Jessica Jones Season 1 was one for the books. It wasn’t as ‘flashy’ as Daredevil in the costume department, but it held its own with riveting character dynamics and narrative. So upon hearing of Season 2 and the rollout coming from that, we were kinda looking forward to it. But we also had a fear of the void of the Purple Man’s demise may have proven too gaping a hole to fill. We are defined by our nemeses, after all. As such let’s do a quick dive in our #TAPReviews of the dipsomaniac punch-clock villain that is Jessica Jones.
Jessica’s still vulnerable. But to what?
Killing Killgrave should have brought things back to some normalcy for the PI Jessica Jones. And in a sense, it does. Taking pictures of sleazy midnight romps for cash. Drinking only the hardest of liquors and avoiding any emotive connections in bathroom stall ‘hit and runs’. But something from her past has come back to haunt her. And this is before Killgrave. This is about her parents. The accident that left them dead and somehow transformed her into the powerful super she is today. And after a pushy drudges up some past mysteries from the past during her hospitalisation after her parent’s death, a case surfaces that clearly has connections to her past, uncovering Jessica Jones was illegally experimented whilst in a coma all those years ago.
Now Jessica, dealing with being a victim of Killgrave, and being labelled a killer by many, is forced to uncover the secrets of her past and how recent string of “super”-related deaths connect to the illegal experiments carried out on her all those years ago.
Now it would seem Jessica’s still vulnerable. Not so much physically, but emotionally. Rape and mind-control can do that to a gal. But her vulnerability is no longer spurred on by the physical, external forces. They’re internal. A cauldron of seething rage. And when you are indubitably the strongest woman (physically anyway) roaming New York streets with a penchant for dealing a heavy hand to assholes that deserve it, having that much pent-up rage can lead to some serious bludgeoning.
Jessica fearing she has become a killer doesn’t feel like something that would be a strong motivation for a character like Jessica Jones… not directly anyway. Losing control, however, would play more into her character, given her history with Killgrave. I think this distinction is divided by a razor hairline, but speaks to something that made me love Jessica Jones the first time around. It was her need of control. Whether by consuming liquor to numb the pain and memories (ironically) or ultimately facing Kilgrave, it was the need to regain control.
In season 2, here Kilgrave should have taken on a new form – rage. If Jessica’s rage suppression led to her killing someone after losing herself to the beast inside, we could have had a story the culminated into somewhat of a catalyst going forward for a season 3. However what we got was simple self-defence that could have happened to anyone. If the death of the creepy, serial-killing corrections officer was as a result of Jessica succumbing to a fit of rage, then I felt we’d have a Jessica with more gravitas. Hell, even if she stopped at crippling him severely, crossing that brink but not pummelling all the way to the point-of-no-return would have been a plus. But Jessica isn’t above self-loathing either way.
Excess and Addiction
Needless to say all the characters’ attitudes to addiction and excess is nothing short of unhealthy. Jessica is heavy with the liquor bottles (but given her genetic makeup and alcohol tolerance, you really can’t tell if she’s doing that much damage or if things just even themselves out. Other characters like Jessica’s new partner in crime Malcolm, a former addict, replaces former addictions with meaningless, serial sex. Ah,
god bless the Tinder age. And child-actor turn pop star turn radio host turn failed TV anchor Trish Walker was never one to shy away from the hard stuff. And with the near pointless reintroduction of Will Simpson, Trish manages to get her hands on a military-grade experimental drug. And the most uncool way to a drug would have to be via inhalation from an asthma pump-like device. But it does the trick to get her focused. Even with all the toxins and poisons in it. But from the outside looking in, no one is really coming to grips with their addiction. Jessica discovers Trish is high on some seldom field tested drug, yet sex and alcohol, although more field tested, still ruins lives. Not saying it should be an after-school special, but maybe some inner conflict would be nice. And we only got that from Malcolm, sadly.
With Friends like these…
Trish walker is the person we love to hate. Or just plain hate. The fair-weather friend who smiles in your face with that “I support you” look meanwhile they are jealous of you and secretly cheer your demise and envy you… all the while you think you are the weaker, dishevelled one and try to stifle all negative emotion. Trish Walker is that friend. Her actions even from season 1 seemed driven by her compensation for lack of power, which of course stemmed from her inevitable comparison with her “super” adopted sister Jessica. Made even more apparent in that filler-y episode that had us reliving the years of Trish’s pop star success. And a song she made that sure will drive any sane human being ‘Cray Cray’.
Trish’s motivations are not totally a surprise, but the reactions to her blatant treachery kinda are. Trish Walker kills Jessica’s precariously unhinged mother, gun butts Malcolm unconscious and throws him into the trunk of a car and submits herself to a dangerous operation to try and gain Jessica Jone’s powers out of pure sibling envy. Some hate’s in there too. And not once was she punched in the face by anyone. How is that even possible? Privilege like a motherfucker. Chang got bruises and broken bones for saying a few spicy words that hit too close to home for Jessica. I call bullshit on that.
Hell, even presenting the IGH case to Jessica to ‘face her past’ felt much more like a cheap ploy to get Jessica’s story on her radio show for ratings. All very contrived.
Fruit from the psycho-mom tree
Remember that car-crash that killed everybody in Jessica’s real family? Well, everybody didn’t die. Not entirely your soap opera Lazarus syndrome, but a close adjacent nonetheless. Jessica’s mom underwent similar illegal medical procedures as Jessica, but due to being badly scarred and damaged, she has a bit of a temper tantrum. The kin where if you tick her off just a little, she’ll snap your head clean off your shoulders. And the obvious juxtapose of a hype-violent mama Jones with a daughter fighting that rage impulse seething under the surface technically should have been a powerful comparison. Girls always become their mothers. But in all honesty, it was all too short of a discerning impetus. I think the main reason for that is she was pretty unhinged. Where the focus on mama Jones’ madness obnubilated most her motherly qualities. She just looked like a mad woman in a frizzy, fucked-up wig.
Women crushing it?
Jessica Jones Season 2 was special for what was happening behind the camera even more so than what was happening in front of it. Every episodic feature was helmed by a female director. Which is big news. And feminist rhetoric was common theme throughout the series, from equal pay, women as leaders and entrepeneurs, and highlighting the toxicities of “rape culture”. We’re looking at you, Harvey Weinstein-inspired dirt-bag.
It is important though, we don’t confuse progressive, social commentary paradigms with narrative clarity and direction. And it is that last sentence that is bound trigger a lot of people. Let’s however, decipher this. Chang, as much as he was an asshole, was far from the initial physical aggressor in Episode 1 – “AKA Start At The Beginning”. Jessica Jones was. So emotion was the pure drive for Jessica Jones’ loss of control. At least when it came to Jessica’s her mom, she was only triggered by a [warped] perception of a threat to her daughter or loved one. So dealing with the concept of abuse and women, having women in “reverse roles” not born out of self-defence or defence of others kinda defeats any positive-bearing social commentary. My humble opinion.
With that said, some instances of social commentary felt more like ticking off a checklist rather than issues that were infused into the narrative. But topical is always a double-edged sword; it proves you are ‘plugged in’ into certain pertinent societal issues or it could just highlight one’s tactic of using hot-buzz topics as a nice, quick way to forge allegiances with viewers. Jessica Jones Season 2 teeter-totters betwixt both.
In the end, the strongest and the most manipulative award goes to Jeri. As ever. Jessica should’ve been more creeped out by her than anyone, knowing that Jeri wasn’t above using Killgrave’s aborted fetus from the womb of a rape victim to genetically engineer a means of controlling others back in Season 1. But she was pretty tolerant of her to say the least. And it seems Jeri has filled the gap of her dead lover quite well with prostitutes, alcohol, sex and narcotics. Out here living like a rockstar. But you have to forgive her, she has to contend with the early onset of ALS and being forced out of her own law firm by her partners. No amount of a bucket challenge can solve that.
Female strength is a thing when focused is like a laser. However, individually, the ladies of Jessica Jones are damaged, where power is negated by a deep, personality flaw. All these women are vying for and reclaiming control over their lives. It is Jeri, however, that really becomes self-actualised in achieving this. And she didn’t need to have her mother killed our undergo dangerous, experimental surgery to do it. She just manipulated a hobo nurse she fellated that one time to kill her boyfriend after the couple fleeced Jeri’s apartment. Girls, be more like Jeri.
Killgrave joy or Overkill to the grave
Killgrave was the baddie Jessica needed in Season 1. A control freak, literally. The lowest dreg on the earth that spoke with a polished British accent, a creep that could warp the mind and actions of others to his own will. But for season 2, Killgrave was merely a crutch to save JJ episodes in. To connect fans to the success of Season 1, hoping it would somehow transfer here. This was wholly unnecessary, and honestly if it had to happen, I’d rather it be hints of it rather than full-blown mirages of the Purple Man.
Best Episode: Season 2 Episode 1 “AKA Start at the Beginning”
Often where hope is the highest, the introduction of JJ back in her element.
Worst Episode: Season 2 Episode 11 “AKA Three Lives and Counting”
Love Kilgrave. His return however reeks of a cheap ploy to connect with the good of Season 1.
All-in-all, Jessica Jones was not in The Defenders territory. Which is a win in some respects. But honestly the fractured, emotively-graceless swan that is Jessica Jones felt bereft in her second outing. I sincerely doubt Jessica being branded a killer for ending Killgrave was as strong a motivator for her downward spiral as one would think. For season 3, we’re likely going to see a development in the erratic, super-powered feats of a vigilante-esque Trish Walker. Sister against sister. That’d be one Hell of a Cat-fight. See what we did there? Hellcat? Yeah, it’ll come to you.
And Malcolm leaving the rag-tag PI for a more corporate shady gig alongside Chang’s PI firm and Jeri seems like a slightly odd fit, but we’ll roll with it. But given Malcolm was the main motivator for Jessica to put on a clean front for clientele, we’re not exactly sure what frame of mind she’ll be in. But our guess is it won’t be a positive one.
It’s not a wreck. But any further iterations will have to see writers focusing more on character motivations and narrative directions for the episode, series and beyond to retain some of it’s Season 1 magic.
RATING: 6 out of 10
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