‘Cakes That Kill and Girls That Punch: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX’
JESSICA JONES (2015, NR—definitely for MATURE audiences, 13 episodes per season, MARVEL STUDIOS/NETFLIX)
I am a huge fan of Jessica Jones. The first season was a gritty, magical, in-your-face moral and social diatribe that did not pull any punches, and dealt with feminine issues in a wholly kick-ass manner.
The second season, thankfully, does the same, but does so under the guidance of an entirely female pool of directors. And guys and gals, that does absolutely nothing to soften the blows. If season one was a gentle yet firm study of the horror and effects of rape and gender manipulation, the second is a timely and quite absorbing look at women, be they mothers, attorneys, or private investigators, taking charge, and not taking any crap from anyone.
The start of the season finds Jones (played by the versatile Krysten Ritter) training Malcolm (Eka Darville, solidifying himself as an absolutely necessary part of the show) as her “Girl Friday”. Watching them go through the motions of him readying her for the day ahead is gratifying in the basest of sense; Malcolm grounds her, gets her on her feet, helps her define her purpose—for that day, at least. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, through their involvement with a “super” who goes by the unfortunate name of “The Whizzer”, that someone is killing off Supers (people with powers) and those associated with them. Which isn’t quite accurate, but as any of my twelve regular readers can attest, I don’t do spoilers, so that summary is as close as I’m going to get.
Yes, David Tennant shows up again as the gleefully psychopathic Kilgrave, but not in the way one would expect. And someone from Jessica’s past plays a key role (played by Janet McTeer, in a performance that is both stunning and dangerously sympathetic), threatening to undo any of the healing our heroine has been able to do over the years. But by expanding on the series regulars’ own storylines, we get a more fleshed out sophomore season. Trish (Rachael Taylor) is on the hunt for identity via super powers, the aforementioned Malcolm is recovering from the addiction Kilgrave set upon him, and—and quite possibly the most demanding storyline of the season—Carrie-Anne Moss’s Jeri Hogarth spends the season scratching and clinging to her mortality. Her desperate fight is a performance that lifts her above even that of the first season, and I thought she should have gotten an Emmy that time around.
What this season doesn’t do is mention Jessica’s last appearance on Netflix, last year’s “The Defenders”—which is a good thing. Giving these different heroes the opportunity to stand on their own is what makes them work so well…okay, it works for “Daredevil” and “Jones”. “Luke Cage” has yet to fully win me over, and “The Iron Fist” is just plain stupid. Like, THOR: THE DUFUS WORLD stupid. But worse.
So by not trying to pick up where “Defenders” left off, and not having to rely on that storyline, keeps “Jones” separate—and quite frankly, more honest. Jessica does not have all the answers, even though she still thinks most of them can be found at the bottom of a bottle. But she doesn’t have to rely on another Super for help. She is a strong woman, and not just in the literal sense. There have been other reviewers that have marveled at the timeliness of the show, so far as the “metoo movement”, and the women in Hollywood standing up against the physical and mental abuse they have suffered at the hands of the industry for decades. But Jessica was tackling those issues ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO, kids! One could almost make the argument that the series—perhaps even the character herself—was the frontrunner of these recent events.
Season two has its own battles to face, and the bonds between women is at the forefront. Don’t take this as a show that alienates men; it doesn’t, although what it does is give its female characters thought processes and abilities that the industry has always played off as male characteristics only. Thankfully, it is still refreshing to see Jessica Jones kicking ass, to see Jeri battling board members with her brain and attitude. “Jones” wants you to question the literal meanings of things, be it the roles genders play in society, or derogatory words. Literally no other series (or platform, for that matter) has ever approached these matters from this perspective.
Netflix has yet to announce a Season Three, but with so many active storylines left open at the end of this one, I find it hard to believe there wouldn’t be another. With a hero this defining, it would be a shame to see more Iron Twit and not more Jones.
Series Grade: A
-- T.S. Kummelman