WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
From the moment her casting was announced nearly a year ago, Marvel and Netflix were tight-lipped about the mysterious role Janet McTeer plays in Jessica Jones Season 2, saying only that she “will have an enormous impact on Jessica’s life.” In an interview earlier this week, the Oscar nominee wouldn't even divulge her character's name, teasing, “The way she looks at life is a little skewed.” It turns out, there's an excellent reason why everyone involved with the drama has remained so cryptic.
When McTeer's character is introduced in Episode 3, she's masquerading as Dr. Leslie Hansen, a former emergency-room physician who's somehow involved with IGH, the mysterious organization that experimented on Jessica and others years earlier. However, it's quickly discovered she's not Hansen, but instead the super-powered "monster" who murdered The Whizzer, Dr. Kozlov and others linked to IGH. She's three times stronger than Jessica, and is prone to mood swings that make those of our favorite private investigator seem downright quaint by comparison.
That might've been a big enough reveal, even if it wouldn't explain why a name hadn't been attached to McTeer's character (or, for that matter, why Netflix provided reviewers with only five episode of Season 2 instead of the typical six). The answer arrives at the end of Episode 6, "AKA Facetime," where we learn she's Jessica's mother, believed dead for the past 17 years.
Perhaps we should have seen that wrinkle coming earlier in the season, when Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) confronts Jessica with the ashes of her family, killed in the fiery car accident that Jessica has long blamed herself for. Nevertheless, the revelation that this nameless "monster" is Alisa Jones comes as a major surprise, to Jessica and to viewers.
Like her daughter, Alisa survived the crash, although she was more severely injured than her Jessica. And, like Jessica, she was transferred from Metro General Hospital to IGH, where the genetic editing used to save her life imbued her with superhuman strength and accelerated healing. But she was so horribly burned and disfigured that biogeneticist Dr. Karl Malus had to thoroughly rearrange her DNA, which drastically altered her appearance and left her mentally unstable. In a coma for five years, Alisa awoke to learn Jessica had survived, and was adopted by the Walker family, but that the rest of her family had perished in the accident.
Alisa escaped the IGH facility, murdering a nurse in the process, to visit a college-age Jessica, who of course had no idea she was her mother. Discovering that Jessica's ambitious boyfriend Stirling might be exploiting her, an enraged Alisa killed him and then returned to IGH in hopes of getting her anger under control. Alisa and Karl end up falling in love, and after he shuts down the clinic, the two of them remained together, with Karl helping to manage her violent outbursts with a powerful tranquilizer, and her night terrors with manacles and a fortified basement room.
But when Trish begins to use her Trish Talk radio show to probe for information about IGH, Alisa fears she could expose Karl. So, she begins stalking and murdering anyone who might be able to expose him: Kozlov, Hansen, The Whizzer, Will Simpson, and so on. Trish would've eventually made the list, circumstances permitting.
Her reunion, and attempted reconciliation, with Jessica goes ... about as well as you might expect. Although Alisa is Jessica's one opportunity to regain just a little of what she lost so long ago, she undoubtedly sees in her mother a funhouse-mirror reflection of herself. Alisa represents Jessica, and Jessica's rage, unchecked; she lacks any moral compass, and views murder as the simplest solution to virtually any problem. Deep down, Jessica desire's a sense of normalcy that a mother could provide, but not this one: Alisa is wanted for multiple murders, and she will murder again. Realizing that, Jessica turns her mother over to the police.
As Jessica later explains to Malcolm and Trish, "The moral of my shitty story is, if your dead parent comes back to life, stick 'em back in the ground."
Streaming now on Netflix, Jessica Jones Season 2 stars Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez and Janet McTeer.