Photo: David Giesbrecht (Netflix)
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“A.K.A The Perfect Burger” opens with Jessica Jones on a beach in Mexico. True, she’s wearing her signature ripped jeans and combat boots, and she’s there working a case, but the sunny locale speaks to the slightly sunnier vibe that characterizes this season premiere. The lighting is brighter, the colors are more saturated, and while things are probably never going to be perfect in Jessica’s world, they’re the best they’ve been in a long time. For its first two seasons, Jessica Jones was defined by grim and gritty trauma. This season premiere offers a slightly different tone.

The second season finale saw our main ensemble splintered but not unhopeful in their various paths. This premiere picks up on those threads while filling us in on what’s happened since we last saw our heroes. Despite the trauma of reuniting with and then losing her mother, Jessica has stayed true to her commitment to turning over a more heroic leaf. With the help of Detective Costa and her new assistant Gillian (Aneesh Sheth), she’s regularly taking on pro bono cases. Despite the onset of early ALS symptoms, Jeri Hogarth has successfully opened her own law firm, where she employs Malcolm as her well-dressed investigator/fixer. Dorothy managed to save Trish’s crumbling career by getting her an HSN-style show where she hawks home goods and tank tops. Trish, meanwhile, is finding fulfillment moonlighting as a vigilante, using her newly acquired superpowers to help.

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Central to all these storylines is a question of morality. Jessica’s pro bono cases don’t just involve helping angelic victims. Sometimes she winds up helping assholes—like a divorced mom who has legal custody over her kid but perhaps not a particularly empathetic viewpoint on what’s best for her. Malcolm is hoping that working for Hogarth will give him a starting point to launch his own P.I. firm, but right now he has to do some pretty questionable things, like covering up the drunk and dangerous antics of star baseball player client Cody Willamet. Malcolm eventually draws his own (questionable) moral line in the sand by staging a car accident that injures Cody enough to tank his career. Jessica’s moral limit is a little less clear.

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The morality debate most comes to the forefront in Jessica and Trish’s fractured relationship. As Dorothy describes it, the dynamic between the two sisters was one in which Jessica was the powerful but burdened protector while Trish was the righteous but secretly jealous moral compass. Now that Trish has superpowers herself (and now that the murder of Jessica’s mom has driven a wedge between them), she thinks she can handle the whole thing herself. Because Trish chose this life, rather than having it thrust upon her, she believes she can be a powered hero with a strong sense of morality in a way that Jessica never could. As Jessica knows, however, having powers changes you—as does killing someone.

Trish’s quest for superpowers was one of my least favorite storylines in season two, but I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what happens now that she has them. Especially because her cat-like abilities look really cool in action. Jessica Jones has never been an action showcase like Daredevil or The Punisher, but Trish’s abilities could give the series a chance to challenge itself in the action department. We see a little bit of that in the sequence where Trish breaks into an abusive man’s apartment in order to steal evidence that will link him to an assault. Hopefully there are bigger and better action scenes to come.

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The goal of “A.K.A The Perfect Burger” is to reintroduce us to the world of Jessica Jones, which it does with ease and style, if not exactly groundbreaking panache. While these Marvel Netflix shows sometimes have a bad habit of kicking off a new season with a bunch of extraneous procedural elements that wind up having little impact on the overall season, that’s not the case here. This episode keeps us squarely focused on the characters we know and care about. Rather than investigate a shadowy corporation or a tangentially related minor character, Jessica’s first big case comes when Dorothy hires her to track down a missing Trish. That’s a smart way to introduce this season with a cohesive sense of focus and purpose, not just filling-for-time nonsense.

It’s not until its finally few minutes that “A.K.A The Perfect Burger” moves away from characters we already know to introduce some new players. That includes Erik (Benjamin Walker), a cynical “motivational speaker” and amateur chef Jessica picks up at a bar. Their sexy hookup is interrupted by another new character: A mysterious masked figure who stabs Jessica in the stomach and leaves her bleeding in the hallway. It’s an explosive cliffhanger on which to end this season premiere. Before Jessica can get back to the business of figuring out right from wrong, she’s got to survive first.

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Stray observations

  • Welcome back to Jessica Jones binge-reviews! I’ll be covering the entire series this weekend, with four reviews posting today, five on Saturday, and the final four on Sunday.
  • Jessica is still on good terms with Vido, so I’m curious to see where things are with her and Oscar, Vido’s dad and Jessica’s former flame.
  • The status quo in the previous finale was that Malcolm was working for Pryce Cheng’s private investigative firm, which was hired by Hogarth. Now Malcolm seems to be working directly for Hogarth herself.
  • Though Hogarth would prefer to die by assisted suicide, she realizes she won’t have the emotional ability to go through with it herself. She asks Jessica to “follow her instincts” and decide when the time is right to secretly do the deed, which Jessica rightly acknowledges is an absurd request.
  • Hogarth also seeks out Kith (Sarita Choudhury), a cellist ex-girlfriend she hasn’t spoken to in 25 years. Kith is now married to a criminal law professor named Peter (John Benjamin Hickey), but she and Hogarth set a time to catch-up.
  • Benjamin Walker has plenty of film and TV credits to his name, but I’ll always think of him as Andrew Jackson from the Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which means I’m going to spend this entire season waiting for him to burst into song.
  • Not only is this the final season of Jessica Jones, it’s also the final sendoff for this entire era of Marvel Netflix shows. Here’s hoping it sticks the landing, and that we get a final cameo from Turk Barrett.

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