Kilgrave is dead. With Jessica Jones’ biggest demon vanquished it’s business as usual at Alias Investigations. Jessica is talked into investigating IGH (the shadowy organisation whose illegal experiments gave Jessica her powers) by Trish whose relationship with a lauded investigative reporter has galvanised her to be more than a lifestyle radio host talking about the dangers of gluten. But then everyone associated with IGH starts to show up dead. Are Jessica and Trish next on the killer’s hitlist?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a huge part of my formative years. While the quality of it fell off a cliff in the last couple of seasons the early ones were such an inspiration to me. It was incredible to see the blonde girl who’d usually be the first to die in a horror movie fearlessly fighting the monsters and protecting those around her, including the adults. One scene in particular has stuck with me throughout my life, a handy reminder that when the chips are down there is always someone you can rely on – yourself. The lessons I learned from Buffy stayed with me throughout my life. Role models are important. But after Buffy it was a fallow time for female action heroes in TV and film. It seemed a long while before Katniss appeared on the scene. Lately we’ve been spoilt for choice with incredible bad ass women on screen like Valkyrie, Okoye, Nakia, Rey, Wonder Woman, Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde but it seemed to take a long while to get there. But before they came along, there was Jessica Jones. A super powered, incredibly strong heroine living in a noir-esque world. Jessica has been through a hell I can’t even begin to imagine and come through the other end stronger than ever. Jessica’s take no shit, punch first ask questions later attitude was inspiring. Every time I ended up in a situation I was uncomfortable with, it was nice to have the fantasy of imagining what Jessica would do in that situation. Every time a man assumed I was the secretary and not the person he was there to meet. Every time a man “corrected” me despite being wrong. Every time I placated when I wanted to swear. Every time I giggled when I wanted to scream, I thought of Jessica Jones and how she’d knock the guy into the middle of next week and it made it all so, so much easier to bear. Role models are important and Jessica Jones is the heroine we need right now. She means a huge amount to me and Melissa Rosenberg and Krysten Ritter should be congratulated for bringing to life such a multi-faceted heroine.
Krysten Ritter, fresh off being the best thing in The Defenders, continues to be phenomenal in Jessica Jones series 2. She is a wonderful, magnetic actress and has this incredible ability to be both wrath personified and heartbreakingly vulnerable all at the same time. In one of the series’ best episodes we flash back to Jessica before Kilgrave entered her life. Ritter makes Jessica seem a decade younger using nothing more than body language and tone of voice to portray a gentler, shyer Jessica, struggling with a very addicted Trish. It’s an impressive feat of performance. This series is all about Jessica trying to work out what life is for her now that the man who has haunted her has been vanquished. She’s trying to make connections (Malcolm now works for Alias Investigations), trying to find love, trying to define who she is, Jessica is utterly terrified that her rage over what Kilgrave did to her coupled with her powers will turn her into a monster. A fear not helped by the fact that the police are suspicious as hell of her and she’s surrounded by people who seem keen to tell her over and over that she’s not a hero. Jessica just wants to be good and to be liked for who she is. In one scene while fighting her own insecurities (in the form of David Tennant‘s Kilgrave) she tries to convince herself that she’s enough for someone “I’m enough”. Two little words delivered so beautifully that it had me bursting into tears. This whole season is Jessica trying to decide who she wants Jessica Jones to be. It’s a fierce, brave, beautiful performance from Ritter that deserves all the accolades.
Rachael Taylor also gets a hell of a chance to shine as Trish Walker this season. Trish is done. She’s done being “child star Patsy Walker”, done being the pretty, trophy girlfriend to the lauded investigative reporter, done talking about lifestyle nonsense on her show. Trish has had enough. She wants to be more than she is and to do some real good in the world. Trish has seen what Jessica can do and wants some of that for herself. (The timeline is unclear but it certainly makes sense for season 2 to be set post Defenders as Trish’s zeal with regards to ‘powered people’ makes sense if it was after her being aware of the rest of the Defenders). Trish feels that she’s not doing enough. She pursues her investigation into IGH with an addict’s singular destructive focus. Trish wants to know what happened to Jessica, but her investigation is hardly selfless. She wants what Jessica has. The Trish/Jessica relationship is the beating heart of the show and a good deal of their scenes together (especially in the flashback episodes) will rip your heart out (I spent much of the last three episodes crying – don’t judge me). They are sisters in every sense of the word and only want what’s best for each other but that means Trish especially has some very tough calls to make. Taylor has quite a tricky job in season 2 keeping us on side with Trish despite her sometimes less than stellar behaviour (particularly in relation to Malcolm). But she transforms Trish from sweet sidekick into someone who is very flawed but far more layered and interesting. The show is also clearly pathing the way for a new origin story for Hellcat (Trish’s alter ego in the comic) and I can’t wait to see how that plays out next season. Taylor also gets to have a riot with Trish’s brief venture into Britney stardom with song I Want Your Cray Cray (be warned it will never leave your head).
It is impossible to discuss Janet McTeer’s character without spoiling the show and while magazines have been pretty loose with this reveal I do think the show plays out better if you find out when they intend you to. Which does limit what I can say. But she is fantastic. As a fellow Brit she has always been one of our finest actresses but she’s never quite gotten the spotlight she deserved. Something which will hopefully change now. She is both terrifying and completely compelling in this and her quick silver changes of emotion are startling to watch. It’s a towering performance.
Carrie-Ann Moss is also extraordinary this season as Jeri Hogarth undergoes a health crisis which changes her outlook on life. It was a storyline which greatly resonated with me for personal reasons and Moss is superb. Her Jeri is completely no-nonsense, fierce as hell and hard as nails, but she’s had to be to get where she is in life. All her scenes are amazing as she struggles through a life changing crisis and deals with the prospect of being vulnerable for the first time. Her storyline was so powerful and the performance (full of fire and grace) just destroyed me.
Also impressive is Rebecca De Mornay as Trish’s mother. She’s the stage mother from hell who makes Mama Rose look like a push over and yet you never doubt for a second that she truly loves her daughter. Apart from the very impressive performances from the women (aided no doubt by a rostrum of entirely female directors) the men aren’t too shabby either. J.R.Ramirez is charming as Jessica’s new love interest Oscar, Eka Darville takes full advantage of Malcolm’s expanded role and Callum Keith Rennie gives a nuanced performance as Dr Karl Malus.
Given the show’s noir trappings I did spend a lot of this season waiting for some grand reveal that never came. That’s not the story Jessica Jones is telling this season. It’s a much more personal story – a story about family and defining who you are and who you want to be. As a result the pace is definitely a little slower than the first season and requires a little more patience from you. Kilgrave’s absence is also felt (hard not to be given how flesh crawlingly terrifying Tennant was in the role) but the interesting thing about season two is that there aren’t any villains, not really. The most heartbreaking thing about this season is that everyone in it is just trying to be a better person and just trying to protect those they love but the consequences are horrific. The road to hell…
Jessica Jones season two is a beautifully written and directed look at a group of terribly flawed, deeply relatable characters all trying to make a small difference in their own way. Bold, angry, shattering, utterly heartbreaking and lead by a bravura turn from Krysten Ritter, Jessica Jones is one of the best shows on streaming.