Four years ago, something rather marvelous happened. Daredevil premiered on Netflix, marking the beginning of a partnership that spanned six different super hero shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders – over four years, and allowed for a deeper expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the world of television. While not every season was truly binge worthy (I’m looking at you, Iron Fist season 1), there was little we Marvel fans had to do but sit back and rejoice at what the company had wrought since bringing Iron Man to the movie screens in 2008. The good times were rolling.
Now the good times have come to an end. Whether it was the fault of Netflix or Disney, the last of the Marvel shows on Netflix has aired and we’ll now have to get our small screen fix elsewhere. It looks like the upcoming Disney streaming service will try to fill the gap, although I have yet to see a potential title that excites me as much as that first season of Daredevil did. There may be some other titles on Hulu as well (so far I’ve been unimpressed with shows like Marvel’s Runaways, or the Freeform series Cloak and Dagger; both suffer from too much teen angst for my viewing taste), including a potentially interesting Ghost Rider series. Agents of Shield is still running on ABC, and still has some charm.
But we set our sun on Netflix with a final season of Jessica Jones this past week. It wasn’t the best of endings. I’d never been as high on Jessica as other fans were and felt that the show was often too depressing for my tastes. The alcoholism and constant anger made her unsympathetic to me. She chose never to deal with her problems, and so ended up with far more problems to deal with. I could have dealt with her self-destructive behavior if it looked like she was making a good faith attempt to try and overcome her flaws. Instead, she seemed to prefer to drown in them, ramping them up to 11 at every opportunity.
However, the first season of Jessica did have some excellent performances, particularly David Tennant in the role of Kilgrave bringing real malevolence to the mind warping villain. Kristine Ritter has Jessica was also an excellent choice and I think she was ideal for this role. Though the ending of the first season was telegraphed in the first episode and spoiled the viewing for me, it was still good television viewing.
And it is by this standard that the final season could only be called an abject failure.
The main villain of most of the new season is a serial killer named Gregory Sallinger. Unfortunately, Jeremy Bobb was poorly cast in the role, bringing none of the sense of playful evil of a man like Tennant, nor the dispassionate intellect of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (though he was clearly trying to channel some of the Lecter vibe). He was clearly out of his depth in the role, and I felt this villain, particularly after the work done in the last season of Luke Cage to build characters with real depth, was a waste of screen time. Though they continually touted his intellect, he often acted in a manner that can only be called “writer makes a person stupid for plot reasons.” It was almost a relief when he finally died.
But it’s not Jessica who kills him, nor the cops. It’s Jessica’s best friend, Trish Walker, who over the course of three seasons has gained her own super powers and has taken on the role of a masked vigilante (known in the comics as Hellcat). She becomes darker and darker, more violent in her tendencies. When Sallinger kills her mother, Trish goes over the deep end to get revenge on the criminals that she thinks keep getting away with evil acts. She’s the final bad guy Jessica has to bring to justice.
Over the course of three seasons, Jessica has burned a lot of bridges. Some were wise choices, such as her estrangement from the manipulative and self-absorbed Hogarth. Others were simply because she’s a total dick, like her friendship with her neighbor, Malcolm. Others, like Trish’s mother who became her adoptive mother, are dead. Trish was the last lingering friend she could count on. Thus we are left with the knowledge that Jessica’s one good relationship ends with her turning her best friend over to the authorities to be taken to the Raft. She’s entirely alone now, estranged from everyone who she was remotely close to. There are no happy endings in season 3 for anyone, least of all Jessica.
I get it. Broken people make for more interesting stories. But there comes a time when a character has been broken enough. There comes a time when maybe we can ease off the damage for a while and give them time to grieve. Time to reflect. Time to heal. That never happened for Jessica. She ends the series more broken then she was at the beginning. The longer you drag them through the muck, the more the shows come to feel like the DC universe. Dark, bleak, and frankly depressing as all fuck.
I watch these shows for escapism. I watch them because heroes give us hope. The final season of Jessica Jones only gave me sadness. An era has ended not with a bang, but with a whimper in the dark places we hate to go. And it was too bad, because the Netflix version of the MCU started with such great promise. But the MCU and NMCU never quite came together in the synergistic ways that would have made both the stronger for it. A richer, deeper Marvel world is one with more fans who constantly expand their viewing habits as their loved characters cross over into other stories. Now we have to wait to see how Disney handles the next phase of the Marvel television empire.
One more note: the music was always off for Jessica Jones. Light jazz beats make sense for a normal detective series. It made no sense for a hard drinking, leather jacket wearing superhero like Jessica. The promo for the first season really set the right tone, and I wish they would have held to that. Jessica, walking through a smashed up bar with people laying all around her, while Joan Jett’s version of Bad Reputation rocks the jukebox. That was the show I wanted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMctV7Taifo
Jessica Jones season 3 gets a 4 out of 10 sheets of Reynolds wrap from me. A sad way for a noble idea to end.