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Jessica Jones ends the Marvel Netflix universe on a high note

Screenshot: Netflix
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That unexpected sense of lightness Erik described back in “A.K.A Hellcat” is exactly how I felt going into Jessica Jones’ series finale. That’s not just because Sallinger was officially off the table, although that’s definitely a big part of it. It was also the lightness of knowing that the series was freed of the burden of extending this story any further and could approach its final hour with a focus and clarity that was sometimes missing elsewhere in the season.

My sense of optimism was almost immediately rewarded by a delightful surprise cameo from Luke Cage, which inspired me to draw three hearts in my notes before I even realized what I was doing. Luke made his Marvel Netflix debut in Jessica Jones so it’s only fitting that he ends it here too. As these heroes often do when they cross over into one another’s shows, Luke serves as Jessica’s moral compass. He knows a thing or two about battling problematic siblings, and he gives Jessica the push she needs to be okay with the idea of sending Trish to The Raft.

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One of the worst things about the cancellation of these Marvel Netflix shows is that it left Luke’s arc on a really sour note, set up for a villainous turn as the new owner of Harlem’s Paradise. This episode doesn’t undo that entirely, but it does help recontextualize it. Though a snazzily dressed Luke acknowledges that his turn to the dark side is all but inevitable, the knowing way he discusses it also implies that it will probably only be temporary, particularly if Jessica is there to keep him in check. This may be the end of the Marvel Netflix universe, but there’s a strong sense throughout this finale that these stories will go on, even though we’re not able to watch them anymore.

While the previous two Jessica Jones finales hinged on whether or not to kill the Big Bad, this appreciably action-packed finale offers something slightly different. I never got the sense that Jessica would actually kill Trish, nor that Trish would succeed in killing Jessica (although it’s pretty shocking to watch her try). Instead, this finale centers on the question of whether or not Trish will be able to fully reckon with just how far she’s fallen. Her greatest superpower turns out to be denial, and it takes the efforts of pretty much all of our main characters to overcome it.

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“Why do you come here, Charles?” “Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answers?”
Screenshot: Netflix

In an incredibly clever use of the dynamics of the season, Jessica enlists Erik as part of her first attempt to show Trish that she’s slipped into blatant immorality. As with Sallinger, he starts bleeding from the eyes as soon as he gets close to her. It’s a great Catch-22, as Trish needs to believe in the validity of Erik’s powers if she wants to justify her murders of Nussbaumer and Montero. Trish’s next wake-up call comes when she brutally attacks Kith’s adversary Demetri Patseras, only for his terrified daughter to come running into the room. Trish swore to use her powers to protect vulnerable little girls. Now she’s inadvertently terrorizing them.

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Still, Trish’s denial persists all the way to the point of kidnapping Hogarth and arranging an elaborate escape plan that involves spending a 17-hour flight to Thailand locked inside a literal coffin. Even during her big, brutal showdown with Jessica, Trish maintains that her willingness to strip away her humanity is a strength, not a weakness. It’s not until Detective Costa calmly reads off her list of crimes—including the attempted murder of her sister—that Trish finally comes to terms with the fact that she really is the bad guy in this story. In a Greek tragedy grace note, Trish’s enhanced abilities mean she’s denied due process and automatically shipped off to The Raft—a darkly ironic ending for a series that touted the value of legal justice over vigilantism.

“Dracarys.”
Screenshot: Netflix
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From the beginning, Jessica Jones has used superhero tropes to tell stories about abuse and survival, and that continues through to this finale. Jessica represents someone who’s found a way to break a cycle of abuse; Trish reflects the all-too common story of an abuse victim who goes on to perpetuate it. Despite how important their sisterhood has been to this series, the only real moment of closure Jessica and Trish get is a small nod across a helicopter pad. It’s a testament to Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor that they convey so much with so little.

In an interview with Deadline, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg explained that the writers got a sense of Jessica Jones’ impending cancellation with “a ton of time to come to a satisfying end.” Still, I have to wonder if last minute rejiggering might account for some of the stranger swerves and unresolved aspects of this season. (Or even for the weird way Gillian randomly disappears from this final stretch of episodes—which is by far the biggest flaw of the season!) Regardless, the upside is that the final few minutes of “A.K.A Everything” are able to serve as a proper sendoff for the series as a whole.

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In fact, there were two moments where “A.K.A Everything” delivered fake-out endings I was willing to accept as good, not great conclusions for our characters. The first is when the episode briefly seems to be sending Kith and Hogarth off towards a happily ever after that didn’t quite feel earned, despite Hogarth’s heroics in this episode. But Jessica Jones doesn’t let Hogarth off the hook that easily. Neither her wealth nor her illness are enough to keep Kith by her side. Hogarth’s left to die alone—surrounded by luxury but ultimately bitter, resentful, and isolated. It’s a grim but fitting conclusion for ruthless three-season arc.

“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.”
Screenshot: Netflix
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Jessica gets an even more extended fake-out ending as she packs up her stuff, hands Alias Investigations over to Malcolm, and sets off for a fresh start in Mexico. I was desperately trying to rationalize why this was a perfectly fine ending for Jessica, even thought it didn’t really feel like one. Thankfully, Jessica Jones has one last trick up its sleeve. If you watch closely, bright pops of purple start appearing as Jessica walks through the train station, subtly preparing us for a surprise (vocal) cameo from David Tennant’s Kilgrave. “You’re right to give in,” his voice coos as she purchases her ticket. “Give up. It’s someone else’s job now.” That imagined devil on her shoulder is enough to make Jessica reconsider her desire to run away from the life she’s worked so hard to build.

It’s the electro-feminist band Le Tigre who get the final word in the series. Their song “Keep On Livin’” kicks in as Jessica turns towards her city with newfound determination. As with Luke Cage, the exact details of where Jessica goes from here are unclear, but the important thing is the sense that her story will go on, even if we won’t get to watch it anymore. “You gotta keep on, keep on livin’,” Le Tigre defiantly blares. It’s hard to think of a better final sentiment for this series than that one.

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Stray observations

  • Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, and Carrie-Anne Moss each turn in all-time great performances in this episode. Kudos to the phenomenal work they’ve done thoughout this entire series!
  • I’m bummed this season didn’t find room for a final Turk Barrett cameo, but I was delighted to see the return of Detective Costa’s hat, now operating in a professional capacity:
“Hi, I’m Detective Hats. This is my partner, Detective Blankets.”
Screenshot: Netflix
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  • The writers and Benjamin Walker really tapped into something great with Erik. As has been the case all season, this episode demonstrates that he’s super respectful of Jessica’s boundaries, quick to pick up on her social cues, and direct about asking what she needs from him in times of stress. That’s all super romantic, and while it makes sense that Jessica wouldn’t fully trust him yet, it also feels right that he takes that as motivation to try to make himself worthy of her.
  • Relatedly, Jessica pushing Costa and Erik to become a crime-fighting duo was absolutely adorable. It’s a practical plan with enjoyable undertones of forcing your two best friends to become best friends with each other.
  • I was hoping to eventually get clarity on what this season was trying to do with the subplots about Malcolm’s love life, but I remain as confused as ever.
  • It’s presumably almost immediately undone by her decision to stay in New York, but Jessica’s simple farewell to Malcolm was absolutely heartbreaking, and perfectly played by Ritter.
  • Okay, but how insane would it be if it was suddenly revealed that, like, Jessica Simpson was working as a masked vigilante superhero? #FindPatsy
  • If you want just a little more Jessica Jones in your life, Krysten Ritter was a guest on David Tennant’s podcast and they had a delightful conversation.
  • On a personal note, the fact that Jessica Jones is the show to close out the Marvel Netflix universe is particularly fitting for me, as I pioneered The A.V. Club’s binge-review format back when the show’s first season premiered in 2015. It was just my second-ever major assignment for The A.V. Club, and I definitely didn’t expect it to become such a consistent part of my career over the past four years. I’ve gotten the chance to weigh in on pretty much all of these Marvel Netflix shows in one way or another, and I’ll be sad to be leaving this world and this interesting writing challenge behind. I’m not sure the binge-review format always gave me the most objective point of view (though I stand by my criticisms, I’ll admit that my grade for the Daredevil third season finale was way too harsh), but I hope it’s brought a unique perspective on what it’s like to binge-watch a series! Whether you’ve been reading since the beginning or are just checking in on this season, thanks for being part of the journey and for the great conversations in the comments. If you want to keep discussing all things Marvel, you can always find me on Twitter!
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About the author

Caroline Siede

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.