I just finished the second season. It was solid, probably on par with the first season overall. The lack of David Tennant hurts it by comparison although the way the characters developed this year was far more interesting. Most of these shows follow the pattern of strong start, meandering middle and weak conclusion but this season was the opposite. It began quite slowly and was really just background viewing for me but it eventually grabbed my interest as things progressed.
General SPOILER talk follows…
They did go backto the same trope of the antagonist being a similar-yet-darker version of the hero but at least they did a fresh take on that. This wasn’t a story where the superhero has to punch out the supervillain in the finale to make everything okay again, which it would have been had they stuck with Simpson as the big bad. There were no hordes of hired goons or clumsy ninjas to plough through in corridors. This was a conflict that required emotional strength as much as physical strength, which made it a genuine challenge for Jessica. It was very much their Buffy Season 6.
Krysten Ritter really is amazing in this role. Her highlight may well be in the very last scene when, as a woman with nothing left to lose, she finally starts to relax and just be herself at dinner with Mr Bass Voice and his kid. Just a hint of vulnerability and humour starting to show through her harsh stance. Great work. Last season ended with Jessica damaged but at least having Trish and Malcolm with her. This season she is forcibly starting to heal but has lost both of them.
Speaking of that painter dude, it was a neat touch to have him and Jessica first sleep together in a pool of purple paint. Quite the inventive way of referring to her sexual history with the Purple Man. I think there was also a can of yellow paint beside them to represent Luke. Oh, and when he took Jessica’s picture for a fake ID he told her “don’t smile”, the exact opposite of Killgrave’s command. Most of the romantic relationships in these Netflix shows have rung hollow for me but this one did feel quite genuine. I was worried for a minute that when they met at that diner in the finale that he had deliberately brought the cops with him - thankfully not.
The Killgrave cameo was fun. Possibly they should have made more of that throughout the season. Given how much he had literally got into Jessica’s head it would have been a logical way to show her still struggling to deal with that trauma. Maybe there were some scheduling issues with Tennant that stopped them from using him more.
Presumably there were scheduling issues with the leads on the other Defenders shows as well but it felt odd that none of them appeared, or even crossed Jessica’s mind. No mention of Matt’s apparent death. No thoughts of contacting Danny Rand, The Immortal Iron Fist, Sworn Protector Of K’Un-Lun, not even to use his healing powers for Hogarth or Trish. No attempt to get Luke to act as super-strong back-up she could trust. It is easy to compartmentalise this show apart from the MCU movies and the Shield show, not so easy to separate it from the other Netflix shows given how closely they have been intertwined to date. I can only assume that they were all out of town.
That said, they did throw in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Stan Lee poster cameo here, so that’s one of the movie stars coming to Netflix!
Despite that, I appreciate how much they developed the main supporting characters this year.
Malcolm I found to be tedious last year but now they have finally given him some agency (figuratively and literally) he is moving in an interesting direction and could well wind up as the villain of the piece next season.
Trish is now officially the worst but the direction she went in made sense for her character. Interesting that the last time she spoke to her mother whilst sober ended in her slapping Dorothy in the face. During their time together in the hospital at the end Trish never really talked to her at all, shutting out her toxic mother so she could focus on doing the same for Jessica. I have no idea how she actually found Jessica and her mother at the end. Best not to think too hard about that one. In fact, between this and the Punisher, just steer clear of fun fairs in this universe altogether.
Hogarth was barely connected to the main plot at all but her story was probably the most compelling of the season. At long last they let Carrie Ann Moss do more than just be the ice-cold lawyer queen and, of course, she nailed it. I don’t quite buy the logic of her plan to get revenge on her burglars. Ines would inevitably tell the police who gave her the gun, which would lead to Hogarth being questioned. Of course she would get away with it but, as she told her crooked partners in the finale, even the hint of impropriety would be enough to scare off big money clients. Plus, she could have at least created some fake correspondence from Shane to put into the folder she indicated at in case Ines wanted to look at it. In any case, I’d be up for a Hogarth spin-off should Netflix want even more content. Her new firm trying to do good in the worst ways has all sorts of potential. I presume Foggy will join her new firm along with Malcolm?
That said, I have no idea why PI Bro was on this show. He could have been left out entirely, Hogarth could have justifiably hired Malcolm directly at the end, and nothing else would have been affected.
Similarly, why in the hell did we spend so much time at the start of the season dealing with Griffin?!
Jessica essentially saying “you suck” to Karl and him then channelling his inner Kryten to commit suicide immediately did not work. He could just as easily died by accident while Jessica was getting Trish out of the lab in a rage, which would have tied into Jessica’s mother killing her boyfriend in that ridiculous flashback.
Really, what was that Sterling thing all about? Shoehorning him into her backstory despite him never having been referred to at all up until that point was a bit much. Even after that episode Jessica barely mentioned him, not even when listing off all of her woes in that therapy session. It was one step removed from “hey, guys, remember last summer when we all went into space?”
Why do characters in this universe make reference to the “with great power comes great responsibility” line? It’s happened a few times now and again in the finale here. Has there been some mass billboard campaign with Spider-Man pushing that message? The meta-reference makes no sense in story.
Regardless, I did enjoy how the conflict between Jessica and her mother played out there. By the way, her mother being named Alisa (an anagram of Alias) does seem a bit much but it adds a neat subtext behind Jessica giving her business that name. Alisa trying to play hero at the end despite all that happened was a good parallel to Killgrave briefly trying the same thing last season. Speaking as but a humble Y chromosome carrier, it was refreshing to see this season revolve around a mother-daughter relationship, rather than the daddy issues that it feels so many stories rely upon. Having such a strong female presence driving the narrative forward probably remains something of a rarity in TV, especially in superhero shows.
What is the future for these shows? They seem to have a bunch in production at the moment (at least Daredevil 3, Luke Cage 2, Punisher 2, Iron Fist 2, presumably Jessica Jones 3 based on how this ended) and yet there is Disney’s streaming service looming on the horizon. Is Disney keeping that thing family-friendly and so not bringing these shows over from Netflix? Will they pull the plug on them altogether rather than let Netflix benefit from their properties? Or will they just keep them going regardless so long as there is interest?
One thing I would look like to see more of from them is a few standalone episodes. They really don’t have to cling to the “one story in thirteen chapters” format in which everything must serve the ultra-dramatic narrative. Some of the best moments are the little moments, like the shopkeeper who insists on Jessica paying for her whisky even though she saved him from being robbed. Give us a few low-stakes episodes here and there exploring how these characters inhabit this New York. Have Luke Cage drop in for a cup of coffee (ahem) without it being being a big deal. This was their Buffy Season 6, like I said earlier, but there was no chance in hell they would do something bold like a musical episode here. I’m not saying they need to do something that zany but it would be good if they relaxed the rigid structural rules a little and let these characters and actors breathe a little more.
In conclusion, Trish, seriously, you are the worst.