Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Jessica Jones Season 2

Binge completed, plus a few days to ponder on it.

The Good

Jessica herself is the only thing the show really needs. I mean, I'm not objecting to all the other great stuff it gives us, but she's the kind of character you'll keep watching regardless of plot or context.

I love Trish. I love that she's everything I usually hate in a character, and I love her for it and not in spite of it. When it's done right, character development surprises you but makes sense within what you already know; when it's at its best, the same twist that knocks you off your feet is the one that suddenly explains everything. From the first season, we knew that Trish had transformed her childhood stardom to a successful radio show -- now we find out she was a pop star in between, and that she isn't remembered for it because she had to skip out for rehab in the middle of a tour. We knew that she wished she had superpowers -- now we find out it's an obsession fueled by her frustration at not being able to help people the way she wants. We knew that she's the most important person in Jessica's life -- now we find out exactly what they both went through to get to that point.

It killed me to see them turn on each other at the end. If we're talking blame I think most of it lies with Trish, but in a tragedy that doesn't matter nearly as much as being able to follow and understand what happened. What she did was built up throughout the season. Maybe both seasons. But the relationship between Jessica and her not-biological-but-also-definitely-not-BS-found-family-trope sister has been a bigger deal than any romantic relationship in nearly any of the Netflix series, and the breakdown has a proportionate impact. I'm sure this was intentional but honestly I can't help trying to figure out a good way for it to pave the way for S3 to concentrate on Luke/Jessica.

Another thing that the story of Jessica and Trish accomplishes is to put the focus on Jessica's superpowers and why she has "refused the call", as it were. The Spider-Man mantra ("with great power comes great responsibility", in case you've played a lot of Marvel hooky) is a fairly standard motive for superheroes, and with good reason. Most people don't have the power to fight crime; if you do, then why the hell aren't you using it? When Trish badgers Jessica with that question, it just sounds like she's jealous, and she is, but it still needs an answer. And yet I watched the whole first season without ever blaming Jess at all for choosing a comparatively normal career, and I expect I'm not the only one.

I watched the second season without blaming her either, but now I know why. Power she may have, but contending with her own temper, fear, and addiction means she can't use it safely. The concern that she'll make matters worse instead of better is substantial in her case, and we even see it play out that way early in the season. (The pompous tattooed Pryce guy had it coming to him but that's not really the issue at hand.) Trish never seems to make the connection -- or she just thinks that she won't have the same problems if it's her with the power instead of Jessica. And she won't. She'll have different ones, which are probably just as bad. I'm looking forward to finding out what they are.

I don't love Malcolm as much as I love Trish, but some combination of his cute little face and his lost-puppy introductory arc makes me feel intensely protective over him and it was rough to see him going through so much. Excited to see what his future holds, especially since the new configuration is just dying for some crossover action.

And then there's Hogarth. Whether you want her or not, there she is. Hogarth. For the most part, I really like her as a character: how morally neutral she is, how brilliant she is in her field in contrast to how terrible her life choices are, how she's Carrie-Anne Moss who I haven't seen nearly enough of since Memento. Buuuut, this time I got a little Hogarth'd out. She's an incredibly unsympathetic character, and while that makes every moment where you feel for her (or even almost feel for her) all the more impressive, it can get a little exhausting. I hope she doesn't die, and I hope she doesn't get written out of any of the shows where she's appeared so far. But I also hope that in the future she's more plot device and less off on her own adventures.

I didn't want anything in particular out of Simpson, although I did want some resolution and I knew we'd see him again, but I actually got a kick out of how he was used. Came back to our side but without enough time to bring in any complex feelings about it, and he earned a death that wasn't meaningless. He even advanced Trish's arc, through the gear he left behind. Bon voyage, Nuke!

The Bad

Not gonna lie, the lack of crossovers was a notable and significant disappointment. All of the reasoning I assumed for the same lack in the preceding seasons in the 'verse doesn't work here - the character already stands on her own, the world has already been established, endless references and appearances are available. But all we get is like two seconds of Foggy, Turk doing his Turk thing, and a Rand namedrop. No mention of Matt's death, Jessica's feelings for Luke, or anything at all that happened in The Defenders. No Karen hanging out with Trish, no Danny popping in like an annoying little brother, not even any Claire!

It's not that Jessica Jones isn't worth watching without its support system, but the untapped potential here is so frustrating. Why set up the world so carefully if not to let everyone wander easily from show to show? Especially with the Netflix model. Binging is fun, but we have to wait so long between seasons; wouldn't it be great to hear what Frank or Sergeant Mahoney or Genghis Connie are up to in the meantime? I just hope we get Jessica herself, and/or Trish, crossing over in one of the upcoming shows. That would make up for a lot (*cough*Luke misses her*cough*).

I should note that there was a reference to the Raft, which is the superhuman detainment fortress that Team Cap gets sent to in Civil War. It's the first time I can remember in which Netflix mentions something that happened in a movie other than The Avengers, so I thought that was pretty cool.

My complaints about the writing and performances are very few, but by the end of it I found myself a little annoyed by Oscar. Not (just) because he's a new love interest for Jessica and I already know who I want her to be with, but because he was too perfect. No, I'm not ignoring that he's a single father with a prison record and a forgery business on the side, or that he and Jessica started off on the wrong foot. In real life, those all go on the right hand column of your "pros and cons" list, but in TV terms, they're clearly the kind of faults that get written in just so nobody says the guy is too perfect: they cause a conflict for the impending romance that the characters can overcome within one emotional arc and then live happily ever after. He's a good father who doesn't back down from a fight, and his criminal activity is the kind that makes him seem cool without directly hurting anyone. You don't have to worry about the catch, because you've already seen it.

Contrast to Luke, yes, but also, contrast to Griffin, the suave fella that Trish was dating for the first half of the season. Way too perfect. No faults. Taaroko and I were essentially placing bets on whether he would turn out to be evil, or die. The narrative even encouraged it, right up until Trish had to face his perfection and it all imploded. In a way it was deftly done, but it also felt a little cheap. The statement about the female characters forging their own paths instead of the development depending on the male characters loses some steam when the standard romance tropes are still in play.

I had to stop and wonder why I was so fixated on the plotting and whether it had something to do with my own writing muscles at work, but even though I love to analyze TV shows, I feel like I don't usually have any special power of perception. This time I just couldn't stop looking at the sketch underneath the painting.

The Painful

Because "The Ugly" doesn't adequately describe what's left after what's good and bad in this show. The reason it's so good is usually because it's so painful.

For instance, Jessica's past. In most stories, a murdered boyfriend would have been tragic backstory enough on its own, but no, for her it's practically a footnote that we don't even hear about until well after we've learned about her family's deaths and her servitude under Kilgrave. Not to mention, when it happens it closes a chapter of her life in which she seemed happy, or at least as happy as we've seen her since the car crash.

The supporting characters don't even seem to get the benefit of not-so-bad flashbacks. Everyone's drug of choice seems to be meaningless, self-destructive sex. This season is probably at the top of my list for wanting to shake everyone in it and scream at them to stop hurting themselves.

As a Big Bad, I'm not sure Mrs. Jones rates with the best, but as a mental torture device for Jessica, she's extremely effective. Really enjoyed the periodic juxtaposition with Trish's evil mom (and oh man, even that was more complicated than we thought). I thought Jessica's arc had a natural progression into deciding to go with her mother in spite of everything: she basically says outright that nothing else matters because they're family, relating it to Oscar and his son. When you think about how much she's lost and how desperate she must be for a parental figure, yeah, she would act as a daughter and not a superhero. And as I'm writing this, I'm thinking, here comes Trish, who wants to be a superhero and has had it up to here with being a daughter, and of course she takes the exact opposite course of action that Jessica does.

But, speaking of the best Big Bads, I loved the Kilgrave episode. We knew he was going to appear and didn't know when or how, so this was pretty much exactly the function I expected him to perform, but it was also exactly what was needed at that point in the story. What really struck me when thinking about it later was that he's just making casual suggestions on how she should give in to her darkest impulses, and she knows very well that he's not really there and she's just arguing with her own imagination -- but her association with him is that she has to do what he says. So when her imagination puts on a Kilgrave face to make a casual suggestion...oh man, this is no ordinary shoulder devil. Do we need more evidence of her strength?

I'm not sure what's next for her. Like I keep saying, I'd love to see some Jessica/Luke, and I do mean pregnancy and all. One way or another, though, I hope she comes out ahead, gets her people back, and starts to feel like she can handle what's coming at her. There's such a thing as too much suffering for one story, and she's starting to approach the line.
Tags: marvel cinematic universe, the defenders

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