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'Jessica Jones' Season 2 Gets Deeply, Violently Personal

It's a closer, albeit droll, look at superheroic trauma and unfinished business
by Karl R. De Mesa | Mar 24, 2018
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It's easy to give up on the new Jessica Jones slow burn story arc.

Many times, during the course of episodes one to four, we found ourselves dozing off. And quite a few times we actually did, but we're glad we stuck with it.

See, season two of everyone's favorite black-clad, conflicted, and hard-drinking superheroine with a heart of gold starts off with a mystery. It then branches off and meanders into the lives of shark attack lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne Moss), reformed addict and now Jones's sidekick Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), and more aptly entertaining into the transformation of Jones's adopted sister and radio host Patricia "Trish" Walker (Rachael Taylor)—but more on that later.

It's also too easy to develop beef with the scriptwriters since often, the story is just plain burdened by the weight of too much introspection and the necessary pace for such sanguine meditations.

The early bombast and gung-ho pace of season one is gone and, with it, much of the entertaining spectacle of the waif-figured Jessica taking on hordes of baddies with fists and fury. In its place we get a deep, intimate, and very personal insight into mental illness and the unique dillema of how someone with powers can grapple with trauma.

Who exactly is Jessica Jones and what happened to her prior to becoming Kilgrave's (the amazingly sinister ex-Doctor Who David Tennant) main squeeze?

At her anger management sessions, she's asked to 12-step her way into examining what may be at the root of her explosive tantrums. She's handed a stress ball and told to bounce it off the wall as she recites her litany of issues.

"My whole family was killed in a car accident," she declares. "Someone did horrific experiments on me. I was abducted, raped, and forced to kill someone. And I'm in here bouncing a goddamned ball!"

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Said ball then crashes through the wall and frightens her fellow session members so bad they swear off their uncontrolled exhortations of rage for good. Did we expect this scene to turn out any other way?

Krysten Ritter's magnetism as superpowered private eye is as intact as ever and she's given plenty of chances to breathe life into Jessica with her acting chops through 13 episodes. She is fascinating to watch as she endeavors in her investigation and how there is no right, easy way to resolve your affairs when you're "afflicted" with super strength and it takes several bottles to even dent your mental faculties.

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In the first few episodes Jessica acquires clues in the form of IGH, the organization that experimented on her and which she plans to investigate. Her motive: to make sense of 17 years worth of clues, questions, and unresolved frustrations about her family and the nature of her powers.

Soon enough, it all devolves into a mess as she uncovers more and more facts, disjointed as they are, and assembles them together into a fragmented whole. With the baggage right at her doorstep Jessica gets to inspect her life in close detail and her guilt about the violence and death she's inflicted on others while she was Kilgrave's slave. That guilt is so powerful she feels the need to distance herself from everything she feels lest they bring about more damage to those around her.

Can you even consider Jessica an alcoholic if she's barely impaired after several bottles?

Speaking of those around her, they're not exactly free of problems, moral or mental, themselves.

Carrie-Anne Moss's nuanced performance, in particular, makes Jeri Hogarth's relatively minor issues about her place in her company a scene stealer as she's faced with her own mortality, and the attendant temptation, fear, and a loss of control that it brings.

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Malcolm’s blossoming into a more active role in Alias Investigations—trying to fend off a corporate takeover by a rival PI firm—should have been an interesting branch of story but instead transpires as an irritating, uncouth younger brother dynamic too eager to please.

It's hard to talk about Trish Walker's storyline without undue spoilers, but suffice to say her arc should have been the most intriguing one but often fails to stand up on its own because of disjointed and senseless writing.

A shame, really, since Rachael Taylor looks like she put a lot of work into giving Trish dimension and texture. Still, all of the Trish Walker stuff sets up a nice cliffhanger for season three.

"With great power comes great mental illness," declares one of the characters to Jessica and the arc of season two tries to embody that even as it flounders early on with story hiccups and pacing.

Our advice is, if you aren't sick of it by then, to stick it out until episode five when the goods are delivered. Episode seven, in particular, provides all the incendiary denoument that the revelations of the frontloaded narrative throat-clearing has set up and it's pretty rewarding in a tragicomic way. 

Jessica Jones season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix

  

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