Jessica Jones Season 2 Review
Life after Kilgrave
The second season of Jessica Jones takes a while to get going, and misses a strong antagonist, but ultimately proves an enjoyable modern noir mystery.Picking up what feels like immediately after the events of the first season (and thus largely skipping over the events of The Defenders, for those who missed the disappointing crossover series), Jessica Jones is still reeling from having dealt with her arch-nemesis, the mind-controlling Kilgrave, and is drowning her bad dreams in whiskey, whilst trying to keep her old Alias Investigations PI firm running in the face of new competition; a rival PI who has his own hidden agenda.After her sister starts digging - looking into the missing days after the accident that gave her superpowers - Jessica is reluctantly forced to confront IGH, the mysterious organisation that may or may not have something to do with not only Jessica's powers, but those of a number of individuals across the New York, unraveling a much bigger conspiracy that threatens to consume not only her but everyone she knows and loves. It's all just another day in the office for Jessica Jones.
Whilst DC's movies struggle from one to the next, and Marvel continues to find new ways to remain fresh on the Big Screen, DC's TV output sustains 22-24 episode shows, many of which are cruising past their fifth year but still maintaining popularity. Marvel, on the other hand, have had quite a mixed run on TV. Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has lasted well, but the quartet of main 'Defenders' characters have suffered a mixed bag of first seasons - with Daredevil first season being defined by superbly choreographed fight sequences and a tremendous villain in Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin, and it's second season saved only by Marvel's secret weapon, the surprise hit that was The Punisher, whose own spin-off solo season is easily its strongest effort. Meanwhile, characters have been spun off in every direction to form The Defenders, with Luke Cage's retro blaxploitation vibe wearing a little thin, and Iron Fist's acting-like-a-child-out-of-water routine testing everyone's patience. They are all still quality viewing, all cut from the same stylish mold, but some are definitely more flawed than others. And they all culminated in the utterly anticlimactic The Defenders crossover event, which subsequent solo seasons appear more than happy to forget ever happened.
Jessica Jones was a nice little alternative after Daredevil, with the PI vibe and strong female-centric story subverting expectations, particularly given actress Krysten Ritter's seemingly effortless ability to play a world class b**** (not all that surprising given her previous form on TV shows) who makes for the world's least likely - and least likable - superheroine. And whilst her unapologetically rude shtick - her apt tagline is "NO FILTER" - only carried the show so far, it thankfully delivered one of Marvel's best superpowered villains in David Tennant's Kilgrave. Seeing Jessica in The Defenders post-Kilgrave just reminded viewers of how bland she could be - just another character with undefined super-strength - and there was some doubt as to whether a second season of Jessica Jones could go anywhere after the climactic end of the first.
Season 2 is happy to sit back and take it's good time to get going
Certainly the second season of Jessica Jones doesn't necessarily avoid the pitfalls of most of Marvel's TV output - namely that it is happy to sit back and take it's good time to get going - but it does do well to fall back upon the core elements of its own central character, delving deep within rather than without and, as a result, making Ritter's lead a more interesting anti-heroine protagonist. Around the peripherals, her adoptive sister Trish (Rachael Taylor) gets into her own trouble propelling the quest into Jessica's past, her ex-lawyer (Carrie-Anne Moss) finds a tragic path back into the fold and Eka Deville's Malcolm finds his own inner strength. Demons from Jessica's past rear their heads, and increasing visions - not least of all her time in the IGH wards - haunt her waking hours, whilst strange forces close in on them all.
Jessica Jones is at is best when it plays out as an extended classic noir private eye investigation, complete with Ritter's tired, laconic and almost monotone voiceover. It's still massively self-indulgent, feeling the need to commit to the same unnecessary 13-episode run as its siblings, when perhaps ten efficiently edited episodes would more than suffice, and easily result in a more enjoyable overall experience. Pacing is everything, and Marvel TV shows are not known for it, instead relying upon the slow-burn and second-half twists which change up the entire dynamic to make the last few episodes thrillingly binge-worthy. But it's always a tough slog getting there, and season 2 of Jessica Jones is no exception.
It plays out as an extended classic noir private eye investigation
Season 2 also has to deal with the staggering void left behind after the departure of David Tennant's Kilgrave, trying its best to make up for it with the Big Bad corporation instead - the ominous IGH organisation which hangs over the first few episodes like a clandestine government organisation who are more than happy to wipe out any trace of anybody who gets too close to uncovering their secrets - although this still isn't the same as having a Kilgrave, or even a Kingpin scheming in the wings. Nevertheless, it does afford more super-powered miscreants to come to the fore, posing tangible threats to the still undefined super-strength of Jones.
There's enough intrigue to keep you holding on, and the sophomore investigations of Jones easily get better and better as they go along, with the multiple strands starting to come together even halfway into the increasingly dark season; character arcs coalescing and crescendoing to supernova, and the convoluted pieces of the puzzle clattering messily into place. Choosing to dive back into Jones' past is a clever move - as her origins were the only ones amidst The Defenders quartet (and even The Punisher) not to be dealt with in the first season - allowing these further adventures to feel at once a natural progression, a fresh new case, and also a clever angle deeply entrenched in the lore of Marvel's Defenders characters.
If you're feeling tired of the arguably hit-and-miss quality of some of the Defenders characters and their individual shows, then this won't change your mind, but if you enjoyed the first season then you're likely to get along well enough with this more mature, more refined offering, particularly if you stick with it.
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