Jessica Jones: What Went Wrong?

Last week I raved about Wanted, my latest obsession. I also made mention of my disappointment with Jessica Jones’ latest offering. Such disappointment was mentioned as an aside, as I wanted that post to be all about the deserved success of Wanted. So, to quote one of my dearest readers—Lulu over at Roadside Reader and sister-site Pages and Pause Screen—I’m going to “catch a rant” on JJ now. I’m not marking any spoilers from here on out, and there are plenty, so careful if you haven’t watched JJS2 and intend to do so.

Jessica Jones originally appeared on our screens with a roar, though this season started and ended with little more than a whimper. Even Netflix seemed lackadaisical in its promotions and I was surprised to see the second season appearing on my queue. That was well over a month ago, and that’s how long it took me—by myself, Justin bailed around episode eight—to get through a show I’d once voraciously binged in a few days. The problems with this second season are plentiful: the pacing, the characters and the writing are all boring to erratic elements of a what is not a superhero show, and is instead an aspiring, tremendously clunky, family drama.

Let’s start with the pacing. Okay, I wrote a series that starts off as a slow burn, so I get intentionally slowing down the audience to soak in the scenery and characterization. Except something has to happen. There has to be a payoff worthy of all that world building as well as escalating suspense to keep the reader/ viewer invested. Most of the time in JJS2 I was just not engaged in what was happening on screen. I was either playing a game on my phone, or reading online where the series finally picked up steam. “Episode 6”, they all said. “Hold fast till then!” I did, and when the big reveal was what anyone with half a mind for mysteries had figured out episodes ago—“That woman has strength almost exactly like you!” (paraphrasing)—I was disappointed, and shortly thereafter bored, by an episode of talking and family drama reminiscent of a Gilmore Girls’ scene, but where the mother and daughter are wretched drunks. I mean, that setup would have actually been more interesting than what I watched.

Regarding Jessica Jones’ whole arc this season: it’s a circle of petulance and misery. I get it Jessica is jaded, and broken, and grumpy. But is that all she is? Because after a while even sarcastic and witty angry people are as unpleasant to watch as they are to be around. Where’s the growth? Where’s the insight that every antihero needs? In many ways she feels as if she’s regressed from where she started at the beginning of the series and I don’t see how that possible given all that’s occurred around and to her since then.

Elsewhere, there was this awkwardly written sub-plot that made an appearance from time to time, one about a young Patsy and her troubles with addiction and abuse during her starlet years, and of the ripple-effect to today. The writers shitted this up, though, by having her go back to her abuser to blackmail him for information completely unrelated to her assault, even after she meets a young woman who seems like a mirrored-victim of herself in this age, which is fucked up on many levels. I mean, she tells the would-be-victim that the guy’s a perv, but with the prevalence of #metoo messaging and the feminist elements of the series, why the fuck doesn’t she take this further? Because the predator tells Patsy that there was no one else? Because perverts and pedophiles don’t lie, right? Lazy writing, sorry, but it pissed me off so much given the climate surrounding sexual abuse.

Patsy’s messy plot was then jammed into another story about Malcom’s survival as an addict, and possible sex addict—who had women coming in and out of his apartment all the time—then his down the Rabbit Hole experience with Patsy and her growing urges for an addictive substance that turns her into a superhuman. But man, was it every dry to watch. There’s so many places the writers could have gone with these rather interesting, socially-relevant threads and they mostly went nowhere, or to places predictable and flat. Not to mention there was little sense of synchronicity of timing or events between these happenings and others.

The one, and I do mean one, interesting and cohesive story-line revolves around Jeri Hogarth: a woman so drenched in power and influence that she believes herself immortal…who is suddenly, rudely, faced with her own mortality. Keri Anne Moss does a spectacular job of chewing the scenery with her looks, gravitas and delivery. I found her engaging in each and every scene, and she lifted some otherwise dull lines into true performances. Loved every minute of her, and JJS2 really felt like Jeri Hogarth Season 1. I’d watch that show, I honestly hope they make it, and I doubt it could make the same foibles given the acerbity and noticeable growth of her character.

Critics have been very forgiving of JJS2, and mostly because the glow from the first season hasn’t worn off, and because we all love the cast, messaging, and necessity of shows like this in an era of rising fascism. That doesn’t make this creation and others like it immune to criticism, though. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for better, clearer messaging in our content. Having been on the receiving end of a handful of bad reviews, I hate giving them, so please understand that this critique comes from a place of love with the hopes that season 3 fixes a lot of these missed steps. 2.5/5 stars.

All my love,