It’s undeniably flawed, and in the usual ways, but ultimately Jessica Jones sees off Marvel’s collaboration with Netflix in a satisfying way.
This review of Jessica Jones Season 3 is mostly spoiler free. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words. We’ll also be posting detailed spoilerific reviews of all 13 episodes.
And with that, Marvel and Netflix have, more or less officially, cut their ties. Jessica Jones Season 3 is the final fruit of their collaborative labor; one last swan song for the partnership since each property — all very popular and spanning multiple seasons — has been systematically canceled by the streaming giant. Jessica Jones was canceled before this third season even aired. This is it. The end. So, was it all worth it?
It is, as ever, difficult to say. Press were provided the first eight episodes, more than the five we got for the second season, but the problems remain; in those eight episodes, what worked about the show continues to work and what doesn’t continues not to work. And again, the final episode provided to us ends with a massive, potentially season-redefining cliffhanger. This is obviously useful for preserving major plot details and twists so that fans can experience them for themselves. But it isn’t very useful for a review.
I’ll do what I can. Besides, the essence of the show remains mostly unchanged. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) herself remains an acerbic and heavy-drinking PI who wants to do the right thing but can’t figure out the right way to do it. Her various associates are all in the midst of their own personal predicaments; Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), now with superpowers of her own, is trying to find her own way in vigilantism, while Malcolm (Eka Darville) is still trying to be a good person despite being in the employ of the unscrupulous Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss), who is struggling to cope with her developing motor neurone disease. These are familiar characters in their most unfamiliar circumstances yet, but the underlying theme remains the idea that being super and being a hero are rarely the same thing and are certainly never easy.
The villain in Jessica Jones Season 3 reinforces this. Loosely based on the Marvel character Foolkiller, Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb) is a serial murderer with a particular bee in his bonnet for those he deems to be “frauds” and “cheats” who haven’t earned their position in life. At one point he refers to Jessica as a “feminist vindicator”, and suggests he has been victimized because of his status as a white man. As a conception, he basically stands in stark opposition to the show’s entire ethos; it matters that Jessica Jones is a woman because the aspects of traditional masculinity — everything from strength and power to the ability to consume copious amounts of hard liquor — that tend to define males come naturally to her. She isn’t particularly feminine but all the men in her world treat her as a woman above all else. Manly men have nothing to offer her, let alone as an adversary, so the character has always been most susceptible to villains who challenge her emotionally and morally.
Salinger isn’t as immediately compelling as David Tennant’s Kilgrave, but it’s his lack of power that defines him. Just as Kilgrave’s ability to coerce and manipulate defined who he was, Salinger’s inability to achieve things without hard work and effort have fostered his particular resentment towards those who he perceives as privileged. His multiple degrees and wrestling trophies mean more to him than any human connections because they’re the fruits of his own labor, things he worked for. Even his compulsion to kill is, in his mind, a compulsion to create something from the taking of life; his perception of himself, despite being ginger-haired and schlubby and entirely uncharismatic, is of a man who is truly superior to those around him — especially those like Jessica and her ilk.
Salinger might not have worked as a villain in the first or even the second season, but in Jessica Jones Season 3, where the titular PI is a minor celebrity and the idea of superpowered people roaming around New York is basically accepted, he represents an interesting viewpoint which is reinforced elsewhere, such as in Hogarth’s legal relationship with her superpowered clients and Detective Costa’s (John Ventimiglia) relationship with Jessica, both as an ally and a potential obstruction to traditional law and order. As a theme, it isn’t exactly new, but it feels like an organic outgrowth of what has come before, which is fitting for a final season.
Jessica Jones Season 3 isn’t perfect; like all of these shows, it has serious problems with pacing and structure, is occasionally much too obvious about the point it’s trying to make, and occasionally succumbs much too easily to tropes, contrivance, and the easy way out. But when the show is operating at its most morally fluid, it demands a level of attention and consideration that its contemporaries don’t. In a sense I’m glad it’s ending — even without having seen the final five episodes, I don’t really know where else this character can go. But I’m happier than it’s ending on a high note, doing, for the most part, what it has always done best. Like its title character, Jessica Jones hasn’t always taken the best approach, but it usually does the right thing in the end.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.