We will soon be watching the last few episodes of Netflix’s Jessica Jones and the last stretch of Defenders shows in the MCU. The third season of the show will be the final dot on a part of the universe that lasted for four years, generated major buzz online and became a favorite of many Marvel fans.
Undoubtedly, both Daredevil and Jessica Jones ended up as the two biggest successes of Marvel at the streaming giant. The first came out to stellar reviews by fans and critics alike, so the second had a very difficult job to do in living up to the public’s expectations. People wanted the violent, dark, realistic tone of Daredevil, while also maintaining the quality of its fabulous action sequences. They wanted more of what they’d seen, so it was an impressive move by both Marvel TV and Netflix to do Jessica Jones as they did.
The show did live up to the expectations in terms of quality and praise, and to this day, the first season is still one of the best of the Netflix MCU. However, it managed to do that by being as different from Daredevil as it was similar. The dark, down-to-earth tone was there, but season one was not a show about street fights and masked people running through the night. Instead, they gave us a fantastic detective story with an amazing antihero as its central character. More than that, we got a glimpse into realistic storytelling that dealt with heroes and villains in a way that felt truly unique.
In a universe with so many films, and populated by so many great stories, it’s impressive for a villain from a TV show (that’s not really acknowledged by the movies) to be remembered so often among the best characters of said universe. Kilgrave is a menacing, chilling and invasive villain, and he doesn’t need to lift a finger to be so. Mind control is in itself a very scary issue, and Jessica Jones portrayed it masterfully, transforming a potentially generic nemesis into a multilayered abuser that messed up the hero’s life in a deep and enduring way.
That’s also one of the main qualities of the first season. Its villain is not just a comic book adaptation of a villain; he’s an adaptation of so many tragic and, unfortunately, real stories. Kilgrave represents much more than mind control in a sci-fi way, he represents the enduring effects of abuse in a person’s life. This is not something you see on a superhero property everyday.
Jessica Jones was not only abused physically, she had her soul destroyed in the process. She’d done unspeakable things, even if against her will. She was ashamed and insecure to open up about it, and a lot of people who were abused in real life describe their feelings after the trauma in a similar way. The show’s realism was about feelings and reactions, not about cinematography or fight choreography. That’s how such a satisfactory and surprising season was delivered: realism, but another kind of it. Not the bloody, physical way Daredevil did, but an original take on it.
If season one knocked it out of the park, that was not particularly the case for the second time around. Season two divides the public’s opinion, but it is undeniably inferior to its predecessor. Jessica’s character arc was taken in a direction that most of the fans simply didn’t care for. Sure, her past was a mystery that needed solving, but the protagonist from the previous episodes was interesting and layered enough without us knowing much about it. The show took the character in a direction that felt far too obvious, which, considering the surprising nature of season one, broke expectations in a disappointing way.
That does not mean, however, that it was a bad season. Even if in an unsatisfactory direction, the story did deliver more character development for Jessica, while also giving other characters a chance to shine. As was the case before, Krysten Ritter proves to be an amazing actress with an amazing range, giving us the best version of this character we could ask for. Like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, the character is now indissociable from its performer. Even with the lack of a great villain like Kilgrave and with even deeper pacing issues, Melissa Rosenberg’s show continued to be many fans’ favorite part of the Netflix MCU.
With such a fantastic protagonist, it’s impressive that Jessica Jones also has so many interesting and developed secondary characters. In fact, among the six Marvel shows on Netflix, it is probably the best on this aspect. Hogarth, Malcom, Trish, Simpson, even Luke Cage in season one. No other one of these shows has a better roster of supporting characters, and it’s honestly a shame that this shared universe is over and we won’t see them crossover into the other shows again.
Jessica Jones caught lightning in a bottle and managed to be as amazing as we all hoped it would be after Daredevil’s success. More than that, it did so by being different, original and relevant. It has the characteristic darkness of these shows, but it uses such darkness as an opportunity to comment on social and psychological issues that few other shows have the courage to do.
Let’s hope we get another great 13 episodes of Jessica Jones when season 3 premieres on June 14th.