Season 1 of Jessica Jones was an incredible breath of fresh air after the success of Daredevil season 1. Jones’ distinct personality and conflict with Kilgrave made that season my second favourite in the Marvel Netflix universe. So, it’s safe to say that this season had a lot to live up to, and without Kilgrave sitting in the villain chair it was going to be a tough task. And a task that it unfortunately could not complete as this is overall a disappointing season that always feels like it is missing something. In contrast to last season, the pace here is much slower and lacks any sense of urgency which in turn results in a lack of engagement. For the first half of the season there isn’t any focus on a core story, it’s a bunch of minor side-plots all progressing at the same time with none of them taking the spotlight. the second half of the season does pick itself up but not enough to rectify all of the damage done by the first. The core issues this season have an impact across the 13 episodes but are mainly concentrated over the first 6-7 episodes which are considerably worse than the latter half for reasons I will try to get into without spoilers.
I need to talk about the first half of this season because although it never really gets to a “painful to watch” place it is a pretty dull bore with some intriguing sequences but not many. All of the characters are on their own journeys that all intersect in some way but with no obvious plot-line in the foreground you don’t know where to put in the most focus. Should I be looking at Pryce Cheng (Terry Chen) and his feud with Jessica, or maybe Trish (Rachael Taylor) and her dealings with her boyfriend, IGH, and a mysterious figure, or Jessica’s investigation into a barely present killer, or what about Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her entirely uninteresting feuds. Throughout these early episodes there is no clear direction that the season is heading in, it’s revolving around Jessica’s investigative work but with no focus and no endgame in sight it’s hard to be invested in what is going on. I found myself constantly zoning out more and more each episode as the season seemed to be going nowhere exciting. But where the writing and structure of the first half of the season is poor it isn’t all bad as there are some notable shining lights.
As much as many of the subplots aren’t that engaging, the performances from pretty much everyone involved are quite strong. Everyone gives their all and does their best to try and bring some emotion and tension to their scenes and are occasionally successful. Krysten Ritter is still just as amazing as before as she has the titular vigilante’s personality on lock and never feels like she’s acting out of character. Jessica goes through a lot of shit this season and Ritter conveys her constant inner conflict very well. I will also say that despite the majority of the subplots being not really that engaging, some of the character arcs are pretty damn intriguing. This is a season of growth, a lot of characters go through some drastic changes and the way they develop throughout the season I did like. Malcolm (Eka Darville) has by far the best development arc of the season and seeing where he begins and ends up is a nice, smooth transition for his character. Trish also goes through some great growth that sees her get closer with Malcolm and and forces her to push through some of her issues. Jeri Hogarth’s subplot I really couldn’t find any interest in across all 13 episodes…. For the amount of screen-time her battles with partners and illnesses take up…. where she ends up doesn’t make it all seem that worthwhile.
There are a couple of new faces this time around and they are actually pretty decent characters, one of which is very poorly utilised. Jones’ new potential love interest Oscar (J. R. Ramirez) has a distinct personality and a sense of charm that makes this ordinary father an intriguing character. And then you have Pryce, a competing P.I. who is handled poorly and makes his presence this season forgettable along with the rest of the initial 6 episodes.
But where this initial half of the season struggles the most is when you consider the serious villain problem it suffers from. And interestingly, the problem with the villain is that there isn’t one. In hindsight, these episodes are almost forgettable in their entirety because there really isn’t an active antagonist to forge any memorable moments. There are a few minor conflicts and implied antagonists early on but where the first season had Kilgrave to focus on, this season doesn’t have anything that can even slightly compete. Kilgrave was a presence in the first season, I enjoyed watching David Tennant‘s villain more than I did the hero. He shared a dynamic with Jessica that made for a tonne of engaging scenes and a singular plot that followed through from beginning to end. There isn’t anything of the sorts here and with every passing minute Kilgrave’s absence is felt.
Then we get to around the halfway point of the season and it does something that adds a new dynamic to the second half of the season in the form of a genuinely intriguing story and a very focused plot. This direction they take the story in does somewhat make up for the lack of a villain in a way I didn’t expect. From this point on I found myself able to enjoy the episodes more because there was more clarity in the direction things were heading. A new character is formally introduced played incredibly by Janet McTeer who brings a lot to the season and rectifies some of the issues the first half had. Right through to the end the story remains pretty engaging and despite still moving at a slow pace…. at least it feels like it’s moving.
As the latter half of the season is hard to go into without spoiling a lot, I am going to stop here with my non-spoiler review and continue the rest in my spoiler review that you can find RIGHT HERE. Now, where the initial half of this season sits with some of the least interesting content in the Marvel Netflix universe the latter half does rectify some of its issues, so with that it does make the overall story worthwhile if you can push through the first 5 hours of content.