“Hero isn’t a bad word.”
This review contains spoilers for Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2, episode 13, titled “Playland.” To see where we left off, check out our review of Season 2, episode 12 and follow along with our full season binge here.
Back in episode 9, Jessica proclaimed, “I’m like my mother in one way: neither of us get a happy ending.” But as this season has proven time and again, life isn’t like a storybook — some monsters are all too human underneath, some heroes are killers, and even though “happily ever after” doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean happiness is completely out of reach.
Trish is probably right when she tells Jessica that it was always going to end this way — Alisa had no desire to live without her daughter, and no desire to further endanger her life by making her an accomplice. Going on the run was a pipe dream, beautiful but unsustainable, and the regular world has no desire to make room for broken things when it’s easier to just discard them than fix them.
In some ways, maybe it was a kindness that Alisa died when she did — full of pride for her daughter, sharing a moment of peace in one of their favorite places, oblivious to what was about to happen to her. It’s a truly devastating scene, played with agonizing intensity by Krysten Ritter, and as chilling as it is, it’s one of the most powerful moments we’ve seen in any corner of the MCU, poetic and heartbreaking and unforgettable, both for the moment itself, and for the impact it has on everything that follows.
Jessica’s also right that it didn’t have to be Trish who pulled the trigger, and I’m not sure how their relationship can ever recover from such a monumental betrayal. Even if Trish was totally justified, even if she had every reason to believe that Alisa was dangerous, it wasn’t her call to make, and her arrogance in believing she knows Jess better than Jess knows herself has shattered that trust between them.
In fact, people second-guessing Jessica has been a recurring theme in the last batch of episodes — from Trish to Oscar to Malcolm; all of them believed that Alisa was manipulating her or holding her hostage, refusing to give Jessica her own agency. They might not have been able to force her to do things the way Kilgrave did, but it’s still a form of control, projecting your feelings onto someone else and acting betrayed when they don’t behave the way you might prefer. Wanting to see the best in her mother didn’t make Jessica blind or naive, it just made her human — and it’s particularly hypocritical coming from Trish, who continually gives her own mother second chances, no matter how damaged she is from years of Dorothy’s emotional abuse.
And yet Trish ends up getting exactly what she wanted: Her quick reflexes and newfound agility — as demonstrated when she catches her dropped cellphone on her foot before it smashes — imply that Dr. Karl’s treatment worked. She also has her mom, who still seems to be trying to reforge their connection. Will either of those things make her happy? Unlikely, but she made her choice (or really, a whole string of bad choices), and if she values being right more than she values Jessica, she’ll have to go through the growing pains of superheroics on her own.
Jeri, meanwhile, has a hefty severance package, all of her clients, and a new firm with her name on the door (or at least she will, when she finds an office with a door on which to put her name). She’s still taking her ALS medication, but she’s done with wallowing — and she’s already recruited Pryce and his new associate, Malcolm, to conduct some business that Jessica might find distasteful. (I dread to think.)
Which leaves us with Jessica, who, despite the drinking, ends the season on a rare moment of clarity. She realizes she’s chosen to keep herself “untethered,” sleepwalking through life without ever really knowing how to live. But as she sits down at dinner with Oscar and Vido, we see a glimmer of hope. Not for anything as saccharine as a happy ending, obviously, but at least a small sliver of happiness.
It won’t last long, of course — not in the MCU (or the adjacent space that the Netflix shows occupy, anyway) — but even heroes need a break sometimes. Here’s hoping she can catch one.