Netflix's Jessica Jones Season 3 Review
"You are now, and you never will be, a hero."
Netflix's run of harder-edged Marvel TV shows comes to an end, but can Jessica Jones send it out on a high?Although a strong argument could be made to say that Marvel's Netflix shows have been a little hit and miss, the eclectic quartet at least offered some diversity, from Daredevil's more straightforward action (including some stunning long takes) to Iron Fist's chi-dominated martial arts, Luke Cage's blaxploitation-flavoured effort, and Jessica Jones' darker private detective with powers. Daredevil offered a strong start, and Jessica Jones boasted one of the best villains in the franchise with David Tennant's mind-controlling adversary, but both Iron Fist and Luke Cage took a little longer to warm to, being somewhat unsurprisingly cancelled after 2 seasons each.
Daredevil would turn in a stunning third season, largely courtesy of Vincent D'Onofrio's standout Kingpin - the best villain in the franchise - which made the announcement of its cancellation all the more disappointing. It was inevitable, given the impending Disney+ streaming channel and likely reboot of all of these characters, but perhaps the biggest blow came after we finally had a decent interpretation of The Punisher; a Daredevil spin-off character who was delivered with depth and visceral violence, the latter of which is certainly not a Disney forte.
Filmed before the shows were all cancelled, Jessica Jones Season 3 lands with little fanfare, something of an afterthought - a franchise which, even had the rest not been cancelled, didn't necessarily need any further continuation, which is hardly likely to afford the epic conclusions that both Daredevil Season 3 and The Punisher Season 2 delivered, but which we are getting anyway.
Hardly likely to afford the epic conclusions that both Daredevil Season 3 and The Punisher Season 2 delivered, Jessica Jones Season 3 lands with little fanfare
Sorely missing David Tennant's Kilgrave, Season 2 of Jessica Jones saw her look back at her origins, involving experimentation and a super-powered, and somewhat psychotic, mother. After going on the run together, things come to a head when Jessica's adopted sister Trish takes drastic action to stop Jessica. The season closed with the siblings separated, Trish discovering that she may well have some powers of her own, and Jessica returning to her PI business.
Season 3 picks up with Jessica's lawyer Hogarth (The Matrix's Carrie-Ann Moss) struggling to keep her degenerative disease at bay and her firm intact, whilst Jessica's friend Malcolm has to deal with his conscience whilst working for Hogarth, walking down a dangerous path. Called upon by her adopted mother to find the missing Trish, Jessica reluctantly starts following her adopted sister, discovering more than she had bargained, with the two having to work through their differences if they want to tackle the new big bad on the horizon.
It's back to business as normal for Jessica Jones, and for Netflix's Marvel shows, and perhaps that is where the problem lies because everybody else has likely come to terms with the fact that this is Game Over. In light of the cancellation of the entire franchise, Jessica Jones Season 3 plays as ambivalence. With its 13 episode slow-burn tempo and utter obliviousness towards not only the grander Marvel universe, but even the Netflix/Marvel micro-verse, Jessica Jones is clearly not interested in providing any kind of closure to the bigger universe but leaves fans with at least a slightly better handle on the future of these characters, even if that's far from what anybody was particularly crying out for.
Of all the Marvel products, the pace of the Netflix shows will likely never be missed, prioritising character development - which is a plus - but also prioritising a clear desire to fill out a 13-episode slot, when 10 (or less) would easily suffice with no damage to the character development whatsoever.
Season 3 of Jessica Jones offers us an entire mini arc dedicated to Rachael Taylor's Trish and her slow-building transition from daytime B-list celebrity to agile feline superhero crime-fighter, which is a natural progression from the last season, but also something of a filler; watching Trish training and doing amateur parkour, like Spider-Man-lite. It also leaves a couple of entire episodes of Jessica Jones largely devoid of its titular character (star Krysten Ritter makes her directorial debut with Episode 2, which perhaps explains why she's onscreen for mere seconds of it), and, again, in the knowledge that this is the end, there's little satisfaction to be gained from diverging onto this second-tier character (or her vacuous one-note mother, played by Rebecca DeMornay); a character who, by halfway through the series, still isn't fully realised, and whose ultimate revelations make for a little bit of an 11th hour contrivance.
More interesting is Malcolm's murky new line of work, which Eka Darville plays out for all it's worth, as he graduates to a shady fixer who has little moral compass when it comes to getting the job done. And Carrie-Ann Moss still proves worthy of her through-line which ran across almost all of the Marvel shows. The new face with his own 'powers' makes for a nice addition too, but the simmering style to the pacing often exhausts before even the slightest bit of tension can be made, building to an eventful mid-season set-up, even if it this season appears full of abortive attempts at shock surprises. It's Ritter who ultimately holds everything together but at 13 episodes long, the operative word would be: barely.
It's back to business as normal for Jessica Jones, and for Netflix's Marvel shows, and perhaps that is where the problem lies, because everybody else has likely come to terms with the fact that this is Game Over
It takes an interminably long time for the actual Big Bad to arrive (with Season 3's early stage non-linear tinkering making a pretty traumatic first episode event feel utterly abortive in its impact), and there's far too much back and forth with the catch-and-release, but the threat is at least more effective than last time out, making the seemingly invincible Jessica vulnerable for once, and keenly juxtaposing her with someone who is superbly cerebral, and curiously isn't a whole lot unlike The Punisher's Frank Castle gone wrong; a serial killer would-be vigilante who interprets justice in a unique way: he has a grudge against 'cheaters' - those who have not earned their powers in life. And, to him, Jessica's the biggest cheater of them all.
Perhaps the darkest of the three seasons, not least visually, Dolby Vision still manages to just about fight through the murk of this season, providing some unabashedly stunning shots and superior detail which reminds you that the series is capable of providing some of the best looking TV on Netflix, whilst Dolby Atmos affords a little more immersion than normal.
Fans of Jessica Jones will be happy that we get one more season, even if it is a bittersweet feeling, with The Defenders' second biggest player getting a fitting enough send-off even if the wider Netflix/Marvel Universe doesn't.
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