Jessica Jones is back for season 2 on Netflix, becoming just the second Marvel Netflix series to get a sophomore season, following Daredevil's controversial season 2 run in 2016. After the dark horse success of Jessica Jones season 1, season 2 definitely has a lot to live up to.
So how does season 2 stack-up against both season 1 and the other Marvel Netflix shows? Let's break it down! (NOTE: This review covers episodes 1 - 5 of Jessica Jones that were screened for press. It is SPOILER-FREE.)
Krysten Ritter is still a charismatic dynamo as Jessica, and season 2 thankfully opens the character up to reveal more depth and vulnerability than in season 1. Indeed, much of season 2's early run time is dedicating to probing the depths of who Jessica Jones is, the traumatic origin of her powers, and how that damage has affected her ability to get close to others. Ritter sinks her teeth into the new dramatic meat and continues to evolve her character: watching Jessica finally put cracks in her hard shell is worthwhile payoff, as the detective perhaps takes the first steps towards becoming a full-on hero.
Jessica Jones also has what is arguably the strongest bench of supporting characters for any Marvel Netflix show, and in season 2, characters like Malcolm (Eka Darville), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), and Jerri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) all get more dimension, depth, and backstory. Unlike the rapid-fire surprise twists of season 1, this new chapter of Jessica Jones prefers to openly hang an air of danger over its principal characters, right from the onset. There's a feeling in season 2 that at any moment, a mental or emotional backslide could drag any one of the characters (or all of them) into dark internal places that are as perilous as any external threat. To call this second season an ensemble "character piece" would be an understatement, as "character" is the big thematic focus of season 2. Unlike so many other Marvel Netflix series, these supporting character storylines thankfully avoid being empty filler: each of them weaves threads that tie back directly into Jessica's story, and each have the potential to pay off in big twists during the back-half of the season.
While the season 2 character arcs are all solid and intriguing, that same sense of being diving deep into these characters also creates Jessica Jones season 2's biggest problem: pacing.
By now, the series has a well-established neo-Noir influence, but season 2 indulges in those genre tropes a whole lot more than season 1, in a way that not a lot of viewers may initially warm to. The ominous atmosphere of season 2 creates a certain amount of narrative drive, but the elevation of atmosphere over narrative also makes the primary storyline boringly plodding. It's only at the end of episode 5 that something even resembling "major conflict" finally starts to jump off, as the main plot and character build-up finally converge and begin to gain traction.
However, many of Jessica Jones season 2's initial episodes will require heavy donations of goodwill from fans that love the character for her strong first season, and scene-stealing moments in The Defenders. But if this wasn't a sophomore season, if this was a new show making its debut, many viewers wouldn't stay invested past the first few episodes. And if you thought The Punisher was "slow" and "boring"...
Finally, the ugly part of Jessica Jones season 2 is no doubt the huge loss of a strong antagonist after season 1. David Tennant's Kilgrave remains one of the best MCU villains we've ever had - from the actor's terrifyingly charismatic performance, to the way the story used his powers to create edge-of-your-seat horror/thriller-style surprises at every turn (It's already confirmed he'll cameo in season 2, but that's it). Kilgrave brought the sort of detective/serial killer interaction that makes for some of best Noir thrillers (see: Se7en, Fallen), and season 2 has nothing even close to matching it. In many ways, this sophomore season feels like it came with a gaping hole, which it managed to fill before production started.
That's not to say there isn't a villain in the story; indeed, there's a mysterious killer established right from the onset - one whoactually has the strength to be a serious physical threat to Jessica. However, the show itself doesn't seem to treat the mystery of this killer with all that much weight or energy. Even when we do eventually get to learn more about season 2's mystery villain, the moments are played for cheap, gimmicky, thrills (see: the piano practice scene) rather than any kind of interesting rapport with the hero. Jessica Jones season 2 has a clear villain problem in the front half, offering little evidence for how it will possibly get better in the back half. Of course, some Marvel Netflix shows have seriously dropped the ball with their back half big bads (Luke Cage), so maybe Jessica Jones will be the opposite?
How are you feeling about Jessica Jones season 2 so far? Is it one of your Marvel Cinematic Universe most anticipated? Or does this sound like a pass? Let us know in the comments!
Jessica Jones season 2 premieres on Netflix starting March 8th. Daredevil season 3 and Luke Cage season 2 are currently in production, with Iron Fist and The Punisher both already renewed for second seasons.