SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED JESSICA JONES SEASON TWO YET, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
The last time we saw Jessica, it was in The Defenders, but her role was really only vaguely important in the grand scheme of things, and fighting The Hand wasn’t exactly a personal fight for her. Before setting into season two of Jessica Jones, my sister and I decided we absolutely must re-watch season one. It wasn’t exactly because we needed a refresher, but merely because the first season is just so damn good. David Tennant made such a fascinating villain in Kilgrave. And it was just so powerful to watch a victim of domestic violence suffering from PTSD rise up and take her power back from her gaslighting abuser. There’s such a perfect build of tension. Small, uncomfortable instances escalating over time until Kilgrave is literally forcing people to chop other people into pieces and liquefy them in a blender. When she finally tells him to “smile” and breaks his neck it is such an earned, triumphant moment. I had already watched the first season at least three times and I still found myself hissing “Yes!” under my breath.
So I was more than a little nervous that season two just couldn’t top that first incredible season. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.
It opens on Jessica caught between the process of post-Kilgrave healing and intense personal anguish over killing someone for the first time. Season two lacks the intense singular focus of the opening season. Season one had one central conflict: stop Kilgrave. Season two goes another direction, breaking off into several simultaneous and intersectional conflicts:
1. How did Jessica get her powers?
2. Jessica’s grief and guilt over the death of her family
3. Malcolm and Jessica’s working relationship
4. Hogarth’s existential crisis and terminal illness
5. Trish’s addiction and power/hero complex and how that affects her relationship with Jessica
6. Jessica’s mother and her uncontrollable rage
7. Jessica allowing herself to be happy and loved
Balancing these issues in one season could have led to a loss of focus, leaving viewers to wonder “when are we getting back to the main story?”, but what the show does brilliantly is that every one of these issues are the main story. I’m going to delve into just a few of them:
We had left off last season with Trish receiving information about Jessica’s accident. Apparently, she was admitted to the hospital weeks after the accident. The question being, where was she in that missing space of time? And why did the company IGH pay all of her medical bills? Now in season two, Trish is playing investigative journalist, hoping to uncover the truth. No matter how hard she presses Jessica, she wants none of it. For Jessica, reopening that case is just reopening a horrible wound. Jessica is already not in a good place. Although season one ends on a victorious note, Jessica is now plagued with the fact that she has now taken somebody’s life with her bare hands. Vigilante is not a word she wants associated with her name, and every time someone on the street or on the radio brings up the fact that she took down Kilgrave, she relives it.
It seems Jessica’s main struggle is her refusal to face her painful past and actually deal with it. Last season it was Kilgrave, now we delve into the death of her entire family. As Trish pushes on in her investigation, the memories come flooding back. Flashbacks of the accident, nightmares, have Jessica shaken to the core. It’s clear that Jessica blames herself for her family’s deaths and that that guilt discourages her from accepting love and allowing herself to be happy.
Before we get into all that business, we have to talk about how absolutely insufferable Trish is this season. In season one, she was definitely self-righteous, but she was such a good friend of Jessica and kind of a badass. Season two delves into her uglier traits without feeling like the writers are completely flipping the switch on us. We knew she was a recovering addict, we knew she was self-righteous, and we knew she romanticized being a hero. We found all of that out in season one. This season, we got to see those things at their fullest extents. In an attempt to manipulate Jessica into joining her investigation, Trish actually brings her the ashes of her dead family. Already I was internally (well, okay, externally) screaming at my computer screen. Throughout the entire season, Trish just doesn’t drop the issue. First on investigating IGH, then in finding who the killer is, and then in capturing her. We very quickly learn, that Trish is not doing this for Jessica’s sake. She’s on a high, the high of being a hero.
When Jessica starts the season sick with guilt over killing Kilgrave, Trish is pumped and ready to solve more crimes. She wants to help people, she says. What we learn is that Trish has a very deep, pathological obsession with being special. This probably has more than a little to do with her stage mom from hell, but also has a lot to do with what it’s like to be a fading child star with a sister who has super-strength. Her teenage drug addiction coincides with her childhood “Patsy” fame waning, and her clutching to it with cringey pop music with overt sexuality and drug-soaked sycophants to make her feel relevant. Jessica, meanwhile is happy just living a normal life. There is this envy Trish has towards Jessica about her powers. Jessica is special, she’s strong, and unlike Trish she doesn’t even have to try. And even worse, Jessica doesn’t even really care about it. This underlying contempt comes to the surface this season as Trish becomes addicted to Simpson‘s performance enhancing drugs and her investigation becomes more obsessive and her true motives more transparent. Trish is so unlikable this season, but also so real. Her insecurities are totally relatable. Who doesn’t want to be important? Who doesn’t wish their life meant something more? And who doesn’t fear fading into utter mediocrity?
And then there was her romantic involvement with Malcolm. He is just another extension of her needing to feel important. She only becomes interested in him after Jessica tells her that he’s always worshiped her. She was not at her finest moment and really needed the confidence boost. There is also the fact that Malcolm was also a recovering addict and maybe a part of her hoped to bring someone else to her level. Her attempt fails, however, when she has him try Simpson’s inhaler and he realizes the mistake he’s made and leaves her alone. Even when they briefly get back together, it’s not really about wanting him back, but wanting someone to join her on her obsessive mission.
Another interesting character development this season was Hogarth. We find out at the beginning of the season that Hogarth has been diagnosed with ALS. Knowing her lifespan has been significantly cut, Hogarth enters into a state of desperation. There has to be a doctor out there that can cure her or at least extend her lifespan, she doesn’t care how. She says many times this season that her illness has put things in perspective, and that she’s changed, but I don’t think we should buy that. You do feel for her this season, even though last season she was the actual worst. She falls in love with a homeless ex-nurse who worked for IGH while she is helping Jessica with her investigation. We already know that the nurse is opportunistic. She almost leaves Hogarth’s place, with a lot of her jewelry in hand–but stays. I found myself rooting for them. Even Hogarth doesn’t deserve to be alone in her illness. When the nurse says she knew someone with healing powers at IGH, Hogarth finds him and persuades him to heal her ALS. It seems too good to be true, and that’s because it is. Even though I hated her guts last season, I was devastated for her when she returns home to find her love gone along with all of her stuff–and with the horrible knowledge that she is still very sick. Hogarth gets her revenge, though and in perfect Hogarth fashion. She coolly manipulates the nurse to murder her partner in crime and then has her arrested. That’s why I don’t think she really changes all that much. If someone wrongs her, she’ll get her revenge and she’ll do it without twitching an eye, even if it’s to someone she loves.
With all these things going on, there was also the issue of Jessica’s mother. Surprise! She’s alive! And…kinda terrifying. The realization that the killer with the uncontrollable rage was actually Jessica’s mom came as a huge shock to me. My sister insisted that she saw it coming…sure. We also find out by way of a flashback, that her mother was responsible for the death of Jessica’s very cool bartender college boyfriend and also definitely responsible for Jessica’s fear of letting people get close to her. It was interesting to see a more open, happy Jessica. Kristin Ritter does a remarkable job of playing Jessica at all different stages of her life and making it seem realistic and like it’s the same person. Although her superpowered mother was interesting and the dynamic between them was cool, I somehow never really found myself all that invested in their relationship. She didn’t seem very open to understanding Jessica’s disdain for what had been done to her and had very little remorse for killing people. It was Ritter’s performance that really kept me engaged and had me weeping when Trish shoots her mom dead at the end of the season. Trish really is insufferable.
My questions going into season 3:
How are they going to redeem Trish? Can she be redeemed? What kind of annoying crap is she gonna pull with her new powers?
Has Malcolm crossed into the dark side now that he’s working with Hogarth? Will we get sweet cinnamon bun Malcolm back?! Will he and Jessica be besties again???!
Is Jessica’s relationship with her superintendent going to last? Will she and Luke get back with each other???
What other shenanigans was/is IGH up to?
JUST GOTTA WAIT UNTIL NEXT SEASON TO FIND OUT!