This post contains spoilers for Jessica Jones.
Season one of Jessica Jones showed us a woman still trying to survive her nightmare, but never really growing at any point. It started important conversations about addiction, consent, and mental illness, and for that it deserves all of the accolades it received, but it also went out of its way to show that Jessica was a closed-off asshole well before Killgrave entered her life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with an unlikeable protagonist, but if their sole purpose is to drink and complain while constantly hurting the people who love them, things can get old quickly.
Surviving trauma is difficult, but learning to live after that trauma (or traumas) is worse. No one has the right to tell a survivor what their timetable to recovery is, but when you’re working in fiction and attempting to tell a story you can’t stay in one place for too long. Jessica Jones’ second season is guilty of doing so with many of the supporting characters, but not Jessica herself. While Trish and Malcolm’s stories drag on, Jess is finally learning to deal with her shit and how to let people in. To Trish and Malcolm’s credit, they probably wouldn’t have been stuck so long if they weren’t busy constantly bailing Jessica out of her nonsense, but that’s a different editorial for another time.
The overall plot exceeds the first season’s in a few areas, but lacks in ways that its predecessor didn’t. On one hand, things aren’t as black and white this time. What IGH and its doctors did to people was immoral, but Dr. Karl genuinely seemed to want to save people. Jessica’s mother, Alisa, was mentally broken after Karl’s experiments and could not control her wrath or the urge to murder, but she wanted to be better for her daughter. While bringing in shades of grey food for thought, the show suffers overall for not having a clear cut antagonist. Turning it into an eight episode season might have saved it from some of the spinning wheels that caused, but c'est la vie.
At first it looks as if the point of the story is to raise the question of family. Are those we’re related to the only family we get, or are the bonds we make with those we choose stronger? Turns out neither is the point and they just wanted to continue to illustrate how awful Dorothy Walker is while never bothering to address any sort of punishment or lasting issue with the fact that she literally pimped out her daughter as a child and continues to be a genuinely disgusting wretch who should have no access to Trish or Jessica. If they didn’t spend so much time saying “but she’s her mother”, you might think the point is that everyone’s awful and that you just have to decide what you’re willing to take or not, but the maternal theme just kept coming up.
Mommy issues aside, season two’s overall narrative of women reclaiming their power made it mostly worthwhile. The mother stuff will leave some viewers gnashing their teeth, and some of the arguments are more exhausting than intriguing, but we finally see Jessica learning how to be a person and not just a drunk punching machine. Trish’s story is just a few notes short of infuriating, but hey, at least we’ll have Hellcat in the inevitable season three. Everyone seems to finally be doing what’s right for them, even if it means moving on from other people. That’s left Jessica mostly alone with the exception of Oscar and Vido, but their weird little family seems to be just what she needs right now. Besides, it’s important she has something to distract her when she finds out Trish really did end up with powers.
In a show called Jessica Jones, it’s strange that the MVP of the season would go to someone else. While Krysten Ritter does an exceptional job bringing more emotion and conflict to Jessica, season two’s shining star is Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth. Let’s be clear, Hogarth has always been an irreplaceable addition to every Marvel show she’s graced, but her terminal ALS diagnosis brought something out of her that elevated the character more than could have been expected. Hogarth’s raw power coupled with devastating vulnerability made every action she took incredible, right down to her deliciously cruel act of vengeance against Inez and Shane. Jeryn Hogarth has always been a force to be reckoned with, but she reminded every single person she met this season not to cross the woman who crawled her ass out of a trailer park to be who she is today.
Season two doesn’t end so much end as it peters out, but it seems fitting. There are no grandiose gestures, no loud proclamations of heroism or otherwise, just a bunch of broken and dying people finding their new normal in a shitty world that does shitty things to people. Nearly everyone’s hurt, but each major player ended up getting what they were after. Trish gets her dream, Malcolm finds something to do, Hogarth has new life, and Jess has found a family. It’s not often we see these Marvel shows tie a bow on one of their finales, but each of the characters deserved their small victories, even if each of them are assholes in their own right.
If you had thoughts on Jessica Jones’ second season, head down to the comments to sound off.