Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Shake off the dregs of your hangover, twist off the top of a fresh bottle of whiskey, and glug-glug-glug until you can barely string three words together, let alone coherently revisit a harrowing trauma from your childhood: Jessica Jones is back.
When last we saw our reluctant superhero, she was snapping Kilgrave’s neck as a mere mortal might wring out a washcloth, sending her rapist and tormentor to his death. Arrested for murder but released due to Jeri Hogarth’s kind-of-kindly intervention, Jessica went home to a pile of voicemails from normals desperate for some super-assistance.
As season two dawns — well, it’s not really dawn because in Jessica Jones’ New York, it is nighttime for approximately 22 hours of the day — Jessica seems to have regressed. Before, she was haunted by the threat of Kilgrave’s return; now, she’s haunted by the reason she knows he’ll never come back. Does one murder make you a murderer? What’s the difference between what you do and who you are?
Rather than peer into the scary abyss where those questions might get answered, Jessica has gone back to her standard sleuthing practice, cracking dry one-liners and catching dirtbags in various acts of dirtbaggery. Which is to say, she’s not exactly grasping at a higher calling, unless you consider catching pizza-delivery guys making on-the-clock sexy-time detours a cause worthy of her gifts. Unfortunately for Jessica, her clients expect what they believe is the Jessica Special, a.k.a. homicide. Personally I am satisfied with gratuitous displays of superstrength, like watching JJ bend a metal chair into a noodley heap of tubes, but the woman at the pizza parlor thinks her delivery boy deserves to die, and Jessica’s refusal to oblige disappoints her die-hard (murder pun!) fans.
Malcolm is working as Jessica’s assistant-slash-apprentice, taking notes and continuing to show up to work even as she repeatedly fires him. He and Trish would like Jessica to take on more meaningful clients, but Jessica is not about that touchy-feely lifestyle, mostly because she does not want to tumble into some bottomless darkness inside of her soul that she might never, ever crawl out of, and also because assholes pay better.
Meanwhile, Trish (who keeps not so subtly talking about Jessica’s valor on Trish Talk, more on that in a minute) is dolled up in her old Patsy outfit, performing at a kid’s birthday party in exchange for information. I was relieved that all she needed to do was sing her old theme song for a bunch of first-grade girls, because that is probably least degrading thing that grown men might ask her to do in said outfit. Humiliation sufficiently rendered, Trish walks out with Jessica’s medical records from the car accident that killed Jessica’s brother and her parents — the accident after which Jessica emerged with her Marvel-ous abilities.
Turns out there’s a 20-day stretch after the crash for which Jessica’s whereabouts are unaccounted, and this brings us to the drag of the episode: The inevitable explanation is obvious from the jump. Of course this 20-day period is when Jessica got her superpowers, and of course some nefarious shit was going down then (and presumably still is), and of course Jessica is going to try to find out who did this to her and what they’re after now. It’s even obvious that the guy Jessica dismisses is, in fact, stricken with superpowers and needs her protection. It takes the entire episode for the show to catch up to the audience. Pretty tedious stuff for a series that’s usually real snappy.
Keeping things interesting is the introduction of not one but two cute guys into JJ’s life. One is Pryce Cheng, a possible foe who wants to buy out Alias Investigations — Jeri sent him, not that Jessica knows that — and who sets Jessica up for the best quip of the hour. (“I never take no for an answer,” he says. Her reply: “How rapey of you.”) He eggs Jessica on until she chucks him through a plate-glass door. In accordance with the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine, Pryce emerges with only a dislocated shoulder and cheekbone-accentuating scrapes. He’s planning to sue Jess, presumably because his ego is even more bruised than his body. The other hot guy on the horizon is Oscar, the new super (lol) of Jessica’s building, who meet-cutes with our antiheroine when she casually carries a refrigerator that he struggles to lift alone.
As for the women in Jessica’s orbit, Trish is as aggressive as ever about Jessica’s past. She literally brings her a bankers box with the Jones family’s ashes in them, which she’d been keeping in a storage unit for the past 17 years. Trish Talk ratings are falling because she insists on both lightly exploiting her friend’s trauma — to help people! — and refuses to divulge the kind of information that listeners are really tuning in to hear. She’s also dating a guy whose British accent, in the context of this show, should come with a trigger warning. He’s technically the competition, seems to impress Trish solely on the basis of his “three awards and a television show,” and says things like, “If you want to be in the news, the story has to be your best friend.” I look forward to the revelation that he is evil in some grand way, not just a run-of-the-mill jerk way.
Oh, and Jeri is getting taken to the cleaners by that assistant she was screwing (not that Jeri buys that Pam was a victim in the situation: “She practically did a split on my desk”) and no amount of paid-for lawyer awards can save her. “Power is an illusion, Jeri,” a partner tells her. “Just ask your dead wife.” Wow, people are rude here.
In an echo of the first season’s premiere, Jessica gets a hopeful client whose case is far more serious than she realizes. This time around, the real deal in the sad parade is a guy who claims to be able to run at lightning speed, but only when he’s scared. By the time Jess figures out he’s no joke — and that he was tinkered into super-status by the same people who did a number on her — he’s dead at the bottom of a conveniently crumbled construction site.
Jessica learns the “they” that the tragically nicknamed Whizzer swore was after him had also been prescribing the guy a high dose of antipsychotics. So while Malcolm stays behind to gently clean up the ashes of Jessica’s brother, Jessica follows the trail to “Industrial Garments and Handling,” the IGH that she’d been hunting down to fill the gaps in her own story.
Just being in the IGH building gives Jessica flashbacks to her hospitalization: strapped to a gurney, screaming in pain, fighting off some inhuman-looking beast. “We were made here,” she thinks, and ready or not, she’s going back to her nightmare factory. Can’t be a superhero without an origin story.