To augment our latest podcast episode from The Nerds Of Color, here are my favorite Easter Eggs and fun facts from JESSICA JONES: ENDGAME, I mean, JESSICA JONES Season 3 A.K.A. The End Of The Marvel-Netflix Universe (SPOILERS to follow):
– Episode 1: “A.K.A. The Perfect Burger” is directed by Michael Lehmann, who also directed HEATHERS, the sublime dark comedy from the 80s with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater murdering the popular kids in their high school.
– An irate mother/client calls Jessica “a third-rate Joan Jett wannabe,” helpfully lampshading the obvious rock star reference in her wardrobe choice. Fun fact! The real Joan Jett will play several dates on Heart’s “Love Alive” tour this year, which will be super-studded with women rock/pop stars including Jett, Sheryl Crow, Elle King — depending on your frame of reference it’s either the harder-rocking Lilith Fair of the 2010’s, or the CAPTAIN MARVEL soundtrack tour, either way, Heart is a superb live act, strong recommend.
– The principal villain in JJ S3 is known in comicdom as Foolkiller, but the secondary “villain” is loosely based on an obscure Daredevil foe who went by “Mind-Wave.” I know what you’re thinking: “Mind-Wave-Of-Mutilation” would be a way cooler name for a supervillain.
– Episode 2 is directed by the show’s star, Krysten Ritter, focusing on Trish developing her Hellcatty abilities, including an excellent training montage which at once embraces and satirizes the “superhero becomes super-fit” sequence we’ve seen time and again. At one point Trish literally Googles “how to be a superhero.” (That’s not the bestest of the best parts, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned/ruined it.) The whole episode is cinematically, comedically, unsettlingly so so good, a full return to form after the miscalculated Season 2.
– In Episode 3, when asked how she’ll deal with an emerging threat, Jessica replies, “Whatever it takes.” An unconventionally superheroic thing for JJ to say, clearly a nod to the same line mantra-ized in the teasers for AVENGERS: ENDGAME.
– Fun fact! One of the standout new characters in JJ S3 is Jessica’s receptionist Gillian, a transgender Indian-American person played with great verve by Aneesh Sheth. In a narrative “powered” by questionable life decisions and bad behavior by every lead character, it’s safe to say Gillian is the most consistently lovable person in the story. Although she complements JJ’s snark and sass with her own delectable comic timing, Sheth also brings a pained honesty to the scene in Episode 5: “A.K.A. I Wish” where she urges Jessica and Trish to reconcile their BFF-breakup and preaches the importance of friends and companionship. Yes, duh, but also, awww! (Jessica and Trish end up really not learning this lesson.)
– Episode 7: “A.K.A. The Double Half-Wappinger” is written and directed by Asian folks, Nancy Won (scribe) and Larry Teng (director) and it’s (for whatever awesome Asian reason) one of the season’s finest hours, particularly in its use of satirical slightly-flipped superhero tropes (super-high-stakes wrestling match!) and pointed allusions to the evil elephant in the room, i.e., the Trump era.
– Jessica validates my previous rant about superhuman strength when she chides Trish on her kale obsession: “You’re powered now. Your body can process a Cheeto or two.” Jessica subsists mainly on a diet of greaseburgers and bourbon, because superhuman strength and metabolism; she doesn’t have to work out like the unpowered Olympic-level athlete characters, e.g. Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon.
– Fun fact! Tina Chilip plays Detective Imada in Episodes 9-12, in which she arrests and interrogates Jessica Jones. I know Tina a bit from way back in my theater days, and now I also know someone who totally arrested Jessica Jones.
– Episode 10: “Hellcat” is written by Jane Espenson, who also wrote more than a few episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. In many ways E10 plays like an alternate-universe Buffy origin story, full of snarky wit and feminist subtexts, with the critically-important difference that Buffy’s main thing was slaying undead people, while Trish becomes a killer of living-albeit-badly-behaved people.
– Season 3 does not sugarcoat the powers and pitfalls of white femme-inism, despite several moments when, as a viewer, you think it just might (…make the self-interest of the white lady protagonists supersede everyone else’s problems past the point of sense). I’d argue the season, taken as a whole, leans into and unpacks the shit out of the show’s main cultural-critique pressure point (cf. the consciously-ironic title of Episode 2, “You’re Welcome”). Perhaps the super-white-lady trope creates one majorly awkward plot twist around the midpoint of S3, when Jessica makes what appears to be an entirely selfish and self-defeating choice on behalf of Trish. Without spoiling the show’s final arc, let’s just say that they both live to deal with the consequences, and no one ends up #winning big.
– There’s another TV trope which I’d argue is not handled so rigorously in Season 3, but it’s forgiveable if only because it’s one of those Unbeatable Infinity Stone kind of ingrained tropes: that is, Good People Are Cute, Bad People Are Just Plain-Looking (I don’t know what the “technical” term for this trope is). It’s only jarring here because I was pretty excited for Erik/Mind-Bro to be revealed as the main villain, when in fact (‘cos I’m dumb) it turns out to be the less-suave, less-charming Greg Salinger. At least, the show makes attempts to relate that Salinger’s psychotic-sadistic behavior is tied to (to be clear, not caused by) his failures at intimacy rooted in innate self-hate…but, like most TV shows, it weights the scales so that the sorta Chris-Pratt-lookin dude turns out to have a heart of gold, or at least the possibility of redemption, although, objectively, he’s pretty much an asshole. He’s just crafted to be LESS of an asshole than the dumpy guy/evil nerd/dude-who-has-his-own-menacing-music-cue-to-tell-us-who-he-is . Personal bias made me believe (momentarily, incorrectly) the story arc was going to be about Jessica unknowingly hooking up with the ultimate villain for a cheap thrill, and the ensuing consequences and recriminations; not solely because I’m a jerk who hates things, but ‘cause that IRL scenario happens all too often, as much as we’d all like to follow the confirmation bias telling us that Person We’re Attracted To = Good Person. S3 goes a lot of places, but it didn’t end up going there.
– The last song, the closing musical sendoff for the Marvel-Netflix serieses, is Bikini Kill’s “Keep On Living.” Joan Jett visual references aside, JESSICA JONES’ soundtrack is notably jazz-based, with added (plot-relevant) emphasis in S3 on cello and moody themes for strings…until the Bikini Kill song steamrolls over all that with unsubtle 4/4 punk force, from closing shot unto final credits. It’s, I opine, a big fucking hero moment.