Recurring Cast: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, J. R Ramirez with Carrie-Anne Moss and Janet McTeer
The arrival of Jessica Jones’ second season wasn’t the most confident one the audiences have had. While Krysten Ritter’s dry PI was definitely the most successful of the four heroes at the centre of Netflix’s own branch of Marvel, as Netflix’s quality slowly goes downhill – a limp Iron Fist and a weighty Punisher – we began to worry that even the fan favourite would be unable to survive this loss of quality.
Sadly, while this season definitely has its high points, it is definitely a pale shadow of the season that came before. David Tennant’s spooky Kilgrave left a gaping hole in the series and the biggest challenge of Season Two was figuring out what villain, or plot, could replace him. While I am not one of the camp that believes he should be brought back from the dead (if a show is only as good as its villain, its lifespan will be horrendously short-lived), I do believe that something needs to be done. The mind control angle opened up a terrific discussion of rape; what we needed was another super power bringing out a controversial topic. Sadly, while Jessica Jones still has all the trimmings (Ritter is yet again tremendous as the sarcastic hero), the centre of Season Two is simply not good enough. Stuck for a topic to discuss, the writers decide to dive back into Jessica’s past, the mysterious centre that took her broken body from a car wreckage and gave her the powers that made her what she is. It doesn’t quite interest as much as Netflix hoped it would though; like The Defenders, Jessica Jones is best quipping from the side-lines, rather than dragged into the middle of the mess. There is a strong mid-season twist, but it drags Jessica Jones into a muddy slow-burning drama, rather than the slick mystery you want it to be. The content is admittedly strong. The subplots involving Trish’s desire to be the hero, Malcolm’s climb from junkie to PI and Jeri’s character arc are tremendous in their own right, especially that last one, that takes one of the more straight-faced characters and gives her the kind of story that makes you want to find out what happens to her in the next season, almost as soon as the episodes run out. The main story is thrilling in its own way, full of the dramatic bite that a second season needs, elevating the characters to the logical next level. The issue is that it feels like all of these stories should be the kind of arcs ticking away in the background, while a more obvious villain figure fills the episodes each week. There is a definite sag in Season Two, where the show realises its planned narrative doesn’t actually have enough story to make the 13 episodes given. For once, Netflix could learn from the likes of Arrow or The Flash. Yes, there is definitely a lack of depth there, but the character arcs of Jessica Jones feel like the kind of story that should be slowly burning away in the background of much larger story. Here, they are forced front and centre, but they feel awkward; they aren’t quite enough to give Jessica Jones the punch it needs.
This is a crying shame, because Jessica Jones’ second season is the kind of show you want to be praising. There is something quietly feminist about the creation of this show. All 13 episodes are brought to you by female directors and the focus is kept primarily, but not exclusively, on the women of this show. The writing is cleverly feminist too with the closest thing the show has to a bad guy being a freakishly tall woman who has the power to rip them apart – if that doesn’t have the chauvinists quaking in their boots, little will. The reason I say quietly feminist however, is because the neater parts of the debate are usually only noticed when you read into between the lines. Obviously Jessica Jones is the star, a hero constantly questioning the assumed male authority – or authority in general – creating the kind of character who is both a marvellous cross between a female role model and a mess. The show isn’t too worried about having her character hit some low points – having sex with a stranger, breaking into tears – knowing that the goal isn’t to create a robotic female badass, a.k.a Black Widow, but a fully-functioning female character, who is easy to get behind and watch for the duration of 13 episodes. But also the male characters are an interesting counterpoint to the argument. I wouldn’t say that all of the male heroes are defined as weak characters, in the style of Angela Carter’s feminist writing, but they are definitely the supporting cast here. The charming, brave reporter and the hunky neighbour, as well season regular Eka Darville, are all capable of handling themselves in a sticky situation, but as the events of Jessica Jones heat up, they are asked by the female heroes to hide away at home. It is the small details, but this reworking of Bondian tropes are the kind of narrative-twisting that will build a better cinematic universe for women in general. However, at the same time, the male characters aren’t totally forgotten with Darville’s Malcolm constantly interesting. Perhaps the fine-tuning of this formula is half the problem. The writers were so worried with getting the feminist angle right, they forgot to write a proper story.
They did give us “I Want Your Cray Cray” though… they’re not all bad!
Final Verdict: Jessica Jones Season Two is the most frustrating Netflix Marvel yet, brilliant in places, as well as fiercely feminist, but overcooked and missing the point.