Saving New York from the Hand did nothing to change Jessica Jones. Still the same hard-drinking, promiscuous private eye where we last left her two years ago, Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of Jessica Jones, at once understated and explosive, remains the greatest secret weapon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, it’s the only thing saving her show’s sophomore season from an undercooked mystery that pales in comparison to the first outing.
Season 2 of Jessica Jones picks up where Season 1 left off (basically ignoring The Defenders entirely). Jessica has become a neighborhood celebrity after righteously murdering Killgrave in the Season 1 finale. But, fame bears little fruit, as Alias Investigations can barely keep the lights on. Meanwhile, customers expect Jessica’s work pro bono because she has powers. Superheroes don’t get paid to be heroes — that’s why Tony Stark runs a billion dollar corporation on the side — but good luck telling that to stubborn New Yorkers who want their cheating exes killed.
Soon enough, and kind of out of nowhere, Jessica is compelled to investigate the ultimate mystery: Her own origin story. The HGH stuff we saw teases of at the end of Season 1 is in full focus in Season 2, as Jessica learns what really happened after her fateful accident that gave her bizarre abilities.
Fans eager to get answers to the MCU’s coolest character are in luck, as Season 2 is full of information that meticulous Wiki authors can plug into Jessica’s mysterious bio. Unfortunately, the show forgets its most basic goal to be a compelling mystery serial. In the first five episodes provided to the press, Jessica Jones spends half its time on a predictable journey for its complicated protagonist: Of course there are stalking shadowy figures, of course there are darkened, abandoned facilities, and of course Jessica won’t actually accept what happened to her until she’s staring at a strange person from her past in a crowded bar. Though Jessica Jones refuses to be like any other superhero, her Season 2 plot hardly stands out from the pack.
Also unfortunate for Season 2 is the lack of a suitable Killgrave replacement. The movies recently gave us complex baddies like Michael Keaton’s Vulture and Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, but on TV, David Tennant’s manipulative “Purple Man” was easily the MCU’s best villain. This time, the antagonist is arguably Jessica herself, as she refuses to see the puzzle until the pieces come together. True to the Marvel/Netflix formula, Jessica Jones is a slow burn with nary a mention of Typhoid Mary, the confirmed villain set to appear this season. To get to the good stuff that hardcore comic book fans seek, they should be prepared for five whole episodes of an inebriated Jessica and her sober sister Trish (a returning Rachael Taylor), who does her best to help Jessica but is distracted with her new boyfriend, a star news anchor whose career outshines her own.
Keeping Jessica Jones from being a one-season wonder, though, are its actors. Ritter is such an onscreen powerhouse that it can be easy to forget the show’s shortcomings until the credits roll. For instance, in one episode, Jessica is grounded from action and kept in police custody. This is a really familiar episode genre, especially to superhero fans — both Arrow and The Flash have done it this year — but Ritter’s razor-sharp delivery keeps Jessica’s brief detention more interesting than either Oliver Queen or Barry Allen’s confrontations with the fuzz.
The ensemble cast is also top notch; Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth is expectedly compelling, Eka Darville, reprising Malcolm, has plenty more to do now that Malcolm sober and competent, and Season 2 is as much Trish’s story as it is Jessica’s. Taylor really takes full advantage of every moment of screen time (Her first scene this season at a ‘90s kids’ birthday party is both hilarious and complex).
Season 2 of Jessica Jones unfotunately lacks the same impact Season 1 boldly delivered back in 2015. That season’s harrowing journey of a super-powered woman confronting her abuser was prescient, premiering ahead of the #MeToo (which Season 2 references in a key subplot). Still, Jessica Jones is one of the best weapons under the Marvel brand, with a truly alluring Ritter — buoyed by an equally great cast — making the best of a rudimentary plot.
The lack of a strong, compelling plot keeps Season 2 from reaching the heights of Season 1. But thanks to Jessica Jones, an interesting and well-acted character, the show still works without a thrilling adventure, though one would certainly be welcome. Jessica Jones also doesn’t need to be bogged by connections to the MCU, which you’ll find little of in Season 2. In fact, it’s almost incidental that Jessica Jones is in the Marvel Universe. She could be in any other superhero sandbox, and Jessica would still be disinterested and detached from all that noise. And as it turns out, her apathy is her strongest asset.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2 will be available to stream on Netflix on March 8.