Jessica Jones: AKA Playland

"We only get one mother. That's a powerful bond, no matter how batshit crazy they might be."

A strong ending. I wish it had been less predictable, though.

Thematically, this season has been all about Jessica exploring, accepting or rejecting her own capacity for evil, with her mother Alisa as an active example of that evil. When Alisa was introduced earlier in the season, my first thought was 'Darth Vader.' As they were driving toward the Canadian border and Alisa talked about how the two of them should be unfettered superwomen instead of limping their way through life, I could practically hear Alisa saying that she and Jessica could rule the galaxy side by side as mother and daughter. It was so obvious what would happen next.

But wait. First we must recreate the accident that destroyed the Jones family and give it a different ending. And really, that was pretty cool. The happy family in the next car singing "Da Do Ron Ron," the fiery crash, Alisa and Jessica to the rescue using their superstrength to carry the family and the other driver to safety. Jessica's relief when she found Alisa in the wreckage and hugged her so tightly was touching, precisely because it was so unlike Jessica. We're thinking that maybe the two of them will start a two-woman superhero franchise in Canada, after all.

When Alisa realized that it wasn't to be, she decided to say goodbye to Jessica with a ride on the Ferris wheel at Playland, recreating the happy family vacation photo that meant so much to her in her basement prison and in particular going back to that one thing that she and Jessica had always enjoyed, and father and son Jones had not. It was so obvious that this would be the end that I honestly didn't know what Alisa had planned to do next. Surrender to the police? Take one of the boats and leave Jessica behind?

Alisa certainly had no idea that Trish would show up and murder her. And that bears repeating – Trish murdered Alisa. Outright deliberately shot and killed her in cold blood. The person that Jessica loved the most, her adopted sister, killed her mother. The thing is, Trish might have indeed kept Jessica alive by killing Alisa before the cops came and took down both of them in a hail of bullets, but it was still so very, very wrong.

Trish's story this season disappointed me. I don't quite know how they made her so dislikable, but they did. Her quest for powers never felt like a need to help the helpless; instead, it felt like Trish was flailing away, ruining her own life and career, because she was jealous of Jessica's powers. It's not surprising that Jessica rejected Trish in the end.

I'm not sure how I feel about the implication that Trish did acquire powers after all, although points for how cute it was when she caught her cell phone with her foot. Is that what they are possibly planning for season three? Jessica vs Trish?


Jessica's experiences this season did change her, and for the better. In the diner, before the undercover cops and chase scene, she told Oscar that he connected himself to his son with his every thought. It was what Jessica wanted with Alisa, of course.

I would totally expect that after losing her mother so traumatically and then rejecting Trish (and Malcolm, for that matter) that Jessica would close down even further, and I'm glad the story didn't go that way. After Jessica stopped the robbery at the liquor store and took a bottle in payment (a fun echo of the pizza place robbery in the premiere) she chose to have dinner with Oscar and Vido instead of spending the night in her office, killing that bottle alone. She even told them about her heroics foiling the robbery in a very Jessica self-deprecating way. Yes, she wasn't totally comfortable, but she was making an active effort to connect. How lovely.

And let me add how pleased I was that Oscar and Vido made it safely through this season, that Oscar didn't lose his partial custody or wind up in jail or dead. Oscar is just a sweet guy, a good guy. Okay, a forger. That doesn't automatically make him bad, does it? We all have our little quirks.

Malcolm made some changes, too, and honestly, I was sorry to see that happen. (Although he absolutely rocked the new clothes and hair.) After putting the finishing touches in his reno of Jessica's office, Malcolm ended up working for the competition, Pryce Cheng. I suppose there could be some interesting drama there if they do a third season. But mostly, it made me sad.

I was happier to see Jeri take down her partners, with Malcolm's help. And form her own firm as a single attorney, and leer at her yoga instructor. I enjoyed what they did with Jeri this season. I sort of like her, even though she's a shark. And I liked that she came to terms with her illness and didn't let it define her. In a way, Jeri's story this season was much like Jessica's, wasn't it?

So what's the verdict, Jessica Jones fans? I think this season wasn't as strong as the first, but I liked how it ended and where it left Jessica. And Krysten Ritter continued to rock as Jessica Jones. Her performance in every episode was pitch perfect, because we can always see what Jessica is feeling in Ritter's expressive face.

Bits:

— Did Eka Darville actually cut his hair in that scene? It looked real.

— I liked Costa. I liked that he believed in Jessica and gave her the benefit of the doubt.

— Loved how Dorothy woke Trish by yelling "Patsy!" in her face. Rebecca De Mornay gets gold acting stars for being so damned irritating.

— Speaking of moms, while Janet McTeer gave a good performance as Alisa, it kept bothering me that she looked nothing like Krysten Ritter. Another Agent of Doux mentioned that, too, and that Carrie-Anne Moss looked a lot more like she could have been Jessica's mother. Moss almost has Ritter's distinctive nose, too.

— Okay, I have to ask. Why did they introduce Griffin and not do anything with him? Why no Luke Cage? Did Foggy move over to Jeryn Hogarth and Associates? And why did they underuse Callum Keith Rennie?

— This final episode was short: only 38 minutes. Again, gotta wonder why.

Quotes:

Dorothy: "And what exactly is a failed radio personality gonna do that trained law enforcement professionals and a superpowered woman can't?"
Trish: "Your bedside manner blows."
Dorothy: "Well, I'm only human. Same as you. And they need a stool sample."

Alisa: "I want it to be hard for you to leave me."
Well, she got her wish.

Alisa: "Dimming our lights, limping our way through life, that is not an option. Not with the gifts we have."
Jessica: "If you say, 'With great power comes great responsibility,' I swear I'll throw up on you."
Alisa: "Wouldn't be the first time. You were a barfy baby."

Oscar: "You have us. Me and Vido."
Jessica: "That. Right there. You connect yourself to your son with every thought. You have no idea isolated I've been. I had no idea."

Jeri: "You should be very afraid of the woman who has absolutely nothing left to lose."

Trish: "She's being forced."
Costa: "We only get one mother. That's a powerful bond, no matter how batshit crazy they might be. I think you know that."

Alisa: "I've done a lot of damage in my life. But somehow, you're standing on top of the rubble like a shining light."
Jessica: "Stop talking to me like I'm your baby Jesus."

Alisa: "Maybe I don’t have to be amazing. Maybe I just made you."

Three out of four Ferris wheels,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

11 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Thanks to all of the Agents of Doux that reviewed this second season. I always really enjoy doing a round of reviews as a team.

Jonny said...

I agree, Billie. This season was good, but it meandered a little at times and I didn't understand some of the creative decisions, especially regarding Trish. Jess and Trish's relationship was a highlight for me in Season 1; two sisters who'd been through different kinds of hell, supporting one another (albeit not always perfectly). It felt loving and real. This season...felt like a step back for Trish as a character. I mean, maybe I understand why? Where else could the character have gone?

It's impossible for either Jess or the audience to take Trish at her word. Maybe she was right to do what she did, but it was still incredibly cruel and sudden. Mostly, though, it feels like Trish was still just angry. Angry that she didn't get what she wanted. Angry that Jess had supposedly squandered her powers. It's sad that what Trish really wants is stardom; she doesn't care about being a journalist or helping the helpless. She wants to be exceptional, and even if she did gain powers, it wouldn't be nearly enough. She'd grow resentful of them pretty soon when people start asking for photographs of her lifting their car.

I can't tell if they failed or succeeded with Dr Karl. If they succeeded, it was quite a success, because I'm hard-pressed to say if he came down more on the side of good or evil. He wasn't so simple. It was more...altruism and ego. I'm just not sure how the show wanted me to feel, but maybe that was the intention. I will say I didn't much buy the true love between Karl and Alisa.

I would have cared more for Alisa if we'd gotten to know her better, pre-accident, but we never did. I didn't care at all about Oscar or his kid. They were just there. But at least they were responsible for that wonderful moment with Alisa and Jessica stopping the bus.

Malcolm was brilliant. He was very much the voice of wisdom. I liked Costa too, and I liked having Terry Chen around even if Cheng ended up being more one-note than I thought he would be. I hope they dig more into the character in Season 3. Maybe I'm bias because I like seeing Terry Chen in things, though. I loved Jeri, though. She managed to be sympathetic and flirt with redemtpion but ultimately kept her razor-sharp edges intact. Moss was an MVP through the season.

Mostly I feel like this season needed a stronger central plot. Maybe for Season 3 they can go full noir; start off with a grisly murder, then introduce a cadre of suspicious characters and conspiracies as Jessica solves it.

Also I keep wanting this show to turn into Breaking Bad: The Reunion. At least give me Aaron Paul; he could be fun as a rival investigator. Maybe revenge could be had on a Bryan Cranston character. Dean Norris as Costa, Betsy Brandt as Alisa, Giancarlo Esposito as Dr Karl, Jonathan Banks as Trish.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the plot of this season could match Kilgrave but i thought it made for an incredibly impressive character study for nearly everyone involved.The guys were good but i thought the ladies had real compelling seasons.I found Jeri, Trish, Alisa and even Inez's arcs to be brilliant.

Jessica (Krysten Ritter) in particular was fantastic this season, she says so much with so little words. I thought the scenes she had with her mother surpassed the scenes with Kilgrave at points. I could have watched entire episodes just exploring that mother daughter dynamic. The way this ended, although inevitable was really poetic with the Ferris wheel ride.

From a male perspective i found what they did with Trish incredibly Brave and made me even more of a fan of the show.
To take a fan fave character and make her that unlikeable, almost villain like was an inspired move.
Something this show does so well with its female characters is make them complete and honest representations. Alot of shows tend to idolize and mary sue there female characters but here they show all the layers.
Episode 7 is where i realized where they were going with Trish..The dynamic of Trish and her mother is too long to write about but as much as we hate her mother Trish always showed the hunger for fame/not to be ordinary and the desire to do anything for that. The scene when she gets 'saved' by Jessica in the bathroom from that piece of shit music guy. If you watch the scene Trish means to be in there doing what she is doing..She has her other 'friends' standing guard as not to be disturbed.

Trish's arc was disappointing for a lot of people because she was no longer acting like the idolized version of herself..Suddenly she was selfish, addicted again, ruthless and doing crazy things to get what she wanted. Ironically she got what she wanted in the end. i loved that..Just to F with us so more she achieved what she wanted. Hellcats origin story was less than heroic.

cubedbysilver said...

Just to note, I thought the reason Alisa didn't look like Jessica was because they were using gene-therapy to heal her horrific scars. The ultimate implication being that Alisa was left looking nothing like her original self. Ergo why Jessica didn't recognize her and why Alisa didn't even recognize herself when she woke up non-monsterfied in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Im not even sure what Ergo means but it sounded right...:)

An Honest Fangirl said...

I had trouble getting through last season because of the incredibly heavy and dark subject matter. It just messed with my head a bit more than I liked. So I've been a little gun shy about watching this season.

How do you guys think this season compared to the last one in terms of tone and just general atmosphere and subject matter? Is it lighter overall, or should I expect the same "mess with your head" darkness?

Billie Doux said...

I think this season was less heavy and more about Jessica than any particular Big Bad. If that helps.

Great comments, everyone. Ergo. :)

Diogo said...

After the letdown that was Daredevil's season 2 later half I was a bit afraid marvel's Netflix shows might be a one trick pony, but man, this season delivered. It reminded me of Buffy season 6 in that there wasn't a true Big Bad except for the main characters bad impulses taken to the extreme. It's interesting that Jessica started the show as her usual mess ("not living", as her mother would put it) and then everyone around her began to join her in the rock bottom. All the characters got into a downward spiral, and it was depressing yet fascinating to watch. Ultimately Jessica's soul took a beating, and she came very close to the edge, but unlike Trish she never lost her moral compass, and that's amazing.

I agree with Jonny: I hope they go full noir with season 3. Now that Jessica's archnemesis is dead and her origin story sorted out, there is room to do something of a creative mystery within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Anonymous said...

They definitely pulled a Daredevil season 2 on us here by splitting up the main trio. Of course, with the Daredevil trio, I have hope because I know Matt, Karen and Foggy will have to put any conflict aside so they can take down Fisk. The only difference is that whereas Matt remained on speaking terms with Karen and Foggy, the Alias trio members aren't talking to each other at all.

Patryk said...

For me Alisa's death was suprising, but when you think about it it's the only way for her to go. Taken by suprise.

Looks like Trish with super-reflexes will be the antagonist next season. Could be interesting.

They wasted Foggy in only one throw-away scene. Also Pryce was mostly gone in the ending episodes, not to mention Trish's boyfriend who was there only to get dumped and serve as a red-herring.

paivi said...

I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to say I've enjoyed these reviews immensely - thank you!

I really disliked the last couple of episodes this season, though. I could never buy the idea that Jessica would actually think about escaping with Alisa. To make it happen the writers had to make Jessica play the idiot ball with that flimsy "you have no idea how isolated I've been" card. So her choice is to isolate herself even further with an unstable, ticking murder bomb? Not to mention, the mother in question has already abandoned her twice, first after the accident and then by choosing Karl over Jessica.

What Alisa was trying to do with Jessica was exploitative and abusive, trying to put the responsibility of containing her uncontainable rages on Jessica, trying to make her to abandon her life and loved ones to be a spotter for a horrific murderer. I'm annoyed that the writers didn't allow Jessica to really call her mom out on it.

What the writers have failed to address here is that it's possible to love your parent while wishing them dead. Many people dealing with a parent's brain tumour, severe mental illness or dementia would know this.