If you look back at Jessica Jones‘ first season and compare it to the second, it becomes clear that in Melissa Rosenberg’s superhero season playbook (which she’s adapted from the Daredevil playbook) you drop the reveal of the villain at the end of episode 3 – Kilgrave last time, the mysterious powered woman this time. Then by the end of episode 6, the hunt for that villain leads to a game-changing twist which alters the entire direction of the story – Jessica coming clean to Luke and causing him to walk away last time, [huge spoiler] this time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We left off, in these modified recaps/reactions I’m doing for Jessica Jones: Season 2, with the episode 3 battle between Jessica and the mysterious powered woman who tossed her around like a ragdoll. But, wait, Jessica’s the strong one in this little universe. Who is this woman who can bat her away like an annoying fly? Well….
A general description of what happens in episodes 4 (“God Help the Hobo”), 5 (“The Octopus”), and 6 (“Facetime”):
More detective work. Pulpy voice-overs (like Jessica’s “Summer in New York City. It’s hot. It’s humid. And everyone’s just a little more pissed off than usual.”) Red herrings disappoint, as is their way. Finally, some leads pan out, answers are arrived at. Jessica and Trish’s romantic lives go in wildly opposite directions. Hogarth is a sneaky devil, I tell ya’. Malcolm continues to look great with no shirt on (was there some fan letter writing campaign to get him 90% more naked this season I didn’t know about?) Then a big cliffhanger.
Ahem. Maybe a little less general, please.
So at the start of “God Help the Hobo” Jessica’s prior assault of her rival PI lands her in court-ordered anger management. Somewhat hilariously, it doesn’t take her long to intimidate the discussion group leader into signing her card and releasing her from her obligation to be there. Through the amusing sight of her bouncing a ball against a wall as part of a stress exercise, we learn that the mysterious woman’s assertion that Jessica should be thankful to have her powers and that her continued survival is part of some destiny has really gotten to her. In a life of so much shit, Jessica can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel or greater destiny and even with Trish always at her side she ultimately feels alone.
Thus, the presence of the hot, new super in Jessica’s building begins to make more thematic sense. Because he’s J.R. Ramirez he’s obviously a love interest, which these three episodes develop quite rapidly. But he’s also a single father with a kind-faced, Coco-esque mother who occasionally drops by. This reminds Jessica what she doesn’t have – family – and offers a glimpse into the type of domestic life she hasn’t known since childhood.
What about Trish?
Trish, meanwhile, is given a surprising shot at a new domestic life of her own, and the offer spins her completely out of control. We might have a magic-as-alcoholism-Buffy-Season-6 situation on our hands as Trish’s sense of helplessness (partially why she’s so fond of guns this season) leads her to seek out superpowers of her own. Her journalistic/career aspirations seem to be mixing together with her sense of physical inadequacy opposite Jessica, and it’s leading her down a self-destructive path.
I’m loving the visualizations Trish when she has adrenaline-fueled power from her, I’m just going to go with “super science” inhaler. The close-ups on her face when she hits the inhaler and the changes it immediately brings to her eyes as well as the clarity of her vision is some nifty filmmaking on everyone’s part.
Ok. Maybe forget about the characters for a minute and get back to talking about the detective stuff.
Jessica, Trish, and the increasingly helpful Malcolm follow the money (via medical bill payments) to identify old patients and doctors who worked at the clinic where Jess got her powers. However, these people are all getting killed off in a classic cover-up effort. Once Jessica gets saves a former nurse who knows too much the mysterious powered woman tries to frame her for murder.
Two small problems: Jess has a solid alibi, and some people on the force remember what Kilgrave did to them at the precinct. They weren’t exactly sad to see Jess put him away, and are now willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Well, not everyone feels that way, but for now, the cops won’t be an issue, which is a relief. After Misty Knight’s superhero-blocking on both Luke Cage and The Defenders I’ve had just about enough of the in-the-dark authority figures standing in the way of the plot just to eat up some time on these Netflix shows.
The larger takeaway, however, is just how hard season 2 is hitting the “Jessica hates herself for murdering Kilgrave” note. When she’s first arrested for this new murder she didn’t commit, she can offer no more defense than repeated utterings of, “That’s not me. That’s not me.”
What’s It All About?
Season 2, thus, is a season about identity. Post-Kilgrave, who is Jessica? What does it mean that she killed a man, even if for the right reasons? Will she ever have a family, not like the one her new kinda boyfriend has, necessarily, but an adopted family consisting of more than just Trish if she keeps pushing everyone away with her anger?
Who is Trish without Jessica or a gun to protect herself? She wants so desperately to help people, Jessica especially, but no one will take her seriously. Will getting temporary superpowers change the equation?
Malcolm puts it best near the end of the sixth episode:
Sure. Cool. But what about the detective stuff, again?
Right. So, after getting out of prison Jessica’s clues lead her to an evil genius scientist type who just happens to have some kind of control over the mysterious powered woman. (He also a real thing for octopuses, for some likely comic book easter egg/foreshadowing reason I’m not hip to yet.) A dark mirror of Jessica and Kilgrave, perhaps.
Well, cliffhanger. [SPOILER ALERT] The mysterious powered woman, who looks kind of like an older Jessica anyway, is actually her mom!
Yeah, I’m going to wait to see how that plays out in the future episodes to talk about it in detail. My initial reaction is that it makes a certain bit of thematic sense. Kilgrave made Jessica a monster (and violated her), and she had to confront him. Now, this season she has to confront the actual person who made her (dear old pissed off mom) as well as the doctor who gave her powers to begin with. I kind of saw this coming, arguing as much in my reaction to the first three episodes, but I didn’t immediately see the-villain-is-literally-her-mom part of it, at least not right away.
Talk to me about pacing.
Stopping to look around, I’m already seeing other recappers and reviewers arguing this season is another strong showcase for Krysten Ritter but a somewhat scattered affair for everyone else. Worse yet, it falls prey to the dreaded Netflix bloat, that unfortunately familiar affliction where a season doesn’t need to have 13 episodes and certain episodes didn’t need to be 50+ minutes long.
The primary sign I see of that so far is the side story involving the rival PI who first wanted to absorb Alias Investigations but now aims to run it out of business. It’s A got us to B plot (he was actually hired by Hogarth, and her plan backfired), but it’s still hanging around in the background, just another way to keep the walls always closing on Jessica. But, really, I just couldn’t care less about it.
The things I’m most worried about going forward.
Trish’s storyline and the looming sense that this will probably all climax too early, just like the first season did with Kilgrave.
RANDOM PARTING THOUGHTS
- Wild Prediction #2: By the end of the season, Malcolm won’t be working for Jessica anymore, ala Foggy and Karen eventually leaving Matt. In fact, he might not even make it out alive.
- Favorite line: “Don’t wanna be a fly around her” – Random guy at the anger management group after Jessica demolishes a fly.
- Rosenberg and Jessica Jones made a lot of headlines with the decision to employ only female directors this season. The directors for these three episodes were, in order: Deborah Chow (Mr. Robot), Millicent Shelton (30 Rock; she’s the first African American woman to have earned a Primetime Emmy nomination), and Jet Wilkinson.
Next Up: Episodes 7-9