Krysten Ritter reprises the role of the title character in the second season of “Jessica Jones.”
Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
March 1, 2018 -- Jessica Jones returns March 8 for her second season on Netflix, so it’s time to catch up on one of TV’s most fascinating characters.
Naturally, you’ll want to binge-watch Season 1, which introduced the non-comics-reading world to Jones (played by Krysten Ritter), a private detective with a drinking problem, one who also has vaguely defined super-powers (enhanced strength, durability). We also learned that she has PTSD – although the term is never mentioned – which helps explain why her life is such a mess.
The trauma at the heart of that condition is a man named Kilgrave (David Tennant). He’s at the heart of all of Season 1, really, a man who has the unique ability to make anyone do what he says. In Jessica’s case, he used that ability to rape and brutalize her years ago for a very long period of time. Despite the affability of Tennant’s performance, this man is a monster who has destroyed Jessica’s life.
David Tennant will reprise his role as Kilgrave in the second season of “Jessica Jones,” although it could only be in flashback.
Except that she refuses to fold. Jessica Jones is crippled by PTSD, yes – but it doesn’t defeat her. She gave up whatever dreams she had, she drinks too much, she has intimacy issues, she’s full of self-loathing, she’s got a bad temper. But she fights back. She doesn’t let being a victim define her.
That makes Jessica Jones a feminist story in a way. But moreover, it’s a very human one. And, despite Jessica’s gritty, desperate, cynical world, it’s a hopeful story.
But, man, it’s a harsh one. Which might have been even worse in the comics, as hard as that might be to believe. With spoilers ahoy, this is that story:
Jessica Jones was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos in 2001 at “Max,” what was a mature-readers line at Marvel Comics. The series was titled Alias, which couldn’t be used on TV for obvious reasons. (In case it’s not obvious: There was another show with that name, starring Jennifer Garner, from 2001 to 2006.)
In the first issue we found out that Jessica was once, briefly, a superhero named Jewel who palled around with various Avengers. But part of her despair is that when Killgrave kidnapped her, nobody became alarmed at her absence. She was his sex slave for months, and nobody came looking for her.
(Yes, Kilgrave’s name is spelled Killgrave in the comics. Also, he is solid purple.)
Another event in that first issue: Jessica has a less-than-romantic sexual encounter with Luke Cage, after passing out in his bar. He takes her home, and she asks him for sex, even though she knows he’ll feel guilty later.
“But I can’t say that I care, really,” she thinks. “I don’t care what he feels like. I just want to feel something. It doesn’t matter what. Pain. Humility. Anger. I just want to feel something different.”
Yeah, that’s some rough stuff. But the good news is Alias only begins with Jessica at rock bottom. The next 27 issues is the story of her rise above some of her demons. She never quite gets her act together – she is Jessica Jones, after all – but at the end of that series she is pregnant and in a committed relationship with Luke, who is the father.
Bendis continued Jessica’s story in a 14-issue series titled Pulse, in which Jones was a superhero consultant at The Daily Bugle. I didn’t find it as compelling as her solo series – it was practically a Spider-Man title, with the Bugle staff and the Green Goblin – but the last issue is certainly important for Jessica Jones fans. It was in Pulse #14 that Jones gave birth to baby Danielle, named after Cage’s Heroes-for-Hire partner Daniel “Iron Fist” Rand.
With two canceled series behind her, Jessica was reduced to being a supporting character in other books, primarily New Avengers. Luke Cage was that team’s leader, and in the course of the series he and Jones got married. So, things were looking up for our girl.
Alias, the Marvel Comics that introduced Jessica Jones, is available in trade paperback.
Of course, that can’t last. The first issue of a new series titled Jessica Jones came out in 2016, which found her in jail for unspecified reasons, and on the run from her friends, because she’s kidnapped her own baby. Both Misty Knight and Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman, and drawn for some reason like Jennifer Connelly) both pay unfriendly visits after she’s released, wanting to know where Danielle is. A very angry Luke Cage isn’t far behind.
OK, spoiler, Jessica is undercover on a sting operation. It’s all an act. But what’s revealing is how quickly the knives come out.
“I never really liked you,” Misty Knight tells her just before the fists start swinging. “On a subatomic, cellular level. And I was finally proven right.”
She has even worse things to say to Luke, who is hard-pressed to defend Jessica.
“You’re going to look back and realize how much time you’ve wasted with this woman, and you’re going to regret it,” she says. “She’s not built for what you’re trying to have with her. She never was. … She digs holes. And then she tries to crawl back out. Now she’s pulling you into them with her, and it breaks my heart to watch. … This was always the way it was going to end with her.”
Needless to say, Jessica eventually succeeds with her mission, the bad guys are foiled and the truth is revealed. But not everyone is convinced that it was all an act, because of her previous bad behavior, and her relationship with Luke is … strained.
But that’s not the worst that happens. After an adventure with Maria Hill – played by Cobie Smulders in the movies – she finds out that Killgrave has been on the loose for more than a year. And nobody knows where he is or what he’s doing.
We find out pretty quickly where Killgrave is … when he starts talking through Jessica’s daughter, Danielle. Yes, it is super creepy. And what he wants is a face-to-face meeting. Where she has to deal with his power to make her do anything, and what she herself calls her “pathological fear” of him.
This is an ongoing storyline, so I couldn’t spoil the ending if I wanted to. But it’s surely going to be over in two months, when the last story by her co-creator, Brian Bendis, comes out. Bendis has taken a job with the competition at DC Comics, so for the first time, with Jessica Jones” #19, someone else will be writing our girl’s solo adventures. Marvel has yet to say who will replace Bendis, except to say that it will likely be a woman.
Which means that it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get all the Jessica Jones stories by her main writer before Jessica Jones Season 2 drops on Netflix. All of Alias, Pulse and much of Jessica Jones is available in trade paperback.
Not that you need to. According to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, you don’t even need to binge the first season.
“I would love for [the audience] to watch Season 1,” Rosenberg said to Yahoo Entertainment. “But they can jump right into Season 2 – it stands on its own feet.”
She also says that Jessica will be diving into her origins – which, to date, we know little about. How did she get those super-powers, anyway? Was the death of her family really an accident? And are there other people enhanced the same way? (Hint: “It was on purpose,” “no” and “yes.”)
Also, she’ll be attending anger-management classes. Hey, it’s Jessica Jones. It’s never going to be pretty.
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Looking forward to it.
Anybody watching this?
We're only four episodes in, but my wife and I are definitely hooked. Especially her.
One thing I've noticed is the gender reversal in a lot of scenes. For example, most of us know that Jeryn Hogarth was a man in the comics, but is a woman on TV (played by Carrie-Anne Moss, the lady who was in the Matrix movies). It goes beyond just stunt casting, though, in that she is playing a very "masculine" role -- it's almost like the writers are continuing to write the character as if she were a man, or at least the cliche of one. Whether that observation holds water or not, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Moss is killing it with this particular character arc.
Jessica, too, acts in very traditionally masculine ways -- she drinks too much, initiates sex (and sometimes gets turned down by guys who are turned off by her aggressiveness) and says of one of her mistakes that it was a "dick move." (Even better, the exchange was entirely between two women -- no actual dicks were involved.)
The men in the show play more traditionally female roles, of caregivers and nurturers. In fact, one of them has a flash of insight about why his wife divorced him for his dangerous job, when he finds himself sitting at home worried about his girlfriend's safety as she pursues something dangerous.
And if you're looking for a show that blows the Bechdel Test out of the water, here it is.
Oh, and did anybody else notice the last name of the hypnotist recommended by Trish? Last name "Tiboldt," just like the guy with the hypnotic hat, the Ringmaster of Crime.
Also, Trish impulsively inhaled an experimental drug that can lead to enhanced abilities. Is Hellcat on the way?
Looking forward to the rest!
I've been watching it. I think I'm 7 or 8 episodes in. Really enjoying it, for all the reasons you mention. I'm also happy to report that Jessica finally has non-rough sex a few episodes in! I was starting to wonder if she was capable of it. She certainly has intimacy issues, but there is some explanation for that this season.
I'm probably going to start watching it in the next day or so. In season one, the rough sex made sense between her and Luke Cage, being both super strong. I wonder if they're going to do a version of the Ringmaster? He would fit in with all the street level stuff.
There's a sex scene in the latest episode we watched that shows a little character growth.