Jessica Jones: AKA The Perfect Burger

Jessica: "I hate heroism."

Seeing that the third season of Jessica Jones consists of the final installments into the Marvel-Netflix series, something in me reckons that the least Netflix could have done was let this universe go out with a little bit of dignity. It was only the week before this season's launch that we finally got our first trailer, and the marketing overall of this season has been exceedingly minimal, as if this series suddenly felt akin to Super Mario Bros and Netflix is an ashamed Bob Hoskins ultimately leaving the title off his resume.

No, truthfully, by the end of its first episode, season three indeed has laid the groundwork for some interesting developments down the road, but the issue in my eyes is that they all take a back-seat to Jessica's story. Seeing that she's the title character, that qualm may sound unwarranted, but I've also taken into account that we've now had two seasons as well as a crossover series featuring Jessica Jones, and somehow it feels like we've suddenly done a 180 and are seeing essentially the same character we first met in her pilot, way back in 2015.

Take for example the ending of season two where Jessica attempts to make some effort towards a relatively normal life alongside Oscar Arocho. For the moment in season three, that ball of a plot point seems to have been dropped and left to gather dust in a corner somewhere as Arocho is strangely absent in this episode, though his son Vido does make a brief appearance. This leaves Jessica back in the slump of hard liquor, deadpan snark, and meaningless sex she originally started out in. It is elements like these that are found frequently within the genre of noir, which Jessica Jones is clearly no stranger to, but television series have the benefit of character development; in other words, this presentation of Jessica is risking becoming tired and uninspiring if she carries on like this for a majority of season three.

The two stories primarily being focused on here are Jessica still dealing with her resentment for Trish and subsequently tracking her down, and Jeri's ALS progression slowly developing for the worst. The former is the plot that I actually have the most interest in at the moment, as far as seeing how it plays out. Trish has gotten a lot of flack overtime for not being one of the most charming characters of the series, yet her abilities that have arisen as a result of Malus' experiment last season raise an interesting query, one I hope the series can handle with dexterity. When Jessica tracks Trish down in the midst of Trish attempting to bring down a baddie on her own, Trish claims that she has the perfect opportunity to put her 'moral compass' to good use, now that she features oh-so-special powers. Here, Trish is making the mistake of believing that it is powers that make the hero, rather than it is who you are on the inside, when it should be the other way around. Jessica's super strength has definitely gotten her out of pinches in the past, but it's never been solely what's driven her in her ventures to obtain justice, rather, it's how she assesses the dilemma in front of her. Sometimes, that dilemma isn't always going to be as black-and-white as Trish would like to view every problem, so it sets up potentially a type of conflict where Jessica may have to spell it out for Trish that she has to fight for the right reasons.

The other big turning point is Jeri asking Jessica to kill her when the pain associated with her ALS becomes unbearable. Understandably, Jessica doesn't handle this request very well at first, or at least, doesn't handle it well with compassion and sensitivity, instead choosing to fall back on her default settings of sarcasm, vexation and scorn. Isolated from the rest of the episode, this is a heavy scene, unaccompanied by any grand visuals or music, but rather, it lets the performances of Ritter and Moss carry it. But in my opinion, this should have been the scene that opened the season. The problem is that for the first twenty minutes before Jeri calls Jessica over, we've also already seen Jessica patronize a client, the ex-husband of said client, her new secretary, a NYPD Detective, and Trish's mother, so by the time Jessica starts chewing out Jeri, this feels less like a colleague unsure of how to fully process another colleague's morbid request, and more just Jessica being naturally batty with Jeri because Jessica is just naturally batty with everyone all across the city that never sleeps.

We also have our first look at season three's potential big-bad, in the form of Erik Gelden/Mind-Wave, played by Benjamin Walker. Knowing the formula of this series tells you that mind games are a must, and from a quick online inspection, Gelden is not an exception; Mind-Wave deals mostly in telekinesis and utilizing ESP in the comics, but it's still up in the air after this episode as to what extent his abilities are going to look like; he doesn't really tap into any of his powers yet, he more just does a good job at playing the role of every bar d-bag, a trope crime dramas find vastly hard to resist, in the same way I find it hard to resist driving up a low loader on the freeway. Fortunately for Gelden though, Jessica's not picky, but their gratuitous make-out session is interrupted by a masked individual that stabs Jessica and leaves her to bleed out at the very end, kicking off a whodunnit subplot to add to the mix.

Now even though this season still has twelve episodes to go, it's never too early to start keeping one's ears open for possible themes that may creep up in the first episode with the purpose of being explored across the rest of the season. And right now, it looks like season three of Jessica Jones is hammering home Netflix's favorite inquiry to cast upon superheroes – how far is too far before someone crosses the line from hero to villain? You know, the theme explored in Daredevil's second season, Luke Cage's second season, Iron Fist's second season, Daredevil's third season... if Netflix wants their grade for beating a dead horse, I'll happily apply the gold star myself.

In all seriousness, if season three does choose to go down that dilemma for Jessica, it may unfortunately exude a 'been-there-done-that' aura. We know how binds like that usually end for heroes, (spoilers, the hero won't give in to temptation and they spare the scoundrel) and many of us have at least a sense of certainty that the character of Jessica Jones is going to reach a finality not unlike her counterpart in the comics, so why should the series feel obligation to churn out another 'what-if' premise about what it will take to internally corrupt Jessica?

So all in all, I think season three kicks off in a manner that's mostly promising. I do think the resolution of Jessica and Trish's conflict will prove to be the most compelling aspect, but I also stand by my assertion that this series is a dog chasing its own tail in the department of character growth; it examined Jessica in season one, took in everything that made her such a success when that first season dropped, and decided to merely hold on to those traits as tightly as they can rather than keep progressing her.

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

While Jessica is still in the same self destructive patterns having watched the pilot recently she is nowhere near that level of bleakness.

SuperGrrl said...

Not everyone grows, not everyone changes, not everyone should. JJ is just fine as a sarcastic, snarky, bourbon loving, single by choice low rent PI with powers. The fact that she doesnt follow a cookie cutter outline of 'character development' is one of her strong points.
While Jery and Trish do have interesting story lines, S3 needs to focus more on JJ and less on the side characters so we can see more Jessica Jones doing what she does best...

Billie Doux said...

Happy to say that I still love Jessica Jones, just as she is. Seeing her stabbed was a shocker.

Malcolm setting up that drunk driver was pretty interesting. Quietly heroic, somehow. I'd like to see him make something out of his life this season.