Krysten Ritter’s super-powered super-sleuth is back in the long-awaited second season of Marvel and Netflix’s Jessica Jones…
Back in 2015, Jessica Jones offered us one of the boldest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It was a mature, moody noir drama of a superhero show starring one TV’s great anti-heroines – the titular powered private eye known for drowning her PTSD in the bottom of a whiskey glass. Since then, Netflix’s arm of the MCU has served up a mixed bunch – the good (The Punisher), the bad (bits of Luke Cage and The Defenders) and the ugly (Iron Fist) – but it was hoped that JJ season 2 could put things back on track. So has it?
Well, that’s a tricky question. The truth is that Jessica Jones season 2 doesn’t come together as a whole quite as well as its debut run. In particular, the first five episodes or so are pretty meandering even by the usual slow-burning standards of Marvel-Netflix – just what was the point in Griffin Sinclair?! However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a lot going for it as well. For one, this season makes much better use of the show’s supporting cast than last time.
It’s proved to be a very controversial move for the show but, personally, I found Trish’s trajectory over the season to be fascinating. Trish was the character who had, as Jessica might say, “her sh*t together” the most in season 1 but here her life falls apart as she becomes addicted to Will Simpsons’ combat enhancers. As she goes on a quest to act like a hero, it’s interesting to see her actually become more selfish. By the end of the season, Trish has got her wish and has powers – but can she truly come back from this and become a hero?
Jeri Hogarth’s storyline was perhaps the weakest subplot in season one but here hers is arguably the best, certainly the tightest, the most in-character and arguably the best performed. Depicting Jeri dealing with a terminal diagnosis allows us to really get under her skin and Carrie-Anne Moss clearly relishes exploring a more textured side to this ruthless, calculating woman. The scene in which she realises she has been conned and her apartment has been ransacked features a profoundly moving turn from the former Matrix star.
But the core of the season is how Jessica’s world is blown wide open by the reappearance of her mother. Once this reveal is out of the bag, the season really comes alive. Janet McTeer does a great job of ensuring Alisa Jones reminds us of her daughter and the multi-layered relationship between the Jones women is a big reason why the second half of the season is so much better than the first, echoing the electric hero/villain dynamic of Jessica and Kilgrave in season 1. Speaking of Kilgrave, his one-off appearance is a genuine highlight of the season.
Yet this season 100% belongs to Krysten Ritter. Despite her tour-de-force turn in season 1, she is probably even better in the role this time around. Ritter’s performance, from her delivery to her body language, tells us how much Jess has grown over the past two seasons and by now she has honed the character’s blend of an acerbic facade and vulnerable core to a T. I’d argue that she’s the finest leading lady the MCU has.
There are some key themes that run through the season, such as female empowerment, addition and anger, but on the whole Jessica Jones season 2 lacks the narrative cohesion of season 1 – and likewise a truly top-draw antagonist – which sadly means it can’t rate as highly. However, the exciting second half, the smart character-based writing and the all-round terrific acting ensure that it is still one of the better Marvel-Netflix seasons.