Roughly three years have elapsed since Jessica Jones Season 1 debuted on Netflix. At the time, the show’s inaugural season came with some lofty expectations. It was, after all, the first Marvel/Netflix show to debut after Daredevil launched the streamer’s superhero cinematic universe, putting the Man Without Fear back on the map after an abysmal cinematic outing back in 2003. Not only that, but Jessica Jones had the difficult task of working into its Season 1 run a plot that deftly dealt with themes of sexual assault and predatory obsession, all while providing the groundwork for Luke Cage’s revised backstory and keeping the action ground-level.
The season is widely, and understandably, considered one of the most solid products of the partnership between Marvel and Netflix. Lately, though, that partnership has seemingly started to fray in the wake of colossal failures like Iron Fist and The Defenders. Similarly, The Punisher, while a decent entry in the Marvel/Netflix canon, couldn’t outrun the gun control controversy regardless of how many times it pushed its debut back. The Marvel/Netflix slate of superhero shows will undoubtedly solider on for the foreseeable future, but the question remains: Are audiences ready to dip back into the cinematic universe after a rash of dismal, immersion-breaking showings? The answer might depend on Jessica Jones, one of the cinematic universe’s most beloved shows that’s slated to make its comeback soon.
Okay, But Have The Recent Series Really Been That Bad?
One of the most common complaints lobbed at the Marvel/Netflix shows up until Iron Fist was that the series tended to peter out over time. A show would start strong, get bogged down in the middle and then eventually conclude with a whimper, rather than a bang.
Luke Cage is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The show’s first season starts off by showing Luke’s growth into an enthusiastic, proactive hero who wants nothing more than to wrest control of his neighborhood from the criminal powers secretly in control. Interesting villains are introduced in the form of Mahershala Ali as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, cousins and uneasy allies who inherited a criminal empire. All of that is predictably dashed away at the mid-season point in favor of a surprise twist and the introduction of Erik LaRay Harvey’s Diamondback, a villain with a forced backstory and a demeanor closer in tone to a DCTV monster-of-the-week. The final fight between Luke and Diamondback in the middle of a crowded street is perhaps one of the most anticlimactic resolutions to a Marvel/Netflix show.
Series like Iron Fist and The Defenders couldn’t even muster that kind of criticism, though. Iron Fist, in particular, started off slow and advanced at a trudge, never really giving its hero a definitive, relatable cause to pull viewers through to its meager ending. The Defenders suffered the crimes of Iron Fist in its ratings. At the time of the limited series’ release, it was estimated (Netflix doesn’t widely release its viewership data) that the show was one of the most-binged watched series on Netflix, but that it was also one of the least-watched Marvel/Netflix shows of the bunch. For being The Avengers equivalent of the streaming service’s cinematic universe, that’s a startling claim.
So, Can Jessica Jones Season 2 Pull It Back?
While it would be easy to shrug off any hardships the second season of Jessica Jones might face and count on the quality of the first season being repeated, there are some uncertainties surrounding Season 2. First off, while the Alias Investigations storyline was expertly adapted in the first season of the show, it is also the most popular Jessica Jones-specific storyline from the comics, leaving many to wonder what story the second season will bring. David Tennant’s return as the villain Kilgrave has already been confirmed, but beyond that little is known about the season’s premise, even though it’s just a month away from debuting.
There’s also the uncertainty of viewer tastes and how they change over time. Rather than asking if Jessica Jones Season 2 can save the Marvel/Netflix slate of superhero shows, it might be time to ask if the streaming service’s cinematic universe is a healthy one. Jessica Jones Season 1’s story stayed away from The Hand-centric storyline that has dominated Daredevil, Iron Fist and The Defenders, and that might be the key to bringing back viewers who are understandably tired of the ninja epic that has progressively devolved into a mass of wishy-washy motivations and replaceable, evil figureheads without any real commitment to Marvel’s mystic realm. If Jessica Jones Season 2 mirrors the show’s first season by keeping its heroes and villains grounded, that could be the key to bringing lapsed viewers back into the fold.
The final uncertainty is a wholly external one: Marvel is now producing more television shows than ever, and it’s ready to start ramping up production again with the ever-present threat of the Disney digital streaming service on the horizon. That streaming service will, of course, be a major threat to Netflix, which has been pumping millions of dollars into its own slate of original programming. Once that streaming service is live, the Marvel/Netflix cinematic universe won’t be the only game in town anymore and will need to prove quality on top of mere superhero name recognition. That chance starts now, with a grounded, qualitatively consistent second season of Jessica Jones.
The original promise of the Marvel/Netflix slate, after all, was that the eponymous heroes would operate on the ground level, far away from the high-flying antics of Iron Man and the world-devastating potential of the Incredible Hulk. If Jessica Jones can bring that feeling back to the Netflix’s superhero slate in a meaningful way, then there might yet be hope for The Defenders.
Debuting on Netflix on March 8, the second season of Jessica Jones was created by Melissa Rosenberg and stars Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Rachael Taylor as Patricia “Trish” Walker and David Tennant as Kilgrave.