A scorched Earth approach to relationships – AKA my thoughts on Jessica Jones S2

So here’s another thing to get out of the way. And I do sort of mean get it out of the way, because spending very much time on the topic would not be time well spent. I saw the second season of Jessica Jones during the weekend after it came out, and I haven’t rewatched it since. Nor do I feel inclined to. Not because it was an awful twelve plus hours of television, but because it just wasn’t very good. I would easily rank this season as the weakest of the Netflix shows/seasons thus far, possibly with the exception of The Defenders, which I had lots of issues with. On the other hand, while the Defenders actively annoyed me, Jessica Jones season 2 left few impressions at all except an enduring sense of bafflement at some of the creative choices that were made. I have high hopes for the third season that has already been green-lit (with some caveats), but below are my main takeaways from this show’s second outing. Full spoilers ahead!

Jeri Hogarth’s story is the most interesting

Jeri actually has a pretty interesting arc this season. She is diagnosed with ALS in the first episode, and this sends her into a spiral of despair that shows us new and interesting sides of her. When she’s not sleeping with prostitutes (plural, simultaneously), she puts all of her faith in the would-be bringers of miracles that turn out to be nothing of the sort. Meanwhile, her partners are trying to push her out of their law firm, and put in a very Jeri-like effort to fight to keep what is hers.

There is only one problem with Jeri’s story being the more interesting: She isn’t the main character. Nor does her story affect the overall plot in any major way. This doesn’t take away from what’s going on with Jeri, but it does make the main plot points look a bit weaker by comparison.

Jeri drowning her sorrows with women, as seen in season 2 of Jessica Jones on Netflix

Creative decision: Mother issues

When it was revealed (about six episodes in?) that the monster woman stalking the streets and killing people was Jessica’s apparently not-dead mother, I may have actually audibly groaned. I admit that this is one of those things where people just differ in what they like. I think the people who did enjoy this season (and there were a few) probably enjoyed or at least didn’t particularly mind this little plot twist. In fact, most who have been critical of this season of Jessica Jones have primarily been critical of the first third of the season being too slow, not so much of what happens after that. I guess this means that the scene that pretty much killed this season for me, finally made it interesting for many other people. Good for them.

You see, I have a general aversion to “back from the dead” twists (I’m looking at you Defenders…), regardless of how they happen. It would have made me take notice in a positive way if Alisa, who is actually a compelling and well-acted character in her own right, had been a sort of mirror version of Jessica, rather than her literal mother. If she had been someone who was also the sole survivor of a similar accident whose life took a very different turn than Jessica’s, where she could have been someone that Jessica might still empathize with, and even project her mother issues onto, without this being too on the nose. Man, that would have been so much better. For starters, it would have been less clichéd and it also would have left fewer opportunities for Jessica to act as out of character as I thought she did in her relationship with Alisa.

Trish wakes from her overdose, as seen in season 2 of Jessica Jones on Netflix

Speaking of mother issues, Trish too seemed to be healing her relationship with her mother. This seemed even more out of character for me, and there was very little explanation for it. Yes, at first she gets in touch with her mother because she needs something from her, and there’s no emotional stuff, but gradually she seems to drift into Trish’s life in a manner that seems off. There’s also a point where Jessica admits to Trish that she was jealous of her for at least having a mother (I hope I’m remembering this right). This struck me as very odd. Even if Jessica might have harbored such feelings, once or twice, I doubt very much that she’d actually say as much. Besides, as you might recall from season one, we know that Trish’s issues with her mother are not a simple matter of the two of them falling out, but the result of actual child abuse. It’s as if the writers are milking the mother angle, more than writing from the perspective of what actually makes sense for these character to say and do.

Scorched Earth

Did you end you viewing of Daredevil season two wondering how these characters were ever going to patch things up after all the hurt they all inflicted on one another? Even knowing that things would probably get better in future seasons, things were pretty bad. Now imagine the writers of this season of Jessica Jones seeing that and going “Hold my beer!” Because what the writers do to Malcolm and Trish, the latter in particular, and their respective relationships with Jessica was just… I don’t even know how to put it. There is no way Trish and Jessica can come back from this. In fact, even trying to bring them back together at this point would just cheapen what happened in this story. The scene at the end of the season where Trish discovers her Hellcat powers could have been a fun moment. Instead, Trish being written as a horrible person for the latter half of the season kills most of the excitement for me. They pretty much destroyed her character. For what? Shock value? Explain to me why the story needed it. Trish’s treatment here is the one thing that brings down the hopes I have for a successful third season-

So, probably not the most enthusiastic of posts, but I still wanted to comment on this season. I realize I never wrote anything about The Punisher, after it came out, so maybe I’ll tackle that too some time. What I really do hope for Jessica though, is that she doesn’t get another season of past issues blowing up in her face. It worked splendidly in season one, but even season two spending that much time bringing up things from her younger years was a serious misstep in my view. She’s a private eye in a world where strange things happen. How about they do something with that? I’d be happy to watch!

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

13 comments

  1. Hey Christine,
    Awesome that you’re posting again.
    I have to disagree almost completely about JJ season 2 though. I thought it was a great follow-up to everything laid down in the, admittedly, vastly superior Season 1. I’d easily rank it far above Defenders, Punisher, Cage, and Iron Fist.

    I do agree that they could’ve worked in some other cases that Jessica had to deal with around the main plots to show off her PI skills.

  2. I think I probably enjoyed Jessica Jones more than you, Christine, but I agree with most things you’ve highlighted as problems. Between the Matt/ Foggy fall out of Daredevil season two and the Jess/ Trish fall out here, it making me a bit worried about who Luke’s relationships. It seems with Matt and Jess they spent the first season cementing these close friendships, and the second season destroying them.

  3. @Callistemon: It certainly is a big parallel for Matt and Jessica. Jessica cut almost all of her original friendships with her and Trish now being estranged, and Malcolm having left Jessica to work for Hogarth. However, Jessica has managed to build a healthy and good romance and bond with Oscar and his son, just like Matt was able to hold onto Karen by telling her his secret.

    And I totally agree that we should worry about Luke’s relationships with Misty and Claire. Then again, Danny’s appearing in Luke Cage season 2, so maybe things won’t be so bad.

    And I concur with Chrstine, Jessica Jones Season 2 did the same thing Daredevil Season 2 did of tearing apart the main “Scooby gang” (Deborah Ann Woll has used that term to describe Matt, Karen and Foggy on several occasions. Charlie Cox has referred to Karen and Foggy as Matt’s “family”). Of course, with Matt, Karen and Foggy, we know they’ll be reconciling to take down Wilson Fisk. And to some extent, we even have a general idea of how the reconciliation process will go. In their case, Matt’s coming back from the dead, and Karen and Foggy will probably be insistent on involving themselves in Matt’s Daredevil activities because they don’t want to lose him again. On Matt and Karen’s end, we’ve also got Karen’s past being explored and her inner demons catching up to her, which includes hopefully her coming clean about killing Wesley. On Matt and Foggy’s end, they got a lot of reconciliation work in The Defenders, as that scene where Foggy brought Matt’s suit to the precinct demonstrated, but now they have Foggy being in Fisk’s crosshairs.

    With Jessica Jones season 2, it’s harder to tell how the Alias trio can come back from this. I think Jessica and Malcolm could easily repair things because Malcolm’s a more forgiving person and the rift between him and Jessica mostly concerned her keeping him in the dark and not showing him the respect he felt he deserved. In their last interaction where they passed each other in the hallway, trying to pretend the other didn’t exist, I felt like they wanted to speak to one another but for now chose to go separate ways. They’ll probably start socializing again as friends, but it’ll take some time to get to that point. (Sidenote, is it policy for guys to get a haircut before going to work for Hogarth? Because Malcolm shaving his dreadlocks reminds me of how Foggy adapted his new slick-haired look when transitioning from Nelson & Murdock to working with Hogarth Chao & Benowitz) Meanwhile, with Jessica and Trish, it’s certainly gonna be a big uphill battle primarily on Trish’s end. But I’ve seen some interviews where Rachael Taylor seems to have faith that Jessica and Trish can repair things, although she doesn’t know how. Jessica and Trish have had their “Nelson v. Murdock” moment. They just need the reconciliation part, and that’ll probably need some big threat to get the two of them plus Malcolm in the same room again.

  4. The parallels between Jessica Jones Season 2 and Daredevil Season 2 go even further with IGH and Kilgrave. IGH, like the Hand, started off as a secondary antagonist in the first season. They were just the people behind Simpson, much like the Hand were just a Yakuza syndicate that did business with Wilson Fisk. Then IGH is brought to the forefront in season 2, much like the Hand was. And someone from Jessica’s past, her mother in this case, is involved with them, much like Elektra was involved in the Chaste’s war against the Hand. Hell, even the main villain from the first season makes a brief return. Fisk makes his return in DDS2 for two episodes, which absolutely no one saw coming, and which was also done to set up his return to main villain status in Daredevil Season 3 (especially the part with him asking his flunkies to call Donovan and get him Wesley’s files on Matt). Meanwhile, JJS2 gave us an episode of Jessica hallucinating Kilgrave after she killed Dale.

  5. I was so creeped out be Jessica Jones season 1 that I never finished it. I liked the character of Jessica, I just couldn’t stand the show.
    When I finished watching Daredevil season 2, Luke Cage, and the Defenders, each time I was stomping my feet like a toddler and saying “I hate cliffhangers”. When I finished Iron Fist, I shrugged and said “I don’t really care if I see these characters again”. That was pretty much my reaction again with JJ s2. My only thought when I reached the end was, “What about Foggy and Marci? Do they go to work for Hogarth’s new firm? Could this be the beginnings of a return to Nelson & Murdock?”
    Like you, I haven’t re-watched any of season 2 and probably won’t. When season 3 comes out, I will probably watch, tho it is not something I’m eagerly anticipating.

  6. “My only thought when I reached the end was, ‘What about Foggy and Marci? Do they go to work for Hogarth’s new firm? Could this be the beginnings of a return to Nelson & Murdock?’”

    @Jenny: I want to imagine that Jeri did take Foggy and Marci with her to her new firm. In her last scene, she’s briefly seen on the phone with a realtor and makes a remark about how “160 square feet is not enough for a second year associate’s office”. I dunno about Foggy, but seeing how Jeri treated him when he offered to help her fight back against her partners, I think he and Marci would be better off splitting away from her, for much the same reasons Matt and Foggy left Landman & Zack. I also think it’d be great if Marci became the third wheel in a reopened Nelson & Murdock (compared to all the other lawyer characters, Marci is a bit underdeveloped. She will be in Daredevil season 3, as Amy Rutberg has made some cryptic remarks to that effect. Maybe Marci will get more screentime as a result of being in Fisk’s crosshairs).

  7. @Donald Reif

    Yes, Jeri’s treatment of Foggy earlier in the series made me wonder if he would even want to join her new firm. Plus, back in the Defenders, Foggy says something about being glad for the break from taking depositions, which game me the impression that he had become less enchanted with big law firm life.
    I think Nelson, Murdock & Stahl would be a great firm.
    Maybe I just prefer watching lawyering over mystical ninjas.

  8. Yeah, Foggy said he was glad for the break from depositions when he met Karen at the precinct. Earlier, when he and Matt were having drinks at Josie’s, he made a remark that “at least I get to see Marci a lot. After hours. Naked, I mean!” which suggested that he probably has his second-thoughts about having broken up Nelson & Murdock. He did come around to being more supportive of Matt in The Defenders and I think that defending Luke Cage had a lot to do with that.

  9. I’m glad they handled the classic character of Whizzer with such tremendous dignity. I totally see a Netflix spinoff for him.

  10. Although I didn’t like the idea of Trish going after her powers as a branch of her addiction, I did appreciate that she requested them rather than having them inflicted on her.

  11. I think the one thing giving me pause about the Trish addiction subplot is that Jessica is already messed up enough; and we can question whether they needed to make Trish be messed up as well. Though seeing how Jessica, Trish and Malcolm are analogous to Matt, Karen and Foggy; and Matt and Karen are the dysfunctional ones in the Daredevil trio, maybe it makes sense.

  12. Thankfully I am not that emotionally invested in Jessica Jones as I am in Daredevil. The series had some good moments but overall I was disappointed. I thought the season was written and directed only by women and the result was so unbelivably macho.
    So there is Carl, a male genius scientist who do did some obviously very expensive, illegal and unethical experiments on human beings without apparent reason or funding. But he has some female assistants. And the mother is doing what she does because she is pining over this guy.
    In the first season the female characters were smart, resourceful and independent.
    It’s so sad that they sacrificed Will Simpson for this weak plot.

  13. What you’ve said about the Hogarth subplot does ring true. In the first season, her subplot tied in more to the main plot. In the second season, the main plot is more of a springing board that initially propels her subplot before her subplot goes off in its own direction and resolves itself without tying back into Jessica’s main arc. Hell, we didn’t once see Jessica in the Hogarth Chao & Benowitz offices during the second season.

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