Marvel's snarkiest detective has returned to Netflix, and it looks like Jessica Jones' second season may not live up to its first. The biggest issues, it seems, are a slow, almost glacial pace and that critics (who only saw the first five episodes) have yet to see a villain on par with season 1's Kilgrave.
Still, the show continues to keep itself above water, thanks to solid casting and character development, with a supporting cast that saves Ms. Ritter from carrying the entire show on her back. Oh, and don't worry about spoilers. Even though some of these reviews gave away more of the second season's storyline than I was happy to know in advance, I've edited the quotes to keep this a spoiler-free experience.
So, before the new season hits Netflix on March 8, check out what the critics have to say about the latest adventures of Ms. Jones.
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David Betancourt, for The Washington Post, contextualizes the new season of Jessica Jones within the Marvel Netflix canon, as something of a letdown, having lost its novelty, but noted that it's still not as bad as Marvel and Netflix's Iron Fist series.
"Krysten Ritter still brings her A-game as the titular character, another knock-it-out-of-the-park casting decision for Marvel’s live-action worlds. She’s as alienating as ever in the lead role, making few friends, drinking heavily, still throwing people through doors"
"The new season’s best highlight is the supporting cast. Australian actor Eka Darville has a standout performance as Malcolm Ducasse, ... His importance to the story is surprising and enjoyable to watch."
"The show’s 2015 debut was a much more adult Marvel experience, filled with grit, noir and sex that leaped past the boundaries of the comic giant’s general PG-13 experience (and paved the way for "The Punisher"). But that was then. While it’s more of the same in Season 2, it lacks shock value."
"It’s the lack of Kilgrave that at first seems to be what’s missing from Season 2. The presence of a key villain — always the key to any superhero adaptation — is replaced by Jones investigating her past, taking a deeper look into the accident that resulted in her acquiring super powers."
Susana Polo's review for Polygon has not a good thing to say, and posits the worry that the show's out of fresh ideas.
"The first season of Jessica Jones captivated me. But after more than two years of anticipation of a second season, the first five episodes of the show’s second season left me disappointed and, worst of all, bored."
"I fervently hope there’s something in the later batch of episodes to make up for how slow and stakes-less these first five feel."
"It lacks a clear antagonist to compare with David Tennant’s slippery, terrifying Kilgrave. He was the rare combination of a character who could present an insidious threat even when not present, played by an actor who convinced you that he felt victimized, but never ask you to sympathize with him. Even this feels weird to admit — that a show about a woman overcoming her abuser feels lost without him."
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Liz Shannon Miller, for IndieWire, appreciates the character work in Jessica Jones' second season, but agrees with others about the season's pacing issues.
"After "The Defenders" ... it’s refreshing to return to a narrative format where the personal issues of Malcolm (Eka Darville) and Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) can get a little more concentration. In fact, one of the most compelling new storylines revolves around Jeri confronting a medical issue that’s (so far) completely disconnected to the overall narrative, but puts the character front and center in a way that leaves us wanting more."
"Season 2’s all-female directing staff, including Minkie Spiro and Deborah Chow, keeps the show’s noir bent in place though doesn’t push too hard into the realm of art — but the clean approach works, as does Ritter’s always grounded and believable performance."
"... Season 2 suffers from what we may be forced to officially deem Marvel-Itis — a condition which infects the patient with drawn-out narratives and seasons of television that are at least three episodes too long."
"There was an undercurrent of terror throughout “Jessica Jones” Season 1 that gave the series a darkness and dynamism which elevated it over previous Marvel series; Season 2 lacks that in its first five episodes. Yet there are still eight to go, which is plenty of time for Jessica to make bad decisions in her fight to do right."
In her review at Variety, Sonia Saraiya praises Kristen Ritter's performance, but notes that Marvel's Netflix shows are stuck in a rut.
"Ritter’s Jessica is a gender-bending mishmash of noir character traits — femme fatale and hardboiled detective rolled into one, with the dank P.I. office and effortless smudged eyeliner to prove it. Reinterpreting these roles — and making them undeniably romantic, as befits the jazzy theme music that wafts into each episode — is not particularly easy; with each scene, Ritter has to sell a character that is an inherent ball of contradictions as a recognizable, appealing whole. She makes it a breeze, playing Jessica with a contained, slouching energy that belies her readiness to snap."
"Jessica Jones” is never not a Marvel TV show, with all of what that implies — mushy plotting, convenient characterization, a slew of side characters with bizarrely complex biographies, and a preponderance of mysteriously vast and endlessly complex science-y conspiracies.
"Often, Jessica’s sardonic voiceover is a bit too pat — just as her style is a little too chic, and her skin a little too flawless (especially for a brown-liquor alcoholic plagued by nightmares); for all of its purported grit, the series has the gloss of TV.
More criticism of Marvel's pacing issues comes from Collider's Allison Keene, who managed to find some kind things to say about the show's new villain(s).
"The introduction of a new Big Bad works ... and it’s part of the well-considered character work that the show is so good at, especially when it comes to Jessica confronting her past through a bottle, fists, or occasionally tears.
"More than anything, Alias Investigations once again provide a nice noir framework for the show’s central mystery this season, one that is interesting to unravel and certainly feels more grounded than anything we’ve seen in the past with villains like The Hand."
"The first episode (out of five sent for review) is clunky, both in its dialogue and its pacing (more on that in a minute)."
"It wouldn’t be a review of a Marvel-Netflix collaboration, though, without mentioning pace. The show is still too slow, with a minimal or non-existent score, scenes that go on for too long, and a limited number of edits that add up to everything feeling like it’s happening in real time. It’s not as bad as any other Marvel series on Netflix in this regard — not even close — but it’s still a problem, and one that has unbelievably still not been addressed in terms of episode count (or shorter runtimes within episodes)."
At least it isn't the CW. Where you have the same two or three hours of story. Then 20+ hours of filler.