Three years ago, back when it seemed the Netflix-Marvel partnership could do no wrong, the first season of Jessica Jones was an absolute knockout. The partnership between Netflix, Marvel and ABC Studios had already redeemed Daredevil, a character marred by a cheesy 2003 film version starring noted comic-book character killer Ben Affleck. The decision to bring Jones – a character practically unknown to anyone unfamiliar with writer Brian Michael Bendis' comic book work – to the screen and use her to tell a story about sexual and mental abuse was rightly praised, and it seemed like Marvel was poised to have a string of small-screen victories that might rival its cinematic counterparts.
Then Daredevil's second season suffered from a lot of pacing issues. And Luke Cage did the same. And all of the sudden, the bottom fell out when Iron Fist turned out to be a joyless mess with very little kung-fu, and the team-up miniseries The Defenders didn't really redeem it. In a strange turn of events, the best thing Marvel's put on the screen since the first season of Jessica Jones turned out to be The Punisher, a violent but compelling story of revenge and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So is the new season of Jessica Jones a return to form? Yes and no. Krysten Ritter's performance as Jones is still one of the best achievements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jones is still sardonic and brooding, walking the fine line between asshole and hero with just enough misanthropic charm to keep the audience hoping for the best.
As Season 2 starts, Jones is dealing with the aftermath of the end of Season 1. Not only does she feel guilty about being forced to take lethal action, but now everyone in the neighborhood knows she killed a guy.
Meanwhile, best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) tries to get Jones to move forward by digging into her past and uncovering secrets about IGH, the shadowy organization that might be responsible for giving Jones her super-strength. Taylor was a standout in the first season, and it's nice to see a little bit more about Trish's background and how it mirrors Jones' traumatic story in subtle ways.
In the first five episodes of Season 2, we see the threads of the overarching narrative – the investigation into IGH, a new building super who dislikes superhuman tenants, powerful lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) developing her own ulterior motives – begin to weave together. But the pacing turns out to be the show's Achilles heel once again. Threads established in one episode may lie by the wayside for two or three more episodes before being picked up again when convenient for the plot.
The show also suffers from the lack of a compelling villain. It would be pretty hard to top David Tennant's turn as the depraved mind-controlling villain Kilgrave from the first season, but it's almost like the showrunners acknowledge this by not even trying. Instead, much of the antagonistic focus of the first five episodes of the season deals with landlord-tenant disputes and overbearing stage moms. While we're barred from doling out spoilers, the appearance of a cult favorite actor at the end of the fifth episode does bode well for the rest of the season, however.
Luckily, even if Jessica Jones has trouble figuring out what to do with itself, it at least gives us good company while it figures things out. While Taylor and Ritter make one of the best female sleuth teams on television once they actually get to sleuthing, the supporting cast – anchored by Eka Darville as neighbor-assistant Malcolm Ducasse and Moss' scene-stealing role as Jones' long-suffering lawyer – is compelling enough that we don't even mind waiting – for now, anyway.