Jessica Jones Season Two: A stuttering start but gets there in the end

Jessica Jones Season TwoJessica Jones Season TwoJessica Jones Season Two

Let’s face it, Jessica Jones’ season two was always going to suffer, at least from the outset, in comparison to season one for one simple reason: it was going to be pretty much impossible to come up with anything like the combination of Killgrave and David Tennant — an incredibly compelling villain played by an actor who so wonderfully (if one can use that word) and seductively inhabited that character. And there’s no doubt season two feels that lack of a compelling villain (one fully realizes how large a hole Tennant’s absence creates when he briefly returns in what I’d say was probably the best episode of the season).

In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the season that the show even comes close to trying to replace Tennant’s adversarial role, leaving Jessica and friends to muddle through an investigation of IGH and possibly-related murders that all feels a bit stock and non-descript. Not every show about heroes or potential heroes needs a singular villain, of course, and I actually applaud the writers for going down that path, but still, something has to make up for that loss and too many episodes go by before we get that something. It would have been sufficient, for instance, to see Jessica do some actual small-bore investigating of a non-personal nature just to pay the bills. Or really, any kind of investigating at all, since most of what we see pass for that here is opening up the laptop and doing one or two Google searches.

Besides missing that compulsively watchable villain from season one, the writers also have given themselves the un-enviable task of portraying a character still traumatized by events and unable to move forward in her life, whether professionally, socially, or romantically. It’s a tight line to walk, showing a character spinning her wheels or unable to connect to those around her without having the show also spin its wheels or have its audience feel somewhat disconnected from it. And I can’t say the writers always toed that line on the right side.

What that means is the first half of the season feels pretty disjointed and plodding (again, an appropriate mirror for Jessica’s life, but still a tough viewing experience). A few side characters promise the possibility of enlivening the material: Pryce Cheng, a competing PI; Robert “Whizzer” Coleman, who thinks he has super-speed and is being stalked by a monster of some sort; Griffin Sinclair, a tough war correspondent and Trish’s new boyfriend; Detective Eddy Costa and his partner; and another whom I won’t name so as to avoid spoilers. But none of them felt fully mined for their potential. The one exception to this is Jeri Hogarth’s character, who gets some life-changing news that lets the actor have some choice scenes; she’s perhaps the best facet of the first half of the season.

Episode seven is where we get some clarity as to the murders taking place and also, uncoincidentally, where the season starts to find its footing (though it remains a bit choppy — a long flashback for instance bogs down a bit and Trish’s addictive personality — drugs when young and heroism now — can be somewhat overplayed). A new villain is introduced, which I’ll be purposely vague about to avoid spoilers, one not as creepily compelling or fascinating as Killgrave but one that is more personal and brings their own complications and tension-filled “greyness” to events.

Episode eleven is, as noted, the best of the season, Not only for Tennant’s return (and no, I’m not saying how that happens), but also for the way it drives so deeply into Jessica’s psyche, not just in her enduring PTSD over Killgrave, but also thanks to the trauma of more recent events. It’s a brilliant episode that gives Ritter a true chance to shine. The same is true for Darville as Malcolm, even if the stakes aren’t quite as intense.

The finale closes off the season’s plot threads in powerful fashion but not in any way so that you think they are “resolved.” This, after all, is perhaps the signature element of Jessica Jones; her timetable of “getting over” things isn’t connected to a filming schedule. It’s much more realistic, and therefore heartbreaking. That said, all the main characters do find themselves in a new place by the end, each with a glimpse of hope. One can even say they get what they’ve always wanted, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for them or that they are not terrified of what they now have.

Season Two would have been better served with fewer episodes, probably 8-10 rather than thirteen. It doesn’t get going until far too long, spins its wheels too long, has pacing issues throughout the season and individual episodes, and runs the risk of having viewers think they’ve seen this all in last season but more interestingly. Some plotlines work better than others. Trish’s compulsive desire to be a hero, to have “power,” for instance, is a great storyline/theme on paper, but its execution falls short, sometimes thanks to the acting (repeatedly portraying being strung out is a thankless task) and sometimes thanks to the plotting.

But the show remains a uniquely fascinating examination of someone with power who would rather not bear the burden of that power, someone who more than just about anyone deserves a “normal” life. While Thor and Iron Man gloriously fly through a blue and cloudless sky, shining locks and armor and all, Jessica Jones trudges forward in the seedy crowded city streets, two steps forward and one step back, trying to escape a past that just won’t let her go. It’s a plodding motion, but motion it is and by the end she’s gotten somewhere even if it isn’t very far. Despite this season’s issues, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with even that modicum of momentum next season.


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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One comment

  1. I’m glad to hear that they gained steam in the second half. I agree that Kilgrave would be a difficult act to follow.

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