Jessica Jones returns for season 2 on Netflix: The complicated whiskey-swigging superhero(ine) is compelling
In Jessica Jones, Marvel finally has a female superhero that isn’t just Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow playing sidekick to the male Avengers.
Two and a half years between seasons is a very long wait, to be honest. So much has changed since November 2015 when Marvel’s Jessica Jones first released on Netflix. We have more pressing troubles now, real life troubles; which means we're probably not as hung up on movie and television superheroes and their complicated lives.
On the other hand, maybe comic-book superheroes fighting against evil and for justice (on TV and in the movies) are the perfect escapist antidote to the is-this-real-life-or-a-reality-show reality that we’re unfortunately living in. And Jessica Jones, who snapped her rapist, mind-controlling, creepy arch-nemesis Kilgrave’s neck at the end of last season, is probably the superhero(ine) that we didn’t know we needed, until we saw her unapologetically drinking her whiskey, bashing up assh***s, being angry and complex, and, “like, totally relatable” in a very non-Jennifer Lawrence-like manner.
And suddenly, Marvel had a female superhero that wasn’t just Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow playing sidekick to the male Avengers. And so, as the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones released on Netflix on International Women’s Day, and right in the midst of the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements, we go back to our not-at-all-perfect female superhero to fight more battles, embrace one of the most nuanced female friendships portrayed on television (between Jessica and her BFF Trish Walker), and to find out if she finally got any closure from the abuse she survived.
I’m mid-way through the season as I’m writing this, and I can’t wait to finish the rest.
When we meet Jessica (Krysten Ritter) again this season, she’s still angry. Very, very angry. A lot of her anger resonates, because, well, a lot of us women are angry right now. But Jessica Jones’ anger is driven by events and circumstances quite unlike the usual (and yet, horrible) crap that most women have to deal with on a daily basis. Kilgrave’s torture of her, the memory of the car accident that killed the rest of her family, and the experiments that the mysterious organization IGH conducted on her, have all had an impact on Jessica in ways that nobody can understand. Or, well, is there somebody who can? We see Jessica trying to go about her life — private investigating domestic affairs with the help of her neighbour Malcolm (Eka Darville) who’s now on-board Alias Investigations full-time — drinking at a rate that would make an Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day blush with incompetency, and going to court-ordered anger management classes where her background and PTSD pretty much puts everyone else’s sob stories to shame (unintentionally, of course).
Trish (Rachel Taylor) is around as well, more partner to Jessica this season than an extra or even just a sidekick, although she has her own demons to deal with (her overbearing mother who essentially pimped her for fame when Trish was a teenager, her drive to be a more serious news/radio personality who reports on stories beyond “lifestyle”, and coming to terms with Will Simpson’s attempt on her life as per Kilgrave’s orders).
There’s another PI who thinks Jones is a freak and wants to take over her business. And, there’s a surely-he’s-nuts guy who claims to have been given superpowers by “them” and comes to Jones for help. She’s obviously too much of an asshole to bother hearing him out, but she’s faintly intrigued when he starts to talk about an organization that might just be IGH, and when the man dies (or is killed?) at a construction site right in front of her, at least Jones is humble enough to realize there might be something to his story.
Which is just as well, because Trish has been after Jessica to delve into her past to the time of the car accident, after which she disappeared for days (which must be when she was taken by an organization and experimented on), and returned with superpowers. Ever the supportive friend, Trish isn’t necessarily all altruistic with this; her boss wants her to either find meatier stories (like super-vigilante Jessica Jones and her origins) or go back to reporting about fall wardrobe staples and summer wedding ideas.
Jones and Walker make an unlikely, but super-compelling crime fighting duo. As adoptive sisters and best friends, they’re very different from each other. But there’s an understanding and a bond between them that makes them each other’s best ally. Their friendship is portrayed as a messy, complicated, and respectful one, which is hella realistic and very unlike the tied-with-a-neat-bow kind of female friendships we’re mostly used to seeing on screen. They’re both approaching IGH and its mysteries with a lot at stake, and from what I’ve seen so far, their enemy (while no Kilgrave) is certainly going to make things really hard for them. As of now, IGH has manifested itself in the form of a rather unstoppably-powerful super-villain, who our favourite vigilante duo seem to be struggling to take down.
In the meantime, their quest for unraveling IGH’s secrets lead them to Inez, a nurse-gone-rogue who used to work at IGH and may have more substantial information. She’s already been recruited by Jeri Hogarth (a returning Carrie-Anne Moss), whose high-flying law career may be at risk due to an unforeseen personal health issue. Enter Inez, who Jeri has agreed to host in exchange of information about any alternative medicine that IGH may have developed. There’s certainly a rather annoying pattern to Jeri’s behaviour here (remember her madness in season one where she believed Kilgrave would convince her wife to sign their divorce papers, a plan that royally backfires when Kilgrave instead orders her wife to kill Jeri?). Yeah, I think I know where this is headed.
Since Marvel’s Jessica Jones first released back in late 2015, Jones has had company from a slew of superhero shows that Netflix and Marvel have churned out. Luke Cage, notably absent from this season of Jessica Jones, is getting another season for himself. Iron Fist was abysmal, but at least they poked enough fun at him in The Defenders, where Jones, Cage, and Iron Fist were joined by Daredevil. As interesting and fun as Marvel’s Luke Cage, Daredevil and even The Punisher have been, Jessica Jones has arguably been the most riveting character of them all. Maybe it’s because of her almost-realistic backstory. Maybe it’s because her primary antagonist was one of the scariest villains in superhero lore, like ever. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman; strong and very unlike society’s conventional image of what a woman should behave like.
As I get ready to watch the next few episodes, I’m intrigued by the events, the action, and the drama on the series. But more than anything, I’m invested in the characters: Jones’ continuing evolution from being a complete hard-ass to someone who’s marginally better at trusting her friends, her growing relationship with Trish while also exploring Trish’s own character growth, former junkie Malcolm really coming into his own, and even Jeri’s behaviour in the wake of her shaken self-worth. These are all incredibly complex and beautifully rendered character arcs that add a very appealing edge to what could otherwise have been just another one-note superhero series.
There’s no doubt that Marvel and Netflix are really going all out with their emphasis on the feminist bent to Jessica Jones, as a character and the series as a whole. Every episode this season has been directed by a woman (apparently, they were looking to have equal representation, but when they started interviewing people, they realised that the women really were that much better. Who would’ve thunk, right? Cue, eye roll.).
Add show-runner Melissa Rosenberg, and the lead characters, almost all of whom are women, and we have the perfect recipe for a kick-ass feminist show. And like Black Panther, which wasn’t only for black people (duh!) just because it had a nearly all-black cast, Marvel’s Jessica Jones isn’t only for strong, angry women. Jones’ rage, which this season is mostly all about, is every rational, liberal, sensible person’s rage right now. It just looks a whole lot better because of the close attention to detail all the women associated with it have given it.
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