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Jessica Jones’ final season is tighter and smarter

Jessica Jones’ final season is tighter and smarter


But it’s still concerned with heroism, morality, and murder

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Photo: David Giesbrecht / Netflix

Warning: Significant spoilers ahead for the previous season of Jessica Jones.

“Giving a shit sucks,” super-strong PI Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) says in the third season of her Marvel Cinematic Universe series Jessica Jones. That’s practically her mantra for this final season of the show. She’s a hard-drinking loner, she’s angry and bitter, and that’s practically her brand. Keeping this philosophy in mind lets her stay a bitter loner even as she turns more and more into a conventional superhero by trying to play by the rules and help people who need it.

The 13-episode season, which will be the finale for both Jessica Jones and the entire Netflix MCU, picks up with Jessica trying to forget that her mother was a psychotic murderer, and just trying to honor her by becoming the hero she wanted Jessica to be. Jessica is as interested as she ever was in bourbon and casual hookups, but she’s taking pro bono cases and learning to live with a certain level of celebrity that’s inevitable for someone who gets caught on camera tossing adult men aside with ease. But all the complicated emotions she’s trying to avoid come crashing back when her adoptive mother, Dorothy Walker (Rebecca De Mornay), hires Jessica to find her own sister and former best friend, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor).

Jessica Jones’ second season was a disjointed mess, and creator and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has learned from her mistakes. The plots and themes of season 3 are much more tightly interwoven, even if they’re not all created equal. Trish, who gained superpowers through a near-deadly experiment at the end of season 2, sets out to test her abilities and become a hero in her own right. The phenomenal second episode, “You’re Welcome,” directed by Ritter herself, entirely follows Trish starting with the end of season 2, and ending where her plot and Jessica’s intersect in episode 1. The episode nods to the comic book version of Trish’s character, Hellcat, but it also chronicles Trish’s development, and gets her to a place where both Jessica and the audience can forgive her for killing Jessica’s mother in season 2.

Trish’s transformation from Jessica’s supportive sister to a full-on crime-fighting partner also gets to the main theme of the season: what it means to be a hero, super or otherwise. Jessica is becoming one in spite of herself, but Trish wants to make up for lost time by jumping into action. That’s complicated by the fact that the former child star can’t run around unmasked without being recognized, but also isn’t satisfied with anonymous heroics.

When Jessica and Trish do work together, their disparate personalities, fighting styles, and priorities bring an exciting dynamism to the action. The two women play off each other well, whether Trish is providing a distraction so Jessica can steal police files, or coaching her misanthropic sister for a TV interview. Dorothy also butts in on the action, proving she’s the series’ most consistently entertaining character, as she quickly pivots from panicking that her daughter is going to get killed while playing hero, to seeing a financial opportunity in action figures.

Photo: David Giesbrecht / Netflix

Jessica is trying to work within the law, with the help of Detective Eddy Costa (John Ventimiglia), who’s willing to bend the rules just enough to let the PI in. His gruff exterior, which belies his genuine concern for Jessica and his desire for something more for himself than the job, provides a dynamic that works particularly well for the show’s noir aesthetic. But the limits of the law are tested when Jessica faces Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb of Russian Doll), a careful serial killer with a law degree, who paints himself as an innocent victim of an out-of-control “powered” woman.

Inspired by the comic book villain Foolkiller, Salinger is a mediocre villain who seems like a relic of Rosenberg’s time as head writer for Dexter. Seemingly inspired by the ethos of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Salinger sees himself as a force of righteous justice, punishing fakes and phonies who get by on natural talent like good looks or super-strength. He sees Jessica as beneath him intellectually, but the real question is whether Jessica is punching below her weight class by going after a conventional (though extremely dangerous) criminal after two seasons of fighting more traditional supervillains.

Daredevil’s second and third seasons dug deep into questioning whether heroes can be killers. After a lot of cajoling from his friends, Daredevil lands firmly in the anti-murder camp, while The Punisher believes bad guys deserve to be summarily executed. But Jessica and Trish land somewhere in between, since both have consciously chosen to kill a supervillain. Season 3 raises the question of whether it would be acceptable to kill Salinger to prevent him from committing future crimes, or whether Jessica and Trish are even right to go after non-powered criminals at all. The question of which rules superheroes should have to follow is at the heart of the MCU’s Captain America: Civil War as well, but it feels more grounded here, in a setting where the heroes are tangling with threats the police could ostensibly handle, rather than fighting off alien invasions or unraveling global conspiracies.

Photo: Netflix

The supporting plots show that moral crises aren’t limited to people with superpowers. Jessica’s former assistant Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville) got tired of putting up with her abuse in season 2, and got a job as lead investigator for the new law firm founded by Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss). While Dorothy manages the balance between being sympathetic and hateful, Jeri always skews too far into villain territory. There’s a genuinely touching scene in the first episode, “The Perfect Burger,” where Jeri calls on Jessica’s willingness to make hard decisions by asking Jessica to help her die with dignity when the symptoms of ALS become too much to bear.

But after that, Jeri quickly falls back into her old ways of making terrible decisions that hurt everyone around her. She decides she wants to reconnect with an old college flame, and has Malcolm dig up dirt on her husband to pave the way. The wrongdoings Malcolm discovers let the show explore the morality of doing good things for bad reasons. But that doesn’t satisfy Malcolm, who’s burned out from helping Jeri’s clients, who, this season, seem to be exclusively guilty scumbags. No matter how many times Jeri brandishes the word “allegedly” like a cudgel, or Malcolm’s lawyer girlfriend, who also works for Jeri, lectures him on the importance of defense attorneys, the firm comes across as evil. That’s especially true when Jeri decides to side against Jessica by taking Greg on as a client, in spite of all the red flags that say he’s a manipulative creep. “So what if he looked up my grade-school records?” Jeri somehow says with a straight face.

Both the first and third seasons of Jessica Jones pit Jessica against murderous men whom she’s capable of killing, even though she really doesn’t want to. Both force her to question whether protecting other people is worth compromising her morals and breaking the law. Ironically, while the villain of season 3 is much weaker than the mind-controlling Kilgrave in season 1, Jessica feels stronger than ever in this finale, thanks explicitly to her willingness to, as she puts it, give a shit. She hesitated to kill in season 1 because she didn’t want to relive the trauma of murdering at Kilgrave’s behest. Now, she’s driven by newfound moral conviction, and the desire to keep proving herself to her friends, family, and allies. Killing Salinger might save lives, but it could also unravel all the growth Jessica has achieved over the course of three seasons.

In America, season 3 of Jessica Jones will arrive on Netflix on June 14th. Check local schedules for release dates outside of America.