The days of Jessica Jones’ compelling, radical season one seem like a long way away. Where the show began as a fierce study of abuse and the psychological marks it leaves, Season 3 is focused on that most well-trodden of superhero paths: what makes a hero?
This season presents us with two heroes – Jessica (Krysten Ritter), as reluctant as ever, and her adoptive sister Trish (Rachael Taylor), who can finally be the crusading hero she’s been pestering Jessica to be now that she herself has gained abilities. The two are still estranged following Trish’s murder of Jessica’s serial killer mother in the season two finale, but the arrival of a new bad guy on the scene (Jeremy Bobb, last seen creeping viewers out in Russian Doll) might bring them back together. Meanwhile, Malcolm (Eka Darville) is struggling with the moral implications of working for Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), while Hogarth is dealing with her terminal diagnosis the only way she knows how: manipulating and screwing over everyone around her.
Jessica’s ‘what makes a hero?’ path this season is given plenty of heavy-handed lip service but it feels more like telling than showing, especially as Luke Cage Season 2 handled similar questions much more deftly. A hero is only as good as their villain, after all, and Season 3 has fumbled the villain terribly, with Bobb’s Gregory Sallinger being little more than an underdeveloped boogeyman. Faring slightly better is Benjamin Walker as Jessica’s latest love interest, with an intriguing layer of darkness beneath his funny exterior that does actually get developed in full.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of Season 3 hinges on how invested we are in Jessica and Trish’s relationship, but no matter how good Taylor is as Trish – and she really does give it her all this season – it just falls flat, hindered by Ritter’s dead-eyed performance and the show’s mishandling of Trish over three seasons. Jessica Jones – and, by extension, Marvel Netflix’s shared universe of stories – sadly ends with the weak pop of a whiskey stopper rather than with the bang it deserves.