Living in a golden age of comic book properties being adapted into movies and tv series has its perks – there’s something around every corner for each taste. More established characters get their names and backstories on the marquee while lesser-known characters and independent series have a better opportunity on streaming services since their names aren’t as well known, creators have more freedom to tell the story these characters deserve, and fans can discover them much easier. Some characters have thrived from the benefit from long-form storytelling, from both DC and Marvel alike. Shows that inhabit Marvel’s Defender’s saga are the direct receiptants of this curated care from a Netflix and Marvel development, Jessica Jones being one of them.
Mirroring what the MCU has done with their phases, the Defenders saga enters their second phase, so to speak. Each character has gone through their inaugural season, making their introductions in the live action world, one being rebooted and having two seasons completed (just like Iron Man). All culminating into a team up mini-series where the 4 A-type personalities clash against one another and the looming threat in the centralized area of known as Hells Kitchen in Manhattan.
What sets the now former Netflix series (all can be found on Disney Plus behind a mature content wall) apart from the larger MCU is the tone. By comparison, these street-level hero’s stories are darker, tonally and in terms of content. More blood, foul language and mature themes that are given time to fully develop, some series more than others and some characters getting a better treatment from those adapting it. Titular anti-hero Jessica Jones (played fiercely by Krysten Ritter) is back after being forced to team up with the rest of the “Defenders” to stop the Hand from carving out Hell’s Kitchen.
Somehow that wasn’t an Avengers level threat, apparently.
Back in her isolated drunken hole that doubles as her living quarters and place of business titled Alias Investigations, Jones turns her DSLR gaze from the mind controlling Purple man to facing a different inner-demon that has traumatized her since being a child – the death of her family after a car accident and the block of time she lost that resulting in her uncanny abilities. Ritter stepping back into the role is just another shining example of Marvel casting getting it right. Ritter is perfectly adept to bring Jones off the page continuously embodying just how broken and isolated the character is while adding layers of dimensions to her.
Trauma, Isolation, addiction, and jealousy are but a few of the themes presented throughout season two. It’s not just Jessica dealing with a damaged and tortured soul. Theres’s Jessica’s sister and best friend Trish (Rachael Taylor) who is envious of the superpowers Jessica possess and downs herself in booze to forget. Rosenberg and writing team lean into these heavier themes while the performances supplement the more grounded approach to the development. Not only does the troubled and haunted past affect Jessica but everyone around her too. Malcolm (Eka Darville) wants to be a private investigator too, but it’s Jessica’s selfish behavior that gets in the way, causing the two once allies drift apart.
In previous seasons of the Defenders saga, one major criticism I’ve had that I’m sure many also have is the season length. Often, the middle episodes drag the story out, making a tightly wound narrative loosened and borderline derailing the entire series only for the final few episodes to get pointed back in the right direction. That does happen with a subplot or two here but it’s not as derailing to the overall direction.
As the connective tissue throughout the other series in Rosario Dawson’s Night Nurse is M.I.A., Rosenberg gives more to the supporting characters – possibly since the ensemble stood out in season 1 and more was necessary to keep them interesting. Trish has an extended role that teases her Patsy Walker “Hellcat” persona going into season 3 while Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne-Moss) is given extra time to develop her own subplot that winds up being more distracting but leave it to the skill of Moss to add nuance to the role.
Rosenberg rights the ship once the main villain makes her presence known and the story focuses in on the true state of these characters headspaces. As a neo-noir mystery, what happened to Jessica in those days she was experimented on by D. Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie) and IGH takes its time to develop – a touch slower than the previous season but compelling nonetheless with each twist and turn, every wound and heartbreak.
What really keeps the ship afloat during the middle section of the season is the hallucinations Jessica starts to have of her former mind controller Kilgrave (David Tennant). With limited screentime, Tennant soaks up all the spotlight looking disturbingly dastardly as he messes with Jessica bringing her PTSD back with every line of dialogue he speaks.
Another prominent theme that has surrounded Jessica Jones deals with family, It’s the centralized plot device for season 2. Playing Alisa Jones is Janet McTeer who is terrifying enough when she isn’t on a murdering warpath also experimented on by Malus and IGH. At least mother and daughter have something to bond over while they butt heads as Jones works her way through her own unsolved case. With everything else going on in this season, the fractured and broken relationship isn’t given enough time to explore the damage done to these two characters.
Despite a slower pace than the previous season, Jessica Jones still packs a super powered punch hard enough to knock you unconscious but still is emotionally driven to feel important to the greater universe. Ritter is an unstoppable force of nature with McTeer complimenting her in a supporting role. Full of stylistic action and visual effects, season 2 is further proof that streaming is the best option to tell this character’s story. 13 episode seasons still poses a question mark to what the exact length should be as the mini series that came before this was only 8 episodes and was paced better.
Created By: Melissa Rosenberg
Episodes Directed By: Anna Foerster, Minkie Spiro, Mairzee Almas, Deborah Chow, Millicent Shelton, Jet Wilkinson, Jennifer Getzinger, Zetna Fuentes, Rosemary Rodriguez, Neasa Hardiman, Jennifer Lynch, Liz Friedlander, Uta Briesewitz
Music By: Sean Callery
Cinematography: Manuel Billeter
Starring: Kristen Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, J. R. Ramirez, Terry Chen, Leah Gibson, Janet McTeer
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Release Date: March 8, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Based On: Jessica Jones by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos