'Jessica Jones' is still her own best enemy
Jessica Jones is still her own worst enemy and it's within this emotionally destructive cycle where the series is, and always has been, at its most compelling. This review of Jessica Jones Season 2 is spoiler-free.
In the first five episodes provided to Newsweek for review, Trish Walker’s sidekick arc builds as Jessica’s stays largely stagnant. There are brief moments where the show’s sophomore season can feel boring, repetitive, slow and unmoored. But these first five episodes also aren’t your average ‘superhero’ narrative, even for Marvel’s Netflix shows, which tend to focus on tedious character development above all else. It’s an exploration of two ideas that go hand-in-hand in Jessica’s corner of New York City: friendship and addiction. Every character in Jessica Jones is an addict in recovery, whether their relief is strength-enhancing drugs, alcohol or self destructive behavior. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is perhaps more addicted to the pain at the heart of her identity than the unruly amount of alcohol she pours down her esophagus.
Sure it sucks to see Jessica deal with her pain the same way repeatedly, but we are creatures of habit and demand comfort when it comes to our vices. That's why seeing her be so hard on herself is so difficult to watch, especially after an entire season of Kilgrave’s relentless horror show. But the same things that make the show tough to stomach also make it a more authentic story of trauma and self-sabotage. Jessica is intolerant, irritable and alienated because she still can’t seem to forgive herself for killing Reva Connors under Kilgrave’s manipulation. And if you were hoping she’d be ‘over it’ by Season 2’s start, remember this takes place only a short time after Season 1’s finale (even though it’s been over two years IRL).
Jessica has perfected using toxicity as her coping method of choice, but after the first few episodes we see her take a few recovery strides. She attempts a round of group therapy (as seen in the trailer). When that doesn’t work, we actually see her try a one-on-one session. She walks out, but later admits it helped. Who knew? But the real progress comes by way of her friendship with Trish, who is persistent in presenting Jessica with the answers she knows she needs to quell a mystery she’s blocked out of her mind for 17 years: how did she really get her powers?
That’s pretty much a standard question in every superhero story. It’s amid this discovery of Jessica origin story where you really start to appreciate showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the writing team, who resisted giving us any real answers until now (not even by episode 5). There’s something to be said about drama that refuses a neat resolution, and out of all Marvel’s Netflix installments Jessica Jones is the most successful at this.
The shadowy experimental organization, IGH, was introduced with Will Simpson in Season 1. Discovering who is behind IGH, and thus the true villain of Jessica JonesSeason 2 (aside from Jessica herself) proves less straightforward than the revelation of the organization’s acronym. Jessica is a private investigator by trade, but the way the clues are presented is far more satisfying than the average mystery. The first five hours of Season 2 weave out a compex map of seemingly irrelevant information that starts with Will Simpson, leads into a brand-new Trish backstory and eventually collides with the introduction of new characters who offer our broken hero a sense of solidarity. Jeri Hogarth (a lawyer first introduced in Daredevil who has appeared in every show except Luke Cage) is even brought into the fold with a small, yet extremely unique and impactful arc that appears antagonistic in yet-to-be discovered ways.
Ritter finds a way to channel her character’s debilitating pain with such raw ferocity you can see the glaze of tear behind her eye and feel the anxious lump in her throat. Her performance alone is captivating enough to keep the first five episodes consistently entertaining, even as the story moves at a snail’s pace. Jessica is finally ready to confront the source of her trauma and out the enemy who has been hiding deep within her troubled past, but you'll have to trudge through the emotional torture right along with her to find the riveting answers the show promises.