There’s a lot of finality in nerddom this year. The Marvel Cinematic Universe concluded an eleven-year story in Avengers: Endgame, the 20-year X-Men series went out with Dark Phoenix, and the new Star Wars trilogy will finish with The Rise of Skywalker (also, Game of Thrones). So too does the influential Marvel/Netflix partnership reach its conclusion with the third and final season of Jessica Jones.
While the end is nigh for the Netflix MCU, in true Jessica Jones fashion, the show shrugs it off with a passive-aggressive “Whatever.” In its final hurrah, the Peabody-winning Jessica Jones confidently does its own thing with total disregard that the sky has officially fallen.
In Jessica Jones Season 3, the hard-drinking private eye (Krysten Ritter, back in her role without missing a beat) pursues a deranged serial killer, Greg Salinger (Jeremy Bobb in an exceptional performance), who knifes her at her doorstep. In the aftermath, Jessica reluctantly teams up with her estranged sister, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), who has become attuned to her new powers following the events of Season 2. Together, the two have to stop Salinger, if they don’t rip out each other’s throats first.
Confident in its self-contained narrative while never going anywhere near the sublime heights or excitement of the show’s first season (but still an overall better binge than the Season 2 dud), Jessica Jones Season 3 is a textured story brimming with intrigue but little pizzazz. Your enjoyment will really depend how much you still care about these characters after all this time.
Season 3 is all about its characters. The show is truly in love with its ensemble who you won’t find in any other Marvel or even DC show. Thus, there are way more plots that involve Jessica Jones’ secondary characters, most of all Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Malcolm (Eka Darville). Now employer and employee, each have their own compelling narratives that are given the proper time to juice up tension and intertwine at the right moments.
Benjamin Walker, a new addition, seamlessly becomes part of the show’s mosaic as Erik, a gambler with the bizarre power of getting headaches when bad people are near him. Or, as Jessica calls it, “Asshole radar.” Rebecca De Mornay, who plays Trish’s overbearing theatre mom Dorothy, gets the most screen time she’s had ever in the series; your mileage will vary if you find her amusingly terrible or horribly toxic, but just wait for a heartbreaking scene in Episode 6 before you pass final judgement.
And then there’s Bobb’s Salinger, an aggressively normcore serial killer whose bland look is the perfect disguise for his darkness. White, balding, in his 30s, and in a softer body than most in the MCU, Salinger is the khaki-wearing killer next door. Though he’s far from the best “unhinged” villain in the MCU — that throne still belongs to Michael Keaton’s Vulture — you can see Salinger being the subject of his own true crime doc that becomes a buzzed-about binge favorite. Somewhere, a young blogger at the Daily Bugle pitches to J. Jonah Jameson, “Greg Salinger’s 10 Most Gruesome Murders, Ranked.”
While Bobb’s performance as a “disturbing” normal person is too obvious to be a revelation, the character is still a sight to behold when he’s in concert with the show’s expressionistic tendencies. You know Salinger’s evil because he’s bathed in red light, but there’s something in the way Jessica Jones does it that’s arresting. He’s no Kilgrave, but he doesn’t need to be, either.
In its final year, Jessica Jones is a character feast that never feels overstuffed. But the series keeps focus on its two most important heroes, Jessica and Trish. While Ritter’s apathetic investigator has been the main attraction and the one to team up in The Defenders, the show has secretly been about her difficult, and yes, broken relationship to her sister.
You can’t have Jessica Jones without Trish Walker. Season 3 amps up Taylor’s underrated Trish to become Jessica’s perfect foil without actually, literally being her villain. And because it’s Ritter and Taylor, two pros who have grown accustomed to the other’s wavelengths as actors — it should be no surprise that the season’s best episode is focused all on Trish and was directed by Krysten Ritter — their bickering over competing superhero ideologies is as engrossing as it is sometimes funny.
While we know Jessica to dismiss heroics, Trish is all about it, even if she’s not sold on yellow spandex. (Yes, after years of teases, the Hellcat costume makes an appearance on Jessica Jones. It is immediately roasted.) This is a fun, magnetic dynamic that I’m saddest to see go with the show’s cancellation.
Jessica Jones has never, and now will never, be an actual superhero show. The show’s noir aesthetics and narrative habits (moody voiceover still present) kept it from being the smash-and-bash extravaganza you’ll find on The CW. Maybe this is a good thing. But as someone who was also disappointed Ritter’s Jessica Jones was absent for cameos in Avengers: Endgame, I wonder what harm it could have done for some cars to flip over.
Looking back, it’s clear the story that showrunner Melissa Rosenberg wanted to tell wasn’t about superheroes. Superpowers were inconsequential to her tale about broken people in the limbo of a drunken stupor, and there was just no space for characters to dramatically put on masks and crouch over rooftops. It was refreshing in Season 1, when early onset superhero fatigue was settling in. But two seasons later, I’m not so sure what story Melissa Rosenberg was ultimately trying for. If it’s not a crime mystery (hardly anything is ambiguous in the story), then what is it?
It was not Marvel’s choice to pull the plug; producer Jeph Loeb has confirmed it was a Netflix call. But Jessica Jones is an imperfect show that is the perfect way to cap off hundreds of hours spent in this, dare I say, influential universe. The limits of streaming are starting to show itself with the abrupt cancellation of Swamp Thing, an expensive and dark series based on a little-known superhero for a streaming service. But the reason studios were so keen to make shows like that in the first place was because of the likes of Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
Now it’s over. I’d say “Cheers to Jessica Jones,” but something tells me she doesn’t want the attention.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones begins streaming on June 14 on Netflix.