Season 2 of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a stunning amalgamation of complex themes and motifs.
Hero v. Villain – Finding True Strength
Despite featuring super-human abilities, the show’s true potential lies in its ability to focus on decidedly human issues. For example, the psychological and emotional struggles that come with taking a life – the fine line that separates a justified killing from an unjustifiable murder. The line that separates a hero from a villain.
For Jessica (Krysten Ritter), coming to terms with her ability to kill goes hand-in-hand with coming to terms with her past. It is rare to find a series that uses the second season to tell an origin story, but this show does exactly. In fact, the show uses the origin story as a vehicle to address past and present struggles.
As the season progresses, Jessica learns that her abilities are the result of illegal scientific experiments. She also discovers that her mother, Alisa (Janet McTeer), is alive and has similar super-strength. However, Alisa struggles with controlling her violent, murderous tendencies, which are the unintended results of the experiments. Her mother becomes the very embodiment of Jessica’s fear – crossing the line from savior to murderer. In learning to deal with Alisa, Jessica finally realizes that her true power lies not with her external strength, but with her internal strength. Exercising self-control is far more powerful than exercising brute strength, because sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. Thus, Jessica is able to confront her fears while facing a literal embodiment of her past.
Season 2 also uses the past to touch upon feminist motifs, much like Season 1 did. Specifically, oppression of strong-willed female characters at the hands of controlling male characters. Alisa explains that Jessica’s father caused the car accident that decimated their family because he was too stubborn and controlling to let Alisa drive. Moreover, the male doctor, Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie), who conducted those illegal experiments took the liberty of manipulating their DNA without their consent, effectively violating them at a genetic level. The fact that Jessica and Alisa now have super-human strength because of such a violation symbolically demonstrates how women who experience abuse often end up stronger in spite of it.
The series also does an excellent job of portraying flawed, three-dimensional female characters that are often so lacking in television. The show delves deeper into Trish’s (Rachael Taylor’s) character, her ambitions, her past, and her on-going struggles with addiction. Jeri (Carrie-Ann Moss), who was portrayed as brutally cut-throat in the first season, experiences vulnerabilities when she is diagnosed with ALS. Upon discovering that the cure she seeks is a scam, she goes to extraordinary lengths for revenge. This act touches again upon the theme that we began with – crossing the fine line of becoming a murderer.
Moreover, the Jessica Jones series does more than just portray females – it supports women in the entertainment industry. Thirteen different female directors were hired to direct the thirteen episodes. Therefore, the whole of Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2 is a story about women, told by women. The result is a superhero series that steers away from shallow beat-‘em-up story lines and instead, moves towards deeper internal struggles and reconciliation. Show runner Melissa Rosenberg deserves high praise.
In terms of criticisms, Kilgrave’s (David Tennant’s) appearance in the series is brief and awkward. While Kilgrave’s character is an excellent means for Jessica’s psychological and emotional resolution, an easy fix to his awkwardly brief appearance would be to incorporate him into more episodes. The flashback episode of young Trish and Jessica is also surprisingly confusing. Aside from slightly different hair styles, the younger versions of their characters are practically indistinguishable from the current versions. It took a while to figure out that the sequences were flashbacks.
However, all in all, Season 2 of Jessica Jones comes highly recommended.