Private investigator and reluctant vigilante Jessica Jones is making her way back onto our screens, and it couldn’t be soon enough. After a series of lackluster outings, Marvel television desperately needs the hero’s second solo adventure — and needs it to be good — if it wants to recapture the thrill of the Netflix shows’ initial debut.
Iron Fist was pretty easily the worst of the Marvel Netflix shows, while the big team-up series, The Defenders ended up being pretty lackluster. The Punisher got pretty good reviews, but always felt somehow apart from the rest of Marvel’s shows, and it had the added pressure of premiering at a time when gun control fleetingly occuped the national conversation. Inhumans, was an ABC series rather than a Netflix show, but it was such a flop that you can smell the stench even while streaming. A combination of less than stellar shows and bad timing has resulted in a downward trajectory in the quality of and excitement for Marvel’s television. It’s also why Marvel needs Jessica Jones.
Daredevil was a splashy, action-packed debut, but Jessica Jones and Luke Cage helped create the universe Marvel was building on Netflix. Jessica Jones was a series about a reluctant hero wrapped in a great psychological thriller, while Luke Cage explored Harlem’s history and spirit to create something was new to television. These characters showed people what Marvel had to offer to the television landscape. They were making something more than the typical action-packed, costume-wearing adventures we were accustomed to. Daredevil didn’t bring as much to the table, as it was a more straightforward superhero tale, but it was well-executed.
Jessica Jones isn’t your average do-gooder and masked her desire to help others with her own vices. As Jessica Ritter excels in the dramatic moments and still manages to successfully sprinkle in her comedic talents, creating a solid and interesting character who could distinguish herself from the rest of Marvel’s heroes. Making Jessica Jones the second Marvel show on Netflix made the contrast between Jessica and Daredevil stark, and they were a good, diverse duo to build the universe on. The villain, Kilgrave, was one of the MCU’s best-ever. He was a multi-dimensional character who created terrifying situation where the show could boldly explore some dark themes, including PTSD, rape and, consent. The first season of Jessica Jones was thought-provoking, fresh, and just great television.
What followed was simply unfortunate. Iron Fist followed Luke Cage and was a topic of conversation around the time of action film Ghost in the Shell, which put it at the center of the conversations about cultural appropriation and whitewashing. Bad optics aside, the show was also criticized for being boring with crummy fight scenes, especially for a kung-fu series. Those issues bled into The Defenders, a series about four heroes, only 3 of which people enjoyed. Unfortunately, Iron Fist’s powers and connection to the miniseries’ villains made him out to be the driving force of the series, which did not help.
Hulu’s New series Runaways is a step in the right direction for Marvel. The younger-skewing series takes on a different corner of the Marvel universe and is different from everything that comes before it. But, for whatever reason — perhaps because Hulu isn’t quite the cultural force Netflix is, perhaps because of superhero fatigue — it didn’t garner the same attention Jessica Jones did when it followed Daredevil.
Marvel needs to remind audiences that its television shows have interesting characters who brings something distinct to the table. Solid television is not going to cut it when it comes to breaking through the numerous shows in the current television landscape. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been fantastic science fiction television for seasons, but is not making the type of noise Marvel needs. Jessica Jones did that in its first season and it needs to do it again.
Hopefully, the new season is the start of a succession of shows that are both distinctive and good. Freeform has Cloak & Dagger on the way and a New Warriors series is in the midst of looking for a new home. Plus, there’s more Runaways on the way.
Jessica Jones Season 2 premieres March 8, 2018 on Netflix.