Marvel's Jessica Jones is back on the case. Last week, Season 2's debut was an International Women's Day gift to superhero fans everywhere. With improved pacing and strong character work, Jessica Jones Season 2 is a competent followup to an electrifying debut season. It takes everything Jess fans loved about the character and her world and improves upon it. Though the series isn't without its flaws, it should suck most viewers right back into the grim, gritty world of Netflix's corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For many of Marvel's Netflix shows, the 13-episode count actively works against the story, often creating frustrating mid-season slumps. This is not the case with Jessica Jones Season 2. The season gets off to something of a slow start, but that ultimately works in its favor. The opening episodes lay the groundwork for what comes later, carefully establishing where our characters are and how far they've come since Season 1 -- just so they can get torn back down again in subsequent episodes. With this set up out of the way, the show is able to build a steady momentum all the way through to its tense, inevitable conclusion.
That isn't to say the first few episodes are a slog. It's a slow burn, yes, but one peppered with enough mystery to get its hooks into the audience. In due time, the first three episodes introduce all of the moving parts, which prepares the audience for what comes later on down the line. The pacing problems of the first season have been efficiently resolved for Season 2; this time, the action doesn't feel as though it drags on to fill a prescribed number of episodes.
The story picks up the pace with the introduction of Janet McTeer's mysterious character, who plays an integral role in the rest of the series. McTeer is a wonderful addition to the cast who can take just about anything that Krysten Ritter's Jess Jones can throw at her -- literally and figuratively. McTeer's character effectively presents a problem that Jess can't snark or punch her way out of; she is the immovable object to Jess' unstoppable force and the dark mirror that forces Jess to confront the parts of herself that she tries to drown in whiskey. With a role couched in extremes, McTeer demands a top-notch, emotionally resonant performance from Ritter and both characters benefit wonderfully from it.
Thanks to McTeer's arrival, Ritter turns out the best performance of her character to date. While the essential aspects of Jess' character -- the forced apathy, the repartee, the trauma, the heart of gold -- remain, Ritter adds new layers for an even more nuanced take. Like the other characters in the season, Jess is stripped to her bare essentials here, her hidden self exposed like a raw nerve. This puts Ritter's range on full display, as Jess grapples with guilt, resentment, sorrow and even -- for a fleeting moment -- happiness. As Jess comes to new realizations about herself, Ritter gives the scenes a gravitas deserving of such a complex, important character.