So far, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) seems to be getting better, as they have been taking ideas that seem weak like Ant-Man or Black Panther and milking billions out of them. A few years ago, when Daredevil hit Netflix, it was proof that this more mature and darker branch of the MCU could be just as successful.
Daredevil‘s Season 1 was a huge hit, and Jessica Jones Season 1 was an even better step up (in my humble opinion). The reason Jessica Jones was so successful is because Season 1 ignored the conventions of superheroes, as it spent very little time on heroic origin stories or dressing up in a costume. Instead, Jessica Jones first season story was about how she was victimized by a mind-controller known as Kilgrave, and how she rose from this. It was a more character-driven story that still had plenty of action and introduced the audience to interesting characters like Trish Walker, Jeri Hogarth, and even Luke Cage (before he got his own decent series).
Jessica Jones Season 1 just sucked me in, but Season 2 had the opposite effect on me. There were scenes in this season that just made me say: “man, this is terrible”. Instead of interesting characters and story, Jessica Jones Season 2 made these characters a mockery and had very lame plot elements. Even though an attempt at a story-length season was made, it still felt like things were just happening during each individual episode.
I’m going to bring some spoilers here, so don’t hit the jump unless you want to see Jessica Jones Season 2 for yourself to see if you thought it was as bad as I thought it was. What is interesting is how Rotten Tomatoes gives Jessica Jones Season 1 a 92 percent, while Jessica Jones Season 2 is given an 86. That is not much of a decrease, but I would given it a decrease of double digits.
So what went wrong? Well, one of the things that made the character of Jessica Jones so interesting is that she was very mysterious. Season 1 had very little time devoted to her origin, and it is only hinted that she was a costumed superhero. But the show isn’t named after a superhero name, but Jessica’s real name, her most human persona. Season 1 was about Jessica coming to terms with who she was, in spite of her faults, which were numerous.
Season 2 opens with Jessica being an alcoholic once again. Granted, she had killed Kilgrave in the past season, and that event will take its toll on anyone. However, it appears she fell off the wagon again, and part of that could be due to the Defenders. Honestly, this darker Marvel universe got really dumb after Iron Fist, a show that was so poor (an 18 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes) that I couldn’t even finish. When The Defenders aired, I liked seeing Jessica again, but I still barely remember that show as well. I’ve noticed this happens whenever the Hand is the main villain of any of these Marvel Netflix shows. I don’t know you could make a massive gang of ninjas boring, but these shows have found a way.
We might as well talk about the villain, aka Jessica Jones’ mom. I have to admit, it was a good idea to bring up more of Jessica’s origin in this season. In fact, there wasn’t a single episode that is devoted to showing everything that happened after her accident. It was also a good idea of making the villain (one of them) the scientist that altered Jessica’s DNA. There was huge potential there, and I have no idea how close this is to the comic book source material.
However, making Jessica’s mom and this scientist lovers was just awkward. Speaking of awkward, I think I need to talk about the aquarium scene. The scene has Jessica in an aquarium looking for the bad guy scientist, because it is apparent that this man would go there for some dumb reason. (Yeah, the reason why Jessica came there was pretty weak, just a clue from another victim of the scientist’s experiments.)
Jessica uses her phone to take pictures of said bad guy, and you can hear the shutter. Now, if Jessica is a private investigator, she would have turned that shutter sound off in this spying situation, because you can do that on a smartphone. At first I thought the shutter sound was done for the audience, but apparently the bad guy heard the shutter. This shows how sucky a detective Jessica is with this season.
Okay, so the bad guy’s assistant (Jessica’s mom) sees Jessica, and decides to use her super-strength on a nearby fish tank. A huge CG crack appears on the tank, and it looks like we are about to do that cool scene from the first Mission: Impossible movie. In fact, that tank has some cool sharks in it, and it certainly looks like a cool scene is coming. Like maybe Jessica will get stuck underwater and have to save some people from sharks and other cool carnivorous fish that were in that tank.
It was a good way to end the episode, but I realized that there was no way the budget for this show would afford such an expensive underwater scene to follow it up. As turned out, I was right. As the next episode shows up, it opens with people leaving the aquarium in haste. It doesn’t look like that water started leaking or nothing, because it’s not like there is water gushing out the doors. We see Jessica, but only her feet are wet, as evident by her footprints. When Jessica goes to use her phone, it doesn’t work because it is wet. Why is it wet? Did she drop it in the ankle-deep water? As it turns out, she can’t use her phone to take a picture of the bad guy, so it becomes a stupid plot point.
Speaking of stupid plot points, let’s talk about that prison guard that beats up Jessica Jones’ mom. Why in the world is this a-hole here in this story? Oh, so Jessica has a reason to break into his house and accidentally kill him. Oh, and then we can bring Kilgrave back, in ghost/conscience form. As excited as I was to see Kilgrave again, only a magical resurrection could have made his sudden reappearance less believable.
Now, let’s Trish Talk, I mean, talk Trish. She had this subplot of using that inhaler, which made her addicted to something that made her superhuman. This power addiction actually would be an interesting main plot to any superhero show, but it feels terrible as it is marginalized here. The reason she uses it in the first place feels incredibly forced, and then when she goes to the evil scientist to have her DNA altered, that is when it really got stupid. Worse yet is the scene where Jessica has to break into this lab to stop this transformation, but she can’t get through the door. She is Jessica Jones, right? She has been tearing the locks off doors since the first episode. Why does this lab have a door that she can’t get through? It only kind of makes sense.
What’s worse is that there is a #MeToo subplot with Trish as she takes on a producer that once abused her. Jessica Jones Season 2 feels like it was trying too hard to bring up a #MeToo subplot, and I don’t think I’m fit to judge it as unfit. However, I have found that when shows try to ride on current trends, it feels shoehorned in and dated later. Remember that “you mess with us, you mess with New York” scene from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. You know what I am talking about.
Then there is Jeri. Not only is she dying of ALS (really bad timing with Stephen Hawking’s death, by the way), but makes a bad deal to get a cure, which turns out to be one big prank, really. Jeri always had a skewed moral compass, but she always felt intellectually competent. Again, this feels out of character, but I guess we had to give her something to do for this season. Was there nothing else?
About the only one who I felt was better after this season was Malcolm. Granted, he fell back into some of his old habits, but he really created his own identity.
So I suppose that Jessica Jones Season 1 could be the peak of this Marvel Netflix series, and possible all of the Netflix Marvel series. It seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just getting better and better, and I hope this isn’t the contrary case with these Netflix characters. About the only thing that could improve it if Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist could show up in Avengers: Infinity War. Come on, MCU, let’s make this happen.