Marvel’s Netflix series serve as the antithesis of their silver screen productions. These series are inherently darker and more adult than anything we’ll ever see in Avengers. The heroes we see on the big screen embody the meaning of morality and heroism, while the characters on Netflix are much more nuanced and damaged. Their flaws and tribulations are what made Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica such compelling characters. The first season of Jessica Jones was peak Marvel on Netflix.
The second season finds Jessica Jones (the excellent Kristen Ritter) looking to pick up the pieces and move on from her past with Kilgrave (David Tennant) by taking on a new case. After a wild turn of events featuring a cameo from an obscure Golden Age superhero Jessica is once again chasing ghosts and on the hunt for IGH, the genetic engineers that bestowed her with superheroic abilities. This plot retreads familiar territory but it does include a slew of twists and turns. The second season introduces a few new characters and shakes up the status quo for all of the series regulars. Pryce Cheng (Terry Chen), owner of his own private investigation agency looking to annex Alias Investigations starts off as a strong rival matching Jessica at every turn on the detective front. Her apartment’s new super and his son–Oscar (J.R. Ramirez) and Vito (Kevin Chacon), respectively–are a welcome addition to a series that seems to despise the idea of family. Trish (Rachael Taylor) and Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) vehemently want to get down to the bottom of the IGH situation for their own ultimately selfish motives despite however helpful they believe themselves to be.
Season 2 has a few flaws the most egregious being the complete disregard for the events of the Defenders series. Despite word from the showrunner Melissa Rosenberg that the show’s second season takes place within six months of the Defenders series there isn’t even a cursory mention of the time she helped saved the city alongside Netflix’s other trio of heroes. It does, however, mention The Raft the super prison from the Captain America film series. Jessica Jones also lacks a substantive villain after the demise of Kilgrave and Marvel’s staunch adherence to a 13 episode season makes this a glaring point. Jessica Jones has always been a character drama with noire elements more so than a superhero epic and the dynamic relationship between Jessica and Kilgrave drove most of the tightly knit narrative in the first season. Without a character with the gravitas of Kilgrave some of the episodes tend to feel like they’re dragging and it takes a solid chunk of episodes before anything truly meaningful happens. There are also character arcs that never merge into the larger narrative which feels like there is a lack of a resolution.
This season gleefully takes what we think we know about the characters and turns those notions on their collective heads. Everything and everyone is grittier than the first season. Characters seldom exhibit their redeeming qualities and rarely do they partner with Jessica. The titular character frequently rejects the assistance of her friends and refuses to help anyone but herself throughout most of the season. She enlists Malcolm (Eka Darville), the recovering addict, as her associate at Alias Investigations mainly to keep him from relapsing but still she neglects their partnership and “fires” him at least once an episode. It also seems her stubborn attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the cast.
Throughout the course of season one Trish Walker, Jones’ sister and confidante, served as a thoughtful and caring force that helped to level her sister’s more impulsive ideas. In the second season she finds herself feeling powerless becoming obsessed with the IGH case to the point where she jeopardizes her show Trish Talk and her relationship with her lover. Jeri Hogarth finds herself with an even more expanded role this season and the hard-ass lawyer does experience somewhat of an altruistic turn. Often it seems like the only likeable character is Malcolm who, time and time again, goes out of his way to help virtually every single character on the show all while maintaining his sobriety.
Despite starting off extremely slow and having little connectivity to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, season 2 isn’t entirely bad. Once Janet McTeer and Callum Keith Rennie’s characters make their appearance in the season the show really ramps up and gains some real emotional weight. The changing dynamic between Trish and Jessica is also quite a blast to watch as seeing the sisters at odds about how to tackle IGH really sets up Trish’s eventual growth into her own heroic identity as Hellcat. The second half of the season tries its hardest to make up for the sleepiness of the first half but the season still falls short of the exemplary first season. The ending of the season shows a new path for all of the main characters and setting the stage for Jessica to finally live in the present instead of fighting her past with all that happens at the end it’s hard not to see a season 3 that rivals the highs of the first season.