“Jessica Jones” returns Thursday for her second season on Netflix, so it’s time to catch up on one of TV’s most fascinating characters.
Naturally, you’ll want to binge-watch Season 1, which introduced the non-comics-reading world to Jones (played by Krysten Ritter), a private detective with a drinking problem, one who also has vaguely defined superpowers (enhanced strength, durability). She also has post-traumatic stress disorder — although the term is never mentioned — which helps explain why her life is such a mess.
The trauma at the heart of that condition is a man named Kilgrave (David Tennant). He’s at the heart of all of Season 1, really, a man who has the unique ability to make anyone do what he says. In Jessica’s case, he used that ability to rape and brutalize her years ago for a very long period. Despite the affability of Tennant’s performance, this man is a monster who has destroyed Jessica’s life.
Except that she refuses to fold. Jessica is crippled by PTSD, yes — but it doesn’t defeat her. She gave up whatever dreams she had, she drinks too much, she has intimacy issues, she’s full of self-loathing, she’s got a bad temper. But she fights back. She doesn’t let being a victim define her. That makes “Jessica Jones” a feminist story in a way. But moreover, it’s a very human one. And, despite Jessica’s gritty, desperate, cynical world, it’s a hopeful story.
But, man, it’s a harsh one. Which might have been even worse in the comics, as hard as that might be to believe. With spoilers ahead, this is that story:
Jessica Jones was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos in 2001. The series was titled “Alias,” which couldn’t be used on TV because of Jennifer Garner’s show of the same name. In the first issue, we found out that Jones was once a superhero named Jewel who palled around with various Avengers. But part of her despair is that when Kilgrave kidnapped her, nobody became alarmed at her absence. She was his sex slave for months, and nobody came looking for her. The next 27 issues are the story of her rise above some of her demons. She never quite gets her act together, but at the end of that series she is pregnant and in a committed relationship with Luke Cage, who is the father.
Bendis continued Jones’ story in a 14-issue series titled “Pulse,” in which she was a superhero consultant at the Daily Bugle. It was in “Pulse” No. 14 that Jones gave birth to baby Danielle, named after Cage’s Heroes for Hire partner Daniel “Iron Fist” Rand. With two canceled series behind her, Jones was reduced to being a supporting character in other books, primarily “New Avengers.” Cage was that team’s leader, and in the course of the series, he and Jones got married. So, things were looking up for our girl.
Of course, that couldn’t last. The first issue of a new series titled “Jessica Jones” came out in 2016, which found her in jail for unspecified reasons, and on the run from her friends, because she has kidnapped her own baby.
All of “Alias” and “Pulse” and much of “Jessica Jones” are available in trade paperback. Not that you need to read them before watching “Jessica Jones” Season 2. According to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, you don’t even need to watch the first season. “I would love for [the audience] to watch Season 1,” Rosenberg told Yahoo Entertainment. “But they can jump right into Season 2 — it stands on its own feet.”
But it wouldn’t hurt, right?