Binge-worthy: 'Jessica Jones'
Warning: Minor spoilers follow
MANILA, Philippines – Jessica Jones is brave. We’re talking about the show, that is, and not the person. Jessica Jones the person (Krysten Ritter) is someone who chooses to confront her demons from the bottom of a bottle. But the show itself? Brave, just brave. Season 1 was brave for exploring abusive relationships and tackling the meaning of consent. And with the new season, family dysfunction and substance abuse are brought to the forefront – topics you wouldn’t expect a superhero show to cover in gristly detail.
But Jessica Jones has a reputation for bucking superhero conventions. (Jessica has more in common with DC’s John Constantine than most other Marvel superheroes.) For starters, season 2 has no big bad. It’s a gutsy direction, considering that the other Marvel Netflix shows have brought us some of the most memorable villains in recent years. Daredevil had Wilson Fisk, Luke Cage had Cottonmouth, even the first season of Jessica Jones had Kilgrave.
But this season of Jessica Jones works even without someone like David Tennant chewing up the scenery (although Kilgrave does make a brief appearance as an anxiety-induced hallucination) by making the lead characters face an even bigger monster – each other.
The show opens with Jessica back in familiar private investigator mode: tailing subjects; taking pizza as partial payment. When a client offers to hire Jessica to kill an unfaithful partner, she flat-out refuses, insisting that she isn’t a murderer. This insistence – that she isn’t a killer, or even a vigilante – forms the backbone of Jessica’s (sometimes shaky) moral outlook throughout the show.
Jessica’s best friend and adoptive sister Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is also reintroduced in a too-familiar situation: providing entertainment to a room full of tweeners, in full Patsy (her former Lindsay Lohan-esque child star persona) regalia. The performance is meant to curry favor from the father of one of the kids. The dad had papers relating to IGH, the mysterious organization responsible for giving a young Jessica her powers.
At first glance, Trish and Jessica seem united in their obsession with IGH. But as the show progresses, their own personal motivations become apparent. For Jessica, it’s about hunting a mysterious assassin who has been taking out people associated with IGH. For Trish, weary over the vapidity of her lifestyle-oriented radio show, uncovering IGH would give her a stab at “serious” journalism. Even Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), Jessica’s sole employee – sorry, associate – wants to crack IGH open. But his eagerness and naïveté only exacerbates the widening gulf between the two sisters.
This quest comes at great personal cost, particularly for Trish. She gets hold of an inhaler that formerly belonged to Will Simpson (Wil Traval). The inhaler enhances her strength and awareness, but comes with one hell of a comedown. She first uses the inhaler under the pretense that she needs the power to protect herself and Jessica, but eventually spirals into full-blown addition. Once the inhaler is used up, Trish takes the container to a lab in an attempt to replicate the drug. The lab couldn’t do it, but points out that several chemicals found in the inhaler were potentially fatal.
Jessica eventually tracks down Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie), the IGH doctor responsible for the experiments done on her. Finding Dr. Malus reveals profoundly life-altering information on Jessica’s family. Jessica is great at finding people, but she’s pretty crappy at knowing what to do once she does. She stashes Dr. Malus in a motel room, and is later found and kidnapped by Trish. Trish has become obsessed with saving her own life, after learning about the harmful effects of the drug she took. She forces Dr. Malus to give her the same treatment he gave Jessica. He agrees under gunpoint, but the man is so in love with his science, he would have probably done it even without being threatened.
Midway through the experiment, Jessica finds them and stops the procedure. Trish gets hospitalized (in a proper hospital, that is), and from here everyone’s personal wreckage becomes apparent. The relationship between Jessica, Trish, and Malcolm is one of the purest in the show – which makes it all the more gut-wrenching when the trio gets torn apart.
Substantial time is also given to Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), top-class attorney and occasional employer of Jessica’s services. Prestige Netflix shows often come with a bit of bloat, but the Jeri subplot was one of the more thrilling elements of the show. Jeri is diagnosed with ALS, a revelation that jeopardizes her position within her own law firm. She learns from Inez Green (Leah Gibson), a witness in the IGH case, that there was another subject, Shane (Eden Marryshow), who had the power to heal.
Shane has been held in prison without a trial for 15 months, which gives Jeri the perfect opportunity. Jeri frees Shane in exchange for some healing attention, which Shane gives hesitantly.
Jeri believes that the treatment worked. Blessed with a second chance, Jeri becomes warmer, more human. (Which, ironically, is actually more frightening than cold-blooded attorney Jeri.) But this is Jessica Jones, a show where happiness and security are routinely crushed under the heel of a muddy boot. The treatment is a sham, orchestrated by Inez to get Shane (her love interest) out of jail. The couple also pillage Jeri’s well-appointed apartment. But hell hath no fury like a powerful attorney scorned. Jeri orchestrates a simple, but utterly thrilling play for revenge that would make John Constantine proud.
The characters in Jessica Jones aren’t likeable in the conventional sense. (With the exception of Jessica’s building superintendent Oscar Arocho, played by J.R. Ramirez.) What they are, though, is real. Their stakes are real. Their psychoses are real. You feel everyone’s longing to belong. And this makes you root for them.
They lie to each other, run from each other, and occasionally turn on each other. For most superhero shows, this discord would happen in the second act, and the team would get the opportunity to sort out their issues before entering the third act more united, more super than ever. In Jessica Jones, however, that discord, the result of everyone’s own deep-seated obsessions, becomes permanent décor.
At the end of the show, Malcolm finds new employment in a rival PI agency, Trish discovers her budding powers (the result of the halted procedure), which would allow her to move out of Jessica’s shadow. And Jessica, burdened by the revelations the encounter with Dr. Malus brought, opens a bottle of booze and goes back to being Jessica, the same, but also no longer the same. – Rappler.com
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