During the lead up to the final season of Jessica Jones, I both wanted and didn’t want the show to air. With the end of this show, we’ve officially reached the end of the Marvel/Netflix shows that have been around since 2015 and have given us 13 seasons worth of entertainment. There’s a lot to dissect with the Netflix shows, but the question I wanted to know was how does it all end. How does the final season of Jessica Jones stand as a finale to the character and the partnership as a whole?
Expectations were unfortunately low for this season. Knowing that these characters won’t be returning is a bum note to go out on, but the reception to season 2 didn’t help matters. I think I’m one of the few people that legitimately liked the second season of Jessica Jones, with most others being incredibly disappointed at the second season’s pacing, characters, and subplots. But I defended it. I liked what I saw, specifically the dynamic between Jess and her mom and how it tried to throw buckets of grey into a world that was previously defined as being black and white/good and evil in the first season. I’ll still defend the second season as a worthy followup to the outstanding first season. That is the hill that I will die on.
I’m not going to make such a case for Season 3.
Jessica Jones (Season 3)
Showrunner: Melissa Rosenberg
Release Date: June 14, 2019
It’s been a year since the conclusion of the second season where every character’s life went to the dumps. Malcolm (Eka Darville) is working for Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) at a job that’s robbing him of his humanity, Jeri still has ALS and is waiting to die while still being a ruthless lawyer, and Trish (Rachel Taylor) is developing powers and is rationalizing killing Jess’s mom in the previous finale. The only one who seems to be doing pretty decent is Jessica (Krysten Ritter), who is trying to be a better P.I and do things by the book while also gaining respect from the NYPD and public in general. She’s still a bitter hard drinker, but she’s more in control of her life than ever before, until a serial killer named Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb) targets Jess to discover what “her truth” is, claiming she’s a fraud and leading to a game of cat and mouse between a superhero and an average civilian. How can Jess beat a monster she can’t punch her way through?
From the beginning, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Season 3’s M.O. is. The plot doesn’t really start up until Episode 4, leaving us several episodes setting up the conflict between Jess and Salinger without actually introducing him. Salinger is an interesting antagonist, coming across as a mixture between Hannibal Lecter and Civil War’s Zemo. He’s generic, blending in perfectly to the background in nearly every scene he’s in, only for him to let out how disturbed he is by just the face he looks at you. He’s the kind of person that you would meet on the street, yet inside he’s a highly competent and efficient killer that can outsmart Jess at every turn. In a better show, he would have been a great villain who could scare the audience with how ruthless and organized he is.
Except, he’s almost always let down by the subpar direction. Most of his and Jess’s dialogue are fine, but the plot that they’re a part of is poorly paced with an even worse overarching narrative. Twice during the show, we’re left on a shocking cliffhanger, only for the following episode to flash over to Trish and see how events played from her perspective, killing all momentum in the process. I don’t like having my time wasted, and these episodes flashing back on Trish’s life are exactly that. Yes, Trish had a crappy life because of her mother and she’s always wanted to be a hero, but we don’t need to full episodes dedicated to establishing information we already know, especially when the shows pulls the drag chute to do so. If you want to see the definition of what Netflix Bloat looks like, you just need to look at the Trish episodes of this season.
But the Salinger plot feels like a B-plot by the time to season is done. Truthfully, the season is about Jessica and Trish’s complicated relationship, made all the more complicated as the season goes on and the constant stress piled on top of them. But Trish’s character is written so poorly here that all of her scenes are aggravating to sit through. While Jessica has a more cautious approach to Salinger, wanting to make sure he’s sent to jail legally, Trish is more eager to act like a hero, beat him up, and save the day, without understanding that Salinger isn’t some alien overlord trying to conquer Earth. The Marvel Netflix shows approached the MCU from a much more grounded perspective, so Trish’s attitude comes across as childish at best, and at worst infuriating when we see her acting like an idiot, only to justify her actions as “punishing evil at all costs.”
To make matters worse, by the time we reach the final couple of episodes, the plot changes to a new dynamic that feels like it was shoehorned in instead of being a natural conclusion. The Salinger plot has resolved itself, only lasting for about half of the season, in favor of ratcheting up the drama between Jess and Trish again like last season. The ending is by far the weakest part of the season, and probably the weakest part of the show’s run in general. True, the show wraps up on a decent note that feels right for Jessica’s character, but left me wanting more, leaving behind a lot missed opportunities from earlier in the season.
Case in point, there’s a scene in the first episode between Jess and Jeri that feels incredibly important and establishes what their dynamic for this season should be for these characters. It’s a deep moment that stands out as one of the best moments of the season, but it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s never brought up, it’s only mentioned in passing a handful of times, and during the finale there’s a perfect moment that it could have returned for, but doesn’t. In fact, most of the interesting plot points and relationships are thrown out the window in the second half in favor of putting things back to status quo. Episode three is dedicated to the fallout from the premiere and is set up to completely change Jessica’s character for the entire season, but there’s no damage outside of that initial episode. It’s just more padding.
I keep trying to ask myself what the point of all of this was. Why were there so many characters and plotlines that just didn’t seem to matter? Subplots are just tossed around without any care for future setup with even more having half-hearted resolutions. Malcolm talks about how he’s lost his soul working for Jeri, being forced to do terrible things and how it damages his relationship between his new girlfriend, but the girlfriend is out of the picture by the halfway point. He gets a new girlfriend afterwards that appears in a handful of scenes, and he’s back to working for Jess. Most of his scenes then have no real purpose other than to make drama that doesn’t matter by the end. Jeri gets a new love interest that also feels worthless at the end of the day, who’s purpose is just to remind us that Jeri is a terrible person, a fact that anyone watching the show so far wouldn’t need to be reminded of.
The third season feels almost redundant, serving no purpose other than giving us closure to a show that deserved so much more. Most of the ideas are half baked, with the main plot being a jumbled mess of ideas. First the show’s about discovering the killer, then it’s the dynamic between Salinger and Jess, before ending on an examination of Jess and Trish’s relationship. Of the three, the Salinger plotline is when the show is at its best, putting all of the characters into strange situations they’re not used to. Of course, Krysten Ritter as Jessica is still easily the best part of the show and worth the price of admission alone.
It’s a shame that the show had to go out on such a bad note. If the first season was a delicious filet mignon with the second season being a juicy hamburger, the third season is cafeteria mystery meat. I don’t know who concocted it, but something is very obviously wrong with it. Could it be salvaged? Certainly, but it would require a lot of effort and by that point, why even bother? No one is going to eat it anyway, so might as well just serve it and be done with it. This is such a depressing end to a show that had so much potential. I still stand by how season one was lightning in a bottle brilliance that showed just how much potential the show had, but I don’t think anyone wanted it to end like this.
As it stands, I don’t know which is worse; Jessica Jones Season 3, or Iron Fist Season 1. That’s how bad this season is.