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‘Jessica Jones’ review: Still Netflix’s most compelling character in season 2

Jones is not who we think she is, and certainly not who we want her to be.

Krysten Ritter stars in Marvel's

Krysten Ritter stars in Marvel's "Jessica Jones" on Netflix. Photo Credit: Netflix / David Giesbrecht

THE SERIES “Jessica Jones”

WHEN | WHERE Season 2 starts streaming Thursday on Netflix.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) has found something that could provide a clue to Jessica’s deep past, but for the moment, Jess (Krysten Ritter) has her hands a bit too full to notice or much care. A mysterious man has approached her about buying Alias, her detective agency, and he receives the anticipated reaction. Meanwhile, a menacing force stalks New York and possibly other “powered people” like Jessica. But who, what, how and, most of all, why?

MY SAY Jessica snapped the neck of Kilgrave (David Tennant) like a bean sprout in the season 1 finale, but by the second season launch that emphatic bit of justice has become just one more log tossed on her bonfire of guilt, rage, repression and regret. The biggest bad in Jessica’s orbit gets offed and she still can’t move on? “I’ve killed, ergo, I’m a killer,” she says glumly, adding, “I don’t even know what ‘ergo’ means.”

Ergo, “plus ça change,” which means that the more Jessica changes, the more she remains the same. She’s an old soul engaged in an epic struggle with her old self. The bottle of booze, or most of it, takes off the edge, while the hangover mutes the memories. She hates what she’s become but hardly recalls whatever or whoever she actually once was. She finds solace in the past, but mostly just a cinematic past, of snarling noir detectives and the tough dames they loved. In the opener, she appears to be watching Orson Welles’ 1958 noir masterpiece, “Touch of Evil,” on some TV screen, and it’s the only moment she’s truly at peace.

Ritter’s Jones is the most fascinating character in Netflix’s Marvel canon because she’s not who we think she is, and certainly not who we want her to be. She herself says this over and over again, and at some point, we’re just going to have to take her at her word. The second season of “Jessica,” for example, arrives less than a week after the 90th Oscars grappled with a wrenching cultural — and Hollywood — revolution called Time’s Up. Jessica’s — and “Jessica Jones’ ” — timing would appear to be flawless, for she surely was made for this moment, as righteous avenger of the suffocating patriarchy. “I never take no for an answer,” a new male protagonist tells her. “How rapey of you,” she retorts.

But Jessica fits in no one’s box, because she’s still profoundly uncertain of the contours of her own. Fans arriving at the second season should be mindful of her final words from the first: “Maybe it’s enough that the world thinks I’m a hero. Maybe if I try long and hard, maybe I can fool myself.”

So if Jess isn’t who we want her to be, and she’s far from clear who she must become, then what are we left with? As usual, a heroine who’s all too human and all too fallible and has an acute awareness of both shortcomings. While Jess remains in place at the outset, the new season forges ahead on other fronts, notably the mysterious IGH, which had something to do with her powers, and the special gifts of the other “powered.” To find some measure of meaning in the present, Jessica has to find the meaning of those three letters from her past. As usual, her search will be fraught and almost certainly inconclusive. That’s her fate, and it’s a bitterly existential one.

BOTTOM LINE Ritter’s Jessica Jones remains the most compelling, evocative and dynamic character in Netflix’s Marvel canon. A pity poor Jessica doesn’t think so.

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