Review by C.J. Bunce
Comic book fans saw an unprecedented 13 television series based in the Marvel Comics universe since Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2013. Of those the six best produced of these landed on Netflix, beginning with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. You’ll not likely find two people who can agree on which was best. My #1 goes to Luke Cage, which went beyond the typical superhero turf to show a completely unique two seasons of stories. I thought Daredevil offered nothing new, and The Punisher turned a ho-hum character into something exciting thanks primarily to the performance of actor Jon Bernthal. The team-up The Defenders just couldn’t find chemistry between its members, and the best part of Iron Fist was Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing and appearances by Simone Missick’s Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple. Which brings us to the third and final season of Jessica Jones, the last of Netflix’s trip through the Marvel characters at least for the foreseeable future.
Jessica Jones started out promising, and that was no small feat considering the superhero was more anti-hero than the typical Marvel story. Actor Krysten Ritter knew her character from her first episode, and in three seasons never veered from the moody, angry detective we first met in 2015. Unfortunately, in three seasons the character never changed, unless even more moody, angry, and alone is enough. The first season worked because Jones had to face a particularly unique and vile villain in David Tennant′s Kilgrave. As he’s done with this year’s Good Omens, Tennant’s energy and intensity tends to elevate even the most bland material. Season 2 of Jessica Jones had another interesting villain as Jones’ biological mother, played by Janet McTeer. The third season? It lacked a compelling villain at all, with Jeremy Bobb playing a Law & Order villain-of-the-week transplant fans were stuck with for an entire season (Bobb’s played guest Law & Order characters four times). The actual villain was the one lurking the entire time, Carrie-Anne Moss′s dying lawyer and Jones’ former comrade in sleuthing, Jeri Hogarth. Despite the talent of the actors, the story arc this season was flat. The series begged for episodic tales, and instead it dragged what could have been a single episode story. It’s Netflix ending on a sour note, and confirms new creators are needed to salvage what could be a great group of characters on the small screen.
The saving grace for the entire series, and the only reason to invest your time for all three seasons, is that it launched the character Hellcat. Just like Jessica Jones introduced Mike Colter’s Luke Cage (who returns briefly to bookend the series) and Daredevil launched The Punisher, something bigger and better than the title hero arrived. Upstaging the star, no character had a greater character arc than Rachael Taylor′s “messed-up” child star Patsy, grown up into Trish Walker, a human with powers, known as Hellcat in the comics and in the show’s credits. The writers knew they had something good, showing her struggle to help her sister in the second season to become an equal during season three. But they bungled it. Trish was loyal to her sister, trying to do what every good superhero character tries–to create good for people and try not to get corrupted. But the show tripped into the common superhero trap–superheroes, at least these superheroes, can’t cross the line of the law for any reason and kill the bad guy. In this case, even if a serial killer continues to murder relentlessly, and even if the cops have practically given up trying to catch him, and the legal system has failed. So how many opportunities are presented and skipped over by the characters? A dozen? And the result by Jones failing to let Trish act is–surprise–more dead bodies. If Jessica Jones, the character, is about anything, isn’t it getting dirty to take down bad guys? So why give her series this stale Superman/Batman/Green Arrow, etc. Boy Scout story? The question of whether superheroes can ever kill is as overdone in the genre as origin stories, and completely unsatisfying as the only dilemma here. Yet through it all Taylor as Trish/Hellcat was fantastic stuff.
John Ventimiglia′s classic gritty cop couldn’t make up for the thin plotting. Neither could Eka Darville′s henchman Malcolm. Benjamin Walker might have been able to pull it off with as super-powered character Erik. Here, Erik gets a headache if he’s near someone bad. That’s it. No specifics, like with Unbreakable’s hooded hero. But Marvel has proven in the movies that good writing can take boring characters like that and make them stand-outs. Unfortunately too much time was taken with other sub-plots for audiences to get to know him.
By the end of season one, Jones’ sarcastic shtick was getting old. By season three, the showrunner and writers wasted too much time making us watch her drink down another bottle of booze. The worst of the season? Rebecca De Mornay′s Dorothy Walker and her helicopter parenting of the two leads that we’d been forced to slog through for two prior seasons. As with Hogarth, Dorothy was not likeable in any way. Even antagonists need to have something special to pull us in, something to let us feel that what they are doing makes some scintilla of sense.
It’s Netflix’s swan song, a shame for the acting talent involved, and a disappointing letdown for anyone hoping for some last hoorah for the Netflix Marvel universe. The third and final season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is streaming now on Netflix.