‘Jessica Jones’ Season 3 Review: Netflix’s MCU Goes Out on a Dark, Satisfying Note

     June 7, 2019

jessica-jones-season-3-reviewIt’s not exactly a spoiler to say that when the final credits roll on Jessica Jones season 3, it marks the last time for the foreseeable future you’ll see Krysten Ritter in the super-powered black-jacket-and-jeans title role. It’s the endgame for all of Netflix’s small-screen Marvel Universe, starting last year with yellow-belt step-child Iron Fist and continuing on to the cancellations of Luke Cage, Daredevil, and The Punisher. Unfortunately, the bummer that comes with an ending does hang over Jessica Jones‘ third chapter, but in an oddly fortuitous way that dour tone actually works. This season—which was set to be showrunner Melissa Rosenberg‘s final season anyway—is a dark story, probably the least comic book-y of Netflix’s already grounded and gritty pocket of the MCU. It doesn’t always work and does suffer from the same pacing issues that have plagued, well, pretty much all of these shows. But when it hits, it hits just like its main heroine; violent, flawed, and willing to go where her more moral superhuman peers wouldn’t dare.

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Image via Netflix

Season 3 opens with its two leading ladies at a crossroads. Jessica is doing her darndest to get her act together and, overall, just be less of an asshole and more of a functioning private investigation. But Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) has dived into the life of a fledgling vigilante after Dr. Karl Malus’ season 2 experiments gave her special abilities. (She’s not quite rocking her Hellcat get-up from the comics, but there are some very clever touches of yellow and purple along with some cats-eye sunglasses courtesy of costume designer Elisabeth Vastola). Jessica and Trish are estranged, but a chance encounter turned violent with a superpowered man named Erik (Benjamin Walker) leads Jessica to the case of serial killer Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb). Salinger, who is absolutely bananagrams out of his goddamn mind, soon makes things very, very personal with Jessica, Erik, and Trish.

Ritter is still pretty much pitch-perfect in the title role, one of the best casting jobs in the current comic book era. But the nature of Jessica Jones as a character so reluctant to get in on the action means the quality of her stories is almost defined by the strength of her villain. Season 1 was sensational in large part thanks to David Tennant‘s Kilgrave, with the actor’s charisma drawing you to the character—much like everyone was supernaturally drawn to the character—even as the script revealed him as an irredeemable monster. In comparison, season 2 developed into a bit of a slog Jessica’s team-up with her mass murderer mother Alisa (Janet McTeer) turned the back-half of the story into a largely antagonist-less road trip to nowhere.

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Image via Netflix

Luckily, season 3’s serial killer Salinger flips the switch by completely stripping away the pretense of a supervillain. He might by Jessica’s most dynamic villain because of how terrifyingly un-dynamic he is. In the comics, Salinger is the second person to take on the title of Foolkiller, a brilliant murderer with a penchant for killing anyone he deems, well, a fool. But Rosenberg and the writing staff have tweaked that background into an extremely recognizable 2019 threat; here, Salinger is basically an internet troll, a man with an inflated sense of ego and rage built from the fact that he’s painfully ordinary. He’s Hannibal Lecter chewing on redpills instead of fava beans. He’s Ted Bundy with a Reddit account and egg-avatar Twitter page. He’s an incel but for having superpowers instead of sex—I guess that would make him an “inhuman”—who hates vigilantes for gaining abilities they didn’t “earn.” At one point, he points the spotlight back on to Jessica by playing the victim. “Perhaps I’m an easy target,” he tells news cameras, “a single white male, and she’s this feminist vindicator.”

It all gets borderline on-the-nose, but honestly “on the nose” works when you’re dealing with a character who deserves to get whacked in the fucking face this hard. Bobb—who also impressed earlier this year in another Netflix series, Russian Doll—makes a chilling meal of the role. He does great psychopath, with an ability to say menacing lines with absolutely nothing going on behind the eyes. This story isn’t exactly adding anything new to the serial killer genre—we’re talking chopped up body parts, creepy photo sessions, even a very Red Dragon-esque “Do you see?“—but it is playing with the tropes at a high-quality level.

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Image via Netflix

It’s an intensely satisfying story when it’s laser-focused on that simple premise, a cat-and-mouse noir tale peppered with the personal dynamic between Jessica and Trish. (A world-weary Jessica trying to rein in an increasingly-enthusiastic Trish results in some of the best quiet work between Ritter and Taylor over all three seasons.) Unfortunately—and this has been the bugaboo for pretty much every Netflix MCU show, other than perhaps the near-perfect Daredevil season 3—it’s such a tight story that it can’t pad out the episode count. I’ve seen eight episodes and the story doesn’t quite click into place until episode 3 or 4. There’s a lot of gear-spinning in those first few episodes; a slew of legal subplots do come into play later, but early on they feel like they’re just giving massive talents like Carrie-Ann Moss and Eka Darville something to do while everyone gets into place. And even then, there are a few wonky leaps that seem a bit first draft-y; a sequence later on that more or less amounts to Jessica and Salinger sending threatening Snapchats back and forth definitely played more menacing on the page than it does on-screen.

But still, as an ending, not only to a series but an entire universe, Jessica Jones season 3 feels right in its low-keyness. A significant part of that is down to the fact it doesn’t feel like an ending at all. (Not surprising, considering the fact production was well underway before Netflix started canceling these shows.) It’s not an epic culmination on the level of, say, Avengers: Endgame, but these street-level heroes were never about the bombast, anyway. Jessica Jones season 3 isn’t exactly going out with a bang, but it is bright enough to illuminate the darkest corners of the MCU just one more time.

Rating: ★★★

All episodes of Jessica Jones season 3 hit Netflix on June 14. 

 

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