I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.
If you pledge at $5 a month, you get monthly movie reviews (sample here), regular cat pictures (samples here), and anywhere between one and six TV reviews a month. I cover current shows and old shows and all kinds of shows. Stuff that’s streaming, stuff on DVD, stuff currently airing, it’s all fair game.
Here’s a sample, a review of the final season of Jessica Jones on Netflix from July 2019:
TV review: Jessica Jones season three
In 2015, Netflix launched Daredevil, which kicked off a mini-Marvel Cinematic Universe on the streaming service, focusing on Marvel’s more ground-level heroes: DD, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Punisher.
Initially, the shows followed the pattern of the early MCU from 2008-2012: start with a B-lister, introduce the other characters bit by bit, and eventually team them up. You even had the equivalent of Phil Coulson in Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, who appeared in the first seasons of each show except Punisher.
However, despite strong buzz, excellent performances, and really impressive villains, the shows fizzled after neither Iron Fist nor The Defenders worked very well, and then Disney announced their own streaming service, and Netflix decided to get out of the Marvel business, cancelling all the series despite their popularity.
This is especially frustrating for Jessica Jones, which is arguably the strongest overall series of the bunch (challenged only by Luke Cage). The first season is one of the best stories ever done in the entire MCU, with David Tennant’s Kilgrave a devastatingly effective villain. The entire season is a brilliant colloquy on rape culture, on gaslighting, on sexual assault. The second season focused more on recovery, on addiction, on family.
The third season—which Netflix dropped last month with almost no fanfare, the final season of a Marvel Netflix show whimpering into our queues—focuses on heroism, and on isolation. When the season begins, Jessica is isolated from Trish (who killed her mother) and Malcolm (who is now working for Hogarth). As we saw at the end of season two, Trish has superpowers now also, and she desperately wants to be the hero Jessica has avoided becoming.
The line between heroism and villainy is all over this season, as Jessica doesn’t particularly want to give a shit but finds she can’t help herself from helping people—whether they deserve it or want it or not.
Trish wants to be a hero, wants to be Jessica’s partner, wants to be part of her world, but has no idea how to go about it. Her early attempts are hilarious, as the police scanner mostly tells her about piddly shit, and the one major crime she thinks she can help with is over and done with by the time she arrives. And then when she decides to target specific bad people, she can’t stop herself. The line between assault and murder is also a thin one, especially when you have powers, and Trish crosses that line over and over again, to the point where she very obviously likes it.
Malcolm is a very good investigator, and does supremely well as Hogarth’s fixer. But that’s not the job he signed up for. He also wants to be like Jessica, but where Trish wants to be a superhero, Malcolm wants to be a PI. But in order to make his bones, he has to do horrible things for an unethical creep.
Hogarth is isolated, too, as she is going to great lengths to keep her ALS diagnosis a secret. She reunites with an old love from 25 years earlier (played radiantly by Sarita Choudhoury) and winds up utterly destroying her life (though it’s as much by exposing her husband’s preexisting mendacity as anything). Her need to control every situation bites her on the ass, though, as she winds up alone again at season’s end.
This season also introduces two new characters, Erik Gelden and Gregory Salinger, played, respectively, by Benjamin Walker and Jeremy Bobb. Theses are the MCU versions of Mind-Wave and Foolkiller, the former able to detect how much evil people have in them (tellingly, Jessica has none), the latter a serial killer who objects to people who “cheat”—to wit, people with powers.
Erik is a great character. Walker plays him with a relaxed charm—even when he’s in pain, he has a snarky deadpan that works very nicely, and plays well off of Krysten Ritter’s more obnoxious snark as Jessica. And his powers make for an interesting look at people’s darkness—not just that Jessica has none (which is both a surprise and completely not a surprise) but that both Trish and Malcolm obtain more as the series goes on.
Salinger, sadly, is not a great character. The Netflix MCU has had phenomenal villains—besides Tennant’s Kilgrave and Janet McTeer’s Alisa in this show, there’s Vincent d’Onofrio’s superlative Kingpin, Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard, Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth, Paul Schulze’s Agent Orange, Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao, Mustafa Shakir’s Bushmaster—but Bobb’s take on Foolkiller is not only not one of them, he unseats David Wenham’s dreadful Harold Meacham, Sacha Dhawan’s one-note Davos, and Erik LaRay Harvey’s mediocre Diamondback as the worst villain in this corner of the MCU. Salinger is awful, sucking the air out of the room every time he’s on screen. For someone who’s supposed to be brilliant (the show reminds us of all the degrees he has a lot), and who somehow managed to hide more than half a dozen killings, he sure is an idiot, making dozens of on-screen mistakes (running away after stabbing Jessica, letting one victim go after being kissed by him and lucking into him being an idiot, and so on).
It’s too bad because the notion of a normal person who confounds Jessica and the gang while hitting all the MRE/incel talking points is a good idea on the face of it. Salinger’s actual dialogue is perfectly written, a rhapsody in Early High Manbaby. I particularly love when his wrestling students all cheer loudly when Jessica kicks his ass in a wrestling match, the first time he realizes that his students hate his living guts. But Bobb plays him so blandly and the rest of the writing doesn’t serve him well.
But the main appeal of this season is Jessica and Trish’s journey back toward each other after the Sunderland at the end of season two and then their drifting apart again as Trish becomes more and more unhinged. What’s especially nice is that isn’t the stereotypical “turning evil” where suddenly Trish goes all dark side on everyone—it’s a subtle progression, and she can’t see it herself, still couching everything in being a hero and trying to save people. It isn’t until she beats up one guy who is tormenting Hogarth’s would-be lover in front of the guy’s daughter that she realizes what she’s turning into—and even then, it isn’t until Detective Costa (a welcome return from the always-great John Ventimiglia) reads her the (many) charges against her that she discovers that she’s the bad guy now.
The biggest problem with this season is the same one that plagued the second one (as well as the final season of Daredevil and both seasons of Punisher), to wit, a refusal to acknowledge the rest of the MCU. Luke Cage does make a very welcome cameo in the final episode (one that hints at his now-never-to-be-seen third season), but aside from that, there’s no mention of Daredevil or the Punisher (both costumed vigilantes who have killed or been accused of committing murder, something that should’ve come up when people were discussing Trish), no mention of the other heroes either in town or in the world. No mention of Jessica teaming up with DD, Fist, Cage, and Colleen Wing in Defenders when Trish is trying to team up with her. No mention by Costa of the way Cage worked with Misty Knight and other Harlem cops in his series. It’s frustrating, and makes all the talk of vigilantism feel incomplete.
Still, this is a strong finale for the Netflix corner of the MCU, which has overall done a good job of showing the long-term consequences of super powers on real people. The movies only have a couple hours to tell their stories, and that doesn’t leave much room for consequences. (It’s telling that the real effects of the Sokovia Accords on the world were seen, not in any movie, but on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) It will be seriously missed.
Jessica Jones (and all the other related Marvel shows) are available on Netflix.
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