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The Good, The Bad, And The Meh: A 'Jessica Jones' Season 2 Rundown

By Tori Preston | Streaming | March 21, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | Streaming | March 21, 2018 |


Have you already plowed through all 13 episodes of Jessica Jones Season 2 in a feverish daze? Do you have opinions to debate, or feelings to drink away, now that you’re all caught up? We’ve got you covered with this SERIOUSLY SPOILER-FILLED PAGE dedicated to unpacking WTF we all just collectively sat through, from the good to the bad to the shrug-worthy. So top yourselves off and let’s get down to it, shall we?

Spoilers ahead… you’ve been warned…

Coming into this season, there were three general expectations set in viewers minds. We’d find out more about the shadowy IGH and how Jessica got her powers; we’d see David Tennant’s Kilgrave again, somehow; and maaaaaaybe Trish would get superpowers. Granted, that last one existed mostly in the minds of comic book fans who know that Patsy “Trish” Walker is a Marvel hero named Hellcat, one who pre-dates Jessica herself. And to the show’s credit, it tackled each of those points. How successfully it tackled them is another issue.

The season picks up with Jessica working as a P.I. with the help of her neighbor Malcolm (no mention is made about the events of The Defenders). She’s got a new super in her building named Oscar. He’s hot, he’s a painter, he’s an ex-con forgery wiz, and he’s got a son named Vido (who is maybe the cutest child in the history of entertainment). Trish has a devoted journalist boyfriend who wants to marry her, but still she’s discontent. She wants to ditch the lifestyle format of her radio show, “Trish Talks,” and do some good in the world as a serious journalist herself. So she’s been trying to crack the IGH story — for Jessica, for justice, but mostly for her own career. And her digging is what sets everything in motion. Meanwhile, the always delightful Jeri Hogarth gets some bad news: she’s got ALS, and at most 8 years to live. It’s a good thing Jeri is as ruthlessly ambitious as she is, because instead of taking the news lying down, she’s determined to find either a cure or a painless release — without losing her law firm to her partners in the process.

But you already know all of this, if you watched. So instead of doing a blow-by-blow of the plot, I just want to cover some of the bigger takeaways:

That IGH Stuff:

I’ll be honest, I felt it was a let down. Partially because I still don’t understand what the fuck the group was even doing. From the Simpson stuff last season, we knew that IGH dealt in combat enhancers via a doctor named Koslov. And while some of that stuff makes a comeback this season, the focus shifts to a mad scientist named Karl Malus (a real character from the comics, who eventually becomes a symbiote hybrid!). Malus founded the secret IGH lab using funds from private investors, and he tried to perfect a process for gene editing. His methods could heal deformities and even bring people back from the brink of death, but it also might unlock powers hidden in their DNA. So it’s not really a secret super-soldier project (Koslov’s focus seems like a side project, and Malus shut down IGH when he felt it was getting out of hand), or anything particularly sinister. It’s just the work of a dude with a god complex, some classic rock t-shirts and a ponytail, who generally wants to help people (even if he is willing to steal unwilling test subjects from the hospital to do so).

It’s not a particularly satisfying resolution to how Jessica got her powers, but it doesn’t need to be. The IGH story actually serves a different purpose: it explains why Jessica’s mom Alisa is still alive.

WTF Is up With Jessica’s Mom?!

Alisa Jones is the closest thing to a traditional villain Jessica faces all season. But she isn’t really a villain at all. Sure, she’s a brutal killer, with strength greater than even Jessica possesses. She’s unstable. Her single-minded devotion to Karl and Jessica means she’s unreliable when it comes to anything that doesn’t involve protecting those two people. But she’s a victim in her own way. And more than that she’s… uninteresting.

And that’s not on Janet McTeer’s performance. She creates a motherly monster you do start to root for. The problem is that we already did the whole “Jessica comes to terms with her past trauma” thing and that was last fucking season, with Kilgrave. We all know that Jessica lost her family in a car accident that somehow she came out of with superpowers, and maybe she even blames herself for surviving, but it says something about her history that the death of her family seems like small potatoes compared to that time she was brainwashed and raped and forced to murder Luke Cage’s wife. Is Jessica’s story going to perpetually be one of confronting her past, over and over, to the point where they have to bring characters back from the grave just to re-open those wounds? Next season will she be battling her zombie kid brother?

I get that on a story level, it gave Jessica a conflict between her adopted family (Trish) and her real family (Alisa), but it doesn’t feel earned. For 17 years Alisa was literally dead to Jessica. And when she comes back, she’s a murderer. The only reason Jessica is even conflicted about who to support is because Trish becomes such a fucking asshole this season. That, and the fact that they shoe-horned in another person for Jess to accidentally murder in self-defense, so she can feel bad about it and wonder if she’s not that different from her mom after all. Like I said, I get what the writers were trying to do. It just was frustrating and uninteresting, and made everyone else the driving force in Jessica’s story rather than Jessica herself. There was a vitality to Kilgrave, not just because she survived but because she knew he was still out there and could waltz into her life at any time. There is no vitality to Alisa’s return. It’s just an unnecessary contrivance.

The Real Villain Is Goddamn Trish Fucking Walker

Stories need conflict. I get that. But if the only way you can create conflict is by making your characters do a bunch of frustratingly dumb shit, it’s lazy. Last season, Trish had her whole Krav Maga thing. We knew she wanted to be strong, and be a hero of sorts. But this season all of her motivations become twisted until she’s a selfish shell of the character you grew to love — and worse, she’s just a roadblock for Jessica. First Trish wants to save the world through serious journalism, and rejects her boyfriend when she realizes that she doesn’t want to be with him — she wants to be him. Which is cool! Then she gets ahold of Simpson’s combat enhancing inhaler and cache of weapons, and returns to her former addict ways. Which… OK, dealing with addiction is thematically relevant to the show. But Trish is basically an adrenaline junkie looking for something to punch. Or, in the case of Malcolm, something to fuck. Somewhere along the line her reasons for going after IGH stop being about justice or getting her story, and instead she knocks Malcolm out and kidnaps Dr. Malus to get him to perform his gene editing woo-woo on her. Because she wasn’t just jealous of her boyfriend’s career — she’s also jealous of Jessica’s superpowers. She uses Malcolm, betrays Jessica, almost gets herself killed, and to top it all off she shows up at the very end and shoots Jessica’s mom in the head, claiming it had to be done. Even here, Jessica doesn’t have a chance to make the choice for herself. That is taken from her in a move that drives a final wedge between the former sisters.

But sure, OK, it looks like Trish did get her superpowers. Yay?

When Fan Service Goes Wrong

Part of me wonders if the season-long character assassination of Trish was a sort of karmic justice. We, the fans, wanted her to become Hellcat so badly — but apparently, the trade-off is that she finally got her powers after we stopped giving a shit about her character.

Kilgrave’s hyped returns was also pure fan-service, and it similarly backfired. Not because of diminishing returns. Oh no, David Tennant was a deliciously menacing as ever. He returned in episode 11 as a figment of Jessica’s imagination. Her… well, conscience isn’t the right word. The devil on her shoulder? The voice of her trauma and self-doubt? Whatever he was, his presence felt absolutely electric after the 10 drab episodes that preceded it. In this case, the fan-service backfired on the show itself, as Kilgrave’s one-off episode threw the rest of the season into stark relief. He was a reminder of everything that was missing, and his interactions with Jessica underscored how lacking her character opportunities had been this season as well.

He also marked Jessica’s only real moment of agency. See, he pops up in her mind after that aforementioned self-defense killing she committed. Kilgrave, the last person she killed, becomes the voice urging her to stage the scene like a suicide, to clean everything up. He believes in her, in what she’s capable of, as if this is a return to form for her. And for this one episode, she convincingly backslides into that doubt and trauma, as he seems to multiply around her — only for her to finally convince herself that she won, she’s in control, and she’s not like Kilgrave OR her mother.

Is he still in her head? Yes. Not only because he had the superpower to literally get inside people’s heads and control them, but because that’s what trauma is. It’s always there, under the surface. It becomes a part of you. But it doesn’t have to win. For this one episode, the show focused back in on Jessica overcoming her demons and being a hero. But 1 out of 13 isn’t a great score.

Jeri’s B-Plot Was Everything The A-Plot Was Missing

I’ll say one thing: at least Jeri Hogarth maintained her agency all season. She grows as a person, faces adversity, and still manages to Jeri her way to a happy ending. No, she isn’t cured. But she’s screwed her partners, set up shop for herself, and gotten revenge on the grifters her took advantage of her (by making her believe she was healed, and then robbing her blind). She may be dying, but she’s gonna go out on top. By the back half of the season she has almost no interaction with Jessica, but that’s OK — it looks like she may have another P.I. in her pocket…

Malcolm Is On His Own

Malcolm was the stealth MVP this season. Sure, Trish takes advantage of him, but he also recognizes her burgeoning addiction long before she can admit it to herself. He continues to help Jessica, not just out of loyalty to her but because he needs the work to occupy him as he maintains his own sobriety. So while Jessica is off doing her mom thing, he picks up the slack at Alias — in particular, getting Jeri the dirt she needs on her partners. And while I can’t say I’m thrilled he’s parted ways with Jessica and is working for her competitor by the end of the season, I do think it’s probably the most intriguing plot thread I’d like to see picked up when/if the show comes back. If nothing else, he’ll still get to do cases for Jeri, and wear that fine suit of his.

OK, One More Note About Family…

So Jessica finds her mom, loses her mom, gets betrayed by her adopted family (Trish, Malcolm) and parts ways with them as well. But instead of ending up all alone, she opens herself up to Oscar, the hot new super — finally taking him up on his invitation to join him and Vido for a nice home-cooked family supper. It’s sweet. There’s also no way it will last. Look, I like their dynamic. He helps her out, forging documents at the risk of his own freedom, and she helps him out when his ex tries to kidnap Vido. The kid loves Jessica, and wants to hear her super stories. So while I can appreciate that supper as a nice hopeful image to end the season on, it also feels… desperate. Jessica admitting she doesn’t want to be alone is growth, to be sure, but I don’t see her suddenly playing surrogate mommy next season. She brings a whole lotta trouble to Oscar’s doorstep, and honestly? It felt more believable when he still held that against her. While all the other characters end with real future story potential, Jessica just ends at a table with a third family unit in her life. It’s something, but after 13 episodes? I’m not sure it was enough.

Assorted Musings…

Some of the flashback stuff was fun, I’ll grant the show that much. Seeing the full Patsy pop star fad, and finding out where Jessica got her iconic jacket and the name “Alias” from? That was all interesting, even if it did go weirdly tragic. Actually, “weirdly tragic” is a good descriptor for the show. It’s become a misery-porn satire of itself in some ways.

When you saw Jessica and Alisa pull up next to that cute family, singing in their car… didn’t you just know it would end in disaster? Apparently “family car accidents” is another theme of this show, now.

Krysten Ritter is still raw and captivating as Jessica, and while there was a lot less humor this time around, there were plenty of serious moments that she carried well. I wish Jessica had spent more time cleverly sleuthing with Malcolm rather than reacting to the piles of shit her mother and Trish kept dropping in her path, which leads me to a rather unexpected takeaway:

Jessica Jones Season 2 made me appreciate The Defenders.

I’m not saying The Defenders was great. It was flawed in its own plentiful ways. But the Jessica in The Defenders, the way she interacted with the other heroes and the way she convincingly drove the plot with her P.I. skills — that’s the Jessica I want to watch. It also felt like a Jessica that was earned, a continuation of the Jessica we saw come out of Season 1. Still raw, still imperfect, but stronger for her experiences — and capable of facing a threat that is outside of her own personal context.

If there is a third season, I’ll watch. There are enough potential plot threads left hanging to lure me back. I still think Jessica Jones is one of the most interesting MCU characters. Unfortunately, her show is no longer up to par with the character.

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Tori Preston is deputy editor of Pajiba. She rarely tweets here but she promises she reads all the submissions for the "Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything" column at a[email protected]. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba