sake of flaring emotional conflict and a sturdier villain beyond basically “lab dudes” and it could have been a true return to form, but hopefully this is a sign of the improvement to come as the rest of the Defenders crew starts going solo again.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.