Ahead of the March 8 release of Jessica Jones’ second season, Netflix has shared the first five episodes with The Reel Word so we can get a glimpse of what’s in store for Marvel’s heavy-drinking defender. Tucked neatly between the excellent first two seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones’ premiere season came at a time when the Marvel/Netflix collaboration was riding an all-time high, but a lot of that goodwill is now well and truly spent, which has got many worried that – save the fantastic first season of The Punisher – the best may be behind us. Worst still is that, arguably, perhaps the biggest success of the show was David Tennant’s fantastic villain Kilgrave, leaving a fairly large question mark as to what exactly the draw for season 2 will be.
So in a post-Kilgrave / post-The Defenders world, is it even worth coming back to check on Krysten Ritter’s P.I. for another 13 episodes? At this point, I’m not entirely sure. Having wrapped up the character’s defining story in the first season, the show has shifted focus to uncover the conspiracy surrounding I.G.H., the organization Jones believes is responsible for experimenting on and giving super powers to people such as herself. On the one hand, one of my biggest gripes with the first season was not really getting to see Jones in her element as an investigator. Unfortunately though, it’s just not that interesting a case, and 5 episodes in, I’m struggling to find anything we haven’t seen a million times before. Obviously there is plenty more time for the mystery to unravel, but thinking back to the chills the opening episode of season one provided, it’s hard not to feel like the magic could be gone.
All of that said, the show is still produced and directed with a certain level of quality, and the dusty, dive-bar noir vibe remains a novel marriage to the sci-fi superhuman story line. The tone and dialogue can be a little on the nose (especially in the opening episode), but there is still a great foundation here – so long as they can find a way to kick the overarching story up a gear or two. While I can’t imagine them cooking up a threat as terrifying or personal as Kilgrave, the story does open itself up to the fun possibility of introducing some rogues with different power-sets in future episodes, something none of the Marvel/Netflix shows have surprisingly ever really capitalised on.
The returning cast members remain quite strong, though, at this stage, it appears the writers aren’t exactly sure what to do with them all. Rachael Taylor was a pleasant surprise as Jess’ best friend and sister-in-arms Trish Walker (better known as Hellcat in the comics), and she again seems determined to carve out her own little corner of the show. Trish trying to balance her poppy celebrity with her need to exist in Jess’ grim world follows on to its next logical step by her throwing herself totally into the I.G.H. investigation in the name of journalism. Trish’s story has potential, but the writers can’t help but pollute the character with some unnecessary, and kind of gratuitous, backstory. The show had done more than enough to justify Trish’s defensive personality in the first season, but here they feel compelled to pile on the drama. Whereas the first season found a way to creatively explore and have a conversation about sexual assault and manipulation, Trish’s story feels more like it’s trying to capitalise on what’s happening in the news rather than contribute to the discussion.
As for Jones herself, at least as far as these five episodes go, the writers haven’t quite found an angle to take with the character beyond showing off her surly disposition. The first episode had me particularly worried, with Ritter starting to sound a little bit like a caricature of herself. As the episodes tick on though, her dialogue and drive starts becoming more believable, and there’s obviously the potential for this story to give us (and Jones herself) more insight into the character and her past. There’s no way they are going to be able to put her through the wringer the way they did in season one, but so long as the writers can use this story to develop and challenge Jessica, and not just fall into unsatisfying tropes the way some of the Marvel shows have (I’m looking at you Luke Cage and Iron Fist), there could still prove to be some stories worth telling with this character.
The first season was certainly not without its faults, but love it or hate it, it was trying to do something special, and as such struck a chord with many a viewer. This time round, Jessica Jones seems to have both smoothed out some of its rougher edges and at the same time risked losing what made it interesting in the first place. If you weren’t sold on Jessica Jones to begin with, or are worn out by the uneven quality of the previous Marvel shows, it’s probably not worth sticking around for season two based on what we’ve seen here. But for those who adored the character the first time round, or who just happily devour anything Marvel, there are certainly enough seeds here that it’s worth checking out to see if Jessica Jones can turn things around over the next 8 episodes.
Be sure to come back and check out our full review of Jessica Jones season 2 following its release later this week.