Katarina Schultz tackles Jessica Jones Season 2.1 – “AKA Start at the Beginning”
If I were to call Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) a vigilante superhero, I would most certainly get punched in the face. Last time we saw her, she was snapping the neck of her long-time abuser, Kilgrave (David Tennant) in the culmination of a season of television that truly hooked me. In the first episode of Season 2, she’s still dealing with the fallout. The world either sees her as a murderer and wants her muscle to solve their own problems, or as a superhero and wants her to swoop in and save the day. Jessica, for her part, feels like neither. She’s the same bitter, hard-drinking woman that we grew to love in Season One. The very opening scene dives right into the question of whether your past defines your present. When Jessica delivers the news about a cheating boyfriend to her client, she’s asked to kill him because “he deserves it. That’s your code, right?” “I don’t kill people because I’m not a murderer,” Jessica replies like she’s almost trying to convince herself. Does killing a villain, her own superhuman abuser make her a cold-blooded killer? Can she live with what she had to do to save herself, Trish, and Kilgrave’s other victims? It’s this question that sucks me into the beginning of the first episode.
The other compelling thread in the episode is the tension between the two women and how it relates to survivors of assault. Jessica makes it abundantly clear that she is just trying to forget her past. She’s afraid facing it might make her worse, not better. Her best friend, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), on the other hand, isn’t as willing to let go. Jessica’s family died in a car accident when she was young. After the accident, a 20-day chunk of her life has gone missing during which she acquired her superhuman strength. While Jessica is hell-bent on forgetting, Trish advocates for a more direct approach. She encourages Jessica to go looking for answers in her past, even going so far as to do it for her. She turns up information on IGH, the shadowy organization behind several known superhumans. Trish wants to make a difference, both through her show and in Jessica’s life. She’s essentially telling Jessica how to cope with her trauma. Stop drinking, stop sleeping around, and face it. There is no one one right way to cope, though. Some people face it, some people avoid it, some people get through it. All are survivors. All are valid. The pressure Trish is putting on Jessica to act a certain way (despite Trish actively trying to bury her own past as child star) is something I hope the show deals with over the course of the season.
It’s when the episode veers from these issues of coping, recovery, and survivorship and Jessica’s personal relationships that it begins to drag. I was far less invested in the actual plot than I have been in episodes past. In it, Jessica faces off with a rival PI intent on acquiring Alias Investigations at the behest of a familiar face, sorts through some potential clients, and gets a few steps closer to her past. The episode is slow and meandering. I didn’t feel compelled to carry on to the second episode immediately. I didn’t need to know what happens next. I’ll get around to that second episode (and the third, and the fourth and the-) because I suspect it’ll ramp up like other Marvel Netflix seasons but it’s not at the very top of my to do list yet.
Jessica Jones Season 2 is streaming on Netflix now