We interrupt the mass exodus to Wakanda to remind you that there are other things happening in the world of Marvel Entertainment besides “Black Panther.” For example: “Jessica Jones” is coming back to Netflix.
While it is no easy feat to be the first thing that Marvel releases following the historic hype and box-office success of King T’Challa’s cinematic debut, “Jessica Jones” was once like “Black Panther” — something new that we hadn’t seen before. The show’s 2015 debut was a much more adult Marvel experience, filled with grit, noir and sex that leaped past the boundaries of the comic giant’s general PG-13 experience (and paved the way for “The Punisher”).
But that was then. While it’s more of the same in Season 2, it lacks shock value. Krysten Ritter still brings her A-game as the titular character, another knock-it-out-of-the-park casting decision for Marvel’s live-action worlds. She’s as alienating as ever in the lead role, making few friends, drinking heavily, still throwing people through doors (a comic-book tradition they’ve kept), and having the occasional random hookup on the side. Her sarcastic responses to anyone who talks to her may be her most impressive super power.
Because of her killing of Season 1 villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), many people in New York are scared of Jones, perceiving the former superhero as a lethal vigilante. “Murderer” is a label she’s not comfortable with, which adds to her already stressful existence.
It’s the lack of Kilgrave that at first seems to be what’s missing from Season 2. The presence of a key villain — always the key to any superhero adaptation — is replaced by Jones investigating her past, taking a deeper look into the accident that resulted in her acquiring super powers.
That theme becomes somewhat tiring in the first few episodes until it leads Jones to discovering there are others like her — and one woman in particular, who is even stronger. It’s the discovery of that mystery woman that starts to make things interesting. You’ll probably be most interested in her in Season 2, rather than Jones’s daily grind, running a private-eye business or continual trouble with the law.
The new season’s best highlight is the supporting cast. Australian actor Eka Darville has a standout performance as Malcolm Ducasse, who lives in Jones’s building and, though a drug addict in Season 1, is now clean and Jones’s right-hand man in her investigative business. Feeling in debt to Jones for saving his life, Ducasse — when he’s not being a ladies’ man — uses Jones’s private-eye work as a way to keep his mind off drugs and pay Jones back for having faith in him. His importance to the story is surprising and enjoyable to watch.
Another gift from Australia to the series is supporting actress Rachael Taylor, returning to her role as Jones’s childhood friend, Trish Walker. Season 2 continues to look at her ruined childhood, because of her child-actor background and being raised by a mother that didn’t have her best interest in mind. It’s hard to know whether that will be what continues to define Walker’s role on the show, or if she’ll finally embrace her superhero identity of Hellcat from the comics. For now, “Jessica Jones” continues to take an “Iron Fist”-type no-suit approach to Walker, but she continues to show signs of wanting to be a part of the action in a bigger way. And while “Jessica Jones” isn’t about masks or capes and doesn’t need Hellcat, it sure wouldn’t hurt to bring her in, and especially during this season, which lags at the beginning.
J.R. Ramirez debuts as Jones’s apartment building superintendent Oscar, a man who seems to have a prejudice for “superpowered” people. The two can’t stand each other, and it’s almost predictable that they grow to like each other more over the course of the show, but even when their interactions start to get inevitable, there are still surprises.
But it’s also the absence of certain stars that makes a large impact on the show’s second season. Mike Colter’s Luke Cage (who appeared on “Jessica Jones” in Season 1 as a love interest) leaves the door open for someone to be “the guy” in Jones’s life, which is something she’s neither looking for nor wants.
The biggest question mark in Season 2 will be the impact of Kilgrave’s death. It’s already been reported that Tennant makes a return in Season 2, but will it be by dream, flashback or is he somehow back from the dead? The Netflix/Marvel series could stand to use a splash of the Purple Man (what Kilgrave is called in the comics), but he probably won’t take control of the story.
What does take control is Jones trying to put her haunting past behind her by confronting the things she always kept locked away in her mind. That doesn’t make for the “groundbreaking” debut that Season 1 of this show was, but it isn’t an “Iron Fist” situation either.
This show is still good, and worth a stream when it comes out March 8.