– By Carly Twehous –
Spoilers below for Seasons 1 and 2
In the wake of the general disaster that was Marvel’s Defenders—a knock-off Avengers attempt that even the DCEU can out-perform—Marvel’s Netflix heroes were left to the wolves, to prove that they could, at the very least, still hold their own. Jessica Jones, after that fan-favorite, girl-power first season, would’ve been the card I’d play, too. At the very least, it couldn’t be worse than Iron Fist.
When we last saw our favorite super-strong, super-pissed, super-drunk heroine, Jessica Jones put a bullet through Kilgrave’s brain. The first season established Kilgrave as a horrible, inescapable monster, and Jessica, outward physical strength aside, as the unwilling, traumatized victim.
Season two, interestingly enough, is about the fallout. Yes, Jessica Jones won; she killed her Big Bad Wolf, she joined an Avenger’s B-Team, but closure never seemed to be one of the consolation prizes. She still drinks, she still can’t sleep through the night, and, maybe in that dark place she pretends doesn’t exist, she still hears Kilgrave’s voice.
Season two does exactly what a good sequel should do (Take notes, Daredevil!): it takes whatever ghosts still remain in the protagonist’s closet—echoes from the first season, echoes from the ancient past—and lets them roam free, all the while subtly convincing said protagonist that none of the ghosts are real. (See, Terminator: Judgment Day, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Wrath of Khan.)
The first season of this glorious show gave us Jessica Jones as the time-honored, super-powered-yet-none-the-less-traumatized victim. This go-round… Well, funny thing about abuse. It tends to make monsters out of its victims, even if out of pure, justifiable desperation. Trauma begets trauma, ad infinitum.
Jessica Jones and Trish Walker, both survivors and warriors against the trauma they’ve endured, present an interesting case study. Jessica was raped, abused, and led to do horrible things with powers she never wanted, by a man with the same, forked silver-tongue as the devil. Then she killed him, point-blank, with no hint of mercy. In the dark recesses of her mind, that she so often tries to drown out with whiskey, that puts her on the same level as Kilgrave. She killed with no remorse; there was no justice, no Matt Murdock-esque moral dilemma about pulling the trigger. She did it. He dropped dead. Roll credits.
Logically, it was justifiable. At the very least, it pulled at the audience’s sympathy. There was no other way. Not with Kilgrave’s power. So maybe Jessica did the right thing, in the heat of the moment, with a proverbial gun to her head. She still took a life and she still has to live with the consequences. Trauma begets trauma.
Trish Walker is the equal and opposite of Jessica Jones, in almost every way: blonde vs. brunette, rich and famous vs poor and dingy, cocaine and performance-enhancing drugs vs. good, old-fashioned whiskey. Forced physical strength through years of martial arts vs. super-strength through genetic engineering.
At their core, though, Trish Walker and Jessica Jones are survivors. When push comes to shove, they no longer roll over and die. They fight tooth and nail to get out alive. Man, oh, man, does that lead for some sticky situations. Jessica, anger management classes and all, has this desire to be a hero, but has the inescapable knowledge that she very much is not cut out for it. Trish is desperate to protect what’s hers—Jessica included—even at the detriment of her own sanity and soul.
Then again, maybe this show asks its audience to consider something about trauma and abuse. Maybe “monster” and “victim” are one in the same, rather than contradictory, cause-and-effect terms. Maybe it’s far less about a free, moral choice than it is about responding to the general crappiness of the world around you. When you get pushed this far, it’s honest-to-God survival instinct, consequences and repercussions be damned. Trauma begets trauma, ad infinitum, and all you can do is pray you have the strength to hold on.
Doesn’t it hurt, then, when this evil thing she’s been chasing, turns out to be just another one of these trauma-forged monster-victims, with a story so hauntingly similar to hers that Jessica may as well be standing next to a mirror? It’s easy—or easier—when it was Kilgrave, who so clearly was a monster that it hardly matters if he may have, at one time, been a victim. But… this?
Well, in the end, someone’s going to be the monster, and someone’s going to be left a traumatized victim once more. All that’s left is a coin-toss, to decide who might just be desperate enough to pull the trigger.
For more TV reviews by Carly, click here.