Well, here we are! After nearly two and a half years since the first season of Jessica Jones, we finally get our second go-around with everyone’s favorite alcoholic P.I. with the release of Jessica Jones Season 2 on Netflix.
EDITORS NOTE: We’re trying something a bit different with our review format this time around. Instead of doing individual episode reviews, we’re doing reviews in batches.
As the show opens, we catch up with Jessica doing her tradition investigation work; in this case, catching pizza guy Rafi in the act of cheating. It’s an interesting choice to kick off the show, as essentially it is the exact same opening as the first season: Two people being sleazeballs while Jessica snaps a few pictures from the shadows. What makes this exchange different, however, is that everyone knows who Jessica is now. Her abilities are public knowledge, as is her killing of Kilgrave (see what I did there?). So now, clients are asking her to commit murder. Jess says no of course, but we start to get a taste of how Jess is handling the events of last season (hint: it involves a lot of whiskey).
It is here that the show makes a strange choice. Season 2 immediately picks up where the end of Season 1 left off; dealing with Jessica’s identity as a public figure and the fallout from the Kilgrave incident. However, it almost completely ignores the events of The Defenders. In the first four episodes, there is only a single throwaway line that suggests Jess’s time with the superhero group ever even happened. Trish Walker tells Jess that she didn’t give any of the “others” names out on her radio show. That’s seriously it!
As Defenders was the culmination of four separate shows over several years, it seems strange that Marvel and Netflix have almost swept it under the rug here. This is especially odd considering that referencing these other heroes might have helped thematically during these first few episodes. There are a lot of mentions of Jessica being a vigilante superhero, and the idea of superheroes affecting the everyday lives of citizens in the MCU seems more prevalent than ever! We get a funny, on-the-nose reference to Captain America, and we are even introduced to a new super-powered man, the “Whizzer” (more on him in a bit). With the idea of Jess’s superpowers coming into the spotlight, the lack of reference to the other street-level heroes (or her time with them) is odd and stands out as a real missed opportunity.
What Season 2 offers as its main story-line is the mystery of Jessica Jones origin. In their pursuit of IGH, Jessica realizes that she was not the only one experimented on in the facility. In the first episode, we are introduced to “Whizzer”, a large man who claims to have super speed. Everyone is expecting him to be a lunatic, until he surprises everyone by busting out his best Quicksilver impression.
The inclusion of Whizzer feels like an important shift in the world of the Marvel Netflix Universe. At first glance, the character seems more like he belongs in an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, but I think it’s great to see that Netflix is accepting that their shows are in a universe where weird people can do weird stuff. We need to slowly move past that grounded argument! Unfortunately, he dies almost as quickly as he is introduced. Fun fact: The Whizzer is actually an obscure Marvel comic book character who received his powers from…you guessed it…mongoose blood. He even has a nod to the costume with his yellow and blue jacket!
I do have to note that the special effects on Whizzer looked pretty silly. Sure, it added to the shock/humor of discovering his ability, but I had to chuckle at the Wylie Coyote speed effects. The effects of character’s “leaping ability” stood out as well. Every time Jessica jumps, the camera only awkwardly shows us the take-off or the landing. This was true of the first season also, and I have to ask myself how hard it would be to show the entire jump? The budget of the show seems to show itself here.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to say: These shows do not need to be 13 episodes long! Not only would the budget be put to better use in a shorter season, but many of these shows are in desperate need of tighter storytelling. Jessica Jones season 2 starts very slowly, and the first 3-4 episodes are essentially a lot of table setting.
We catch up with Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) doing an awkward performance at a child’s birthday party to get information on the IGH company that experimented on Jessica. It’s the second scene of the season, and tonally it feels like an odd way to kick off. We then follow Trish as she attempts to convince Jessica to research IGH and its doctors. She does so by several means, including the family ashes! Ash and you shall receive…But after this we get a lot of scenes that don’t seem to matter. For example: watching Trish eat brunch with her mother, a side trip to a movie set, insight to Trish’s past as a child actor, and her relationship with her new boyfriend who has shady intentions (Didn’t the same thing happen last season?).
The same can be said about the other side characters. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) is facing a flood of personal drama, including a sexual harassment case, the loss of her law firm, and her surprising diagnosis of ALS. We get a lot of scenes focused on her slow spiral out of control, including a specific scene where she hires a prostitute and throws a drug-induced party in her penthouse. This long scene, in particular, doesn’t seem to have much relevance, other than to push the envelope on the shows adult content. I’m sure that the purpose of this whole story-line is to push Jeri towards seeking IGH as a desperate means of a cure, but it is taking a LOT of screen-time to get there. I can’t help but feel like the show is spinning its wheels.
We also get introduced to a few new characters. Pryce Cheng (Terry Chen) owns a competing P.I. firm and wants to buy Jessica out. Cheng and Jessica’s business dispute ends in Jess throwing him through a glass door and getting court-ordered anger management. (A moment of silence for that rubber ball….) Cheng seems like a potentially interesting character, and I’m curious where this plot-line will go. We also meet Oscar (J.R. Ramirez), the new Latino superintendent from 6F, along with his son Vito. Oscar and Jess get into a dispute, but little Vito has a crush. Awwwww. It is from him and his superhero obsession that we get a pretty great shout out to Captain America. Vito has made his action figure a “new shield”, which certainly seems to be a reference to Steve Roger’s abandonment of his shield at the end of Civil War, and his new Vibranium shield in Avengers: Infinity War. However, much of the eviction argument between Oscar and Jessica seemed completely irrelevant. I’m sure that Oscar will become a love interest, and I’m fairly sure that the group will need his criminal/forgery skills. Outside of that, his scenes seem in desperate need of trimming. Why include all of the side-plot of Jessica getting evicted, just for them to make up and immediately start smoochin’?
The side character that seems most interesting is Malcolm, played by Eka Darville. I’m not sure what it is about the character, and he isn’t given a ton to do, but after four episodes Darville’s performance and character arc stand out.
As Jessica researches IGH, we get a mixed bag. Some scenes are interesting and fit the tone, such as the discovery of the burnt skeleton in the basement oven. Others, like Jessica’s journey into the suburbs and her wrestle session with a legless man in a wheelchair, just seem….off. We see the return of Will Simpson (Will Traval), but he is soon killed as well. His death is quick, but I appreciate the show’s decision to clean the slate with him and shift the focus onto new characters.
The problem is, after 4 episodes, we still don’t have much hint of a villain. With the exception of Iron Fist, the Netflix shows have been generally pretty great about their villains. Part of what made Season 1 so good was that we constantly felt the looming presence of Kilgrave. We felt as if we were alongside Jessica, shocked and horrified by the endless number of things that he could do! In Season 2 however, this is not the case. We do not feel the same sense of threat and worry. After two hours of screen-time, the only hint we see of a villain is an awkward jump effect in an old warehouse. It is only towards the end of episode three that we are introduced to some sort of villain with Janet McTeer’s character. After describing the genetic editing that Jessica underwent as a child, it is revealed that she too has superhuman strength. Though this is interesting, I find myself desperately hoping that this isn’t our main villain. In reality, the ending of episode 3 needed to be the ending of episode 1. Focus on IGH, Will’s death, brief character introductions. Keep Whizzer. Remove the fluff of the side character drama, and conclude with the intro of this new superhuman.
It is at the end of Episode 4 that I finally started to feel some real momentum. Jessica and Trish track down a homeless woman named Inez Green (played by Leah Gibson). She is instantly intriguing! Get Netflix by getting 100 loans. We learn of her past as an IGH nurse, and I find myself desperately hoping that she will be our main villain. At the time of writing this article, I have not seen anything past episode 4, but I hope and pray that she is a variation of Typhoid Mary. Rumors of this began when the actress was cast, and I believe that the character is exactly what the show needs to kick it into the high gear. The nurse, the murder of Cheng’s man in the van, the drug-fueled Trish, the framing of Jessica…all of this adds a lot of much-needed momentum as we go to Episode 5.
2 pet mongooses out of 5. As a fan, I was really let down by the slow pacing and deviant side stories. Much of the side characters drama felt unnecessary, distracting from the main storyline and dragging down the plot. The season definitely seems like it needs to be trimmed, creating a tighter storyline while using the budget on its effects. I very much liked the end of episode 4, and hope that the next batch of episodes will continue that momentum.
- I loveeeee the weird Spider-man references. “With great power comes great…mental illness,” and of course, the “Scroty-Sense.” Now can we please just acknowledge that Peter Parker lives down the road from you?
- We reallllyyy need a strong villain! Please be Typhoid Mary!!!
- Will Jessica being arrested finally introduce the idea of the Sokovia Accords to the Netflix universe?
- I believe that Jessica Jones would benefit from a bit more stylized form of directing. Lean heavier on the noir photography visuals and soundtrack.