The Defenders is a mediocre series starring characters with unused potential, but the one person who sticks out as a rare diamond from the first episode through the last is Jessica Jones.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Defenders.]
With the exception of Danny Rand (Iron Fist), The Defenders is a show about reluctant heroes. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) is a slave to his love for Elektra and the inability to not get involved. Luke Cage feels like he owes Harlem the hero the neighborhood deserves. Jessica Jones, however, is a keen mind and a good person, the latter of which she tries to forget with a cup of whiskey constantly in hand.
Iron Fist, Daredevil and Luke Cage take on the Hand, the series’ criminal antagonists, and its miscellaneous factions because they feel obligated to do so. But Jessica Jones doesn’t consider obligations. She doesn’t have an emotional connection to New York the same way Luke Cage does. She isn’t a chosen person who must save an entire civilization from evil. She considers herself cursed by the gift of super strength that gets in the way of allowing her to spend her days investigating shady figures and nights drinking alone in a bar.
Jessica Jones isn’t a clichéd, complicated female character, but she is relatable. That aspect of her character was present in Jessica Jones when it debuted on Netflix in 2015 and it’s all the more obvious in The Defenders. Surrounded by people who don’t question what must be done, Jones’ reluctance to join a vigilante group is refreshing and honest.
“I want zero to do with this ancient organization, I just want to crack my case,” Jones tells Daredevil in one scene. “Judging by the way you sprung into action, I think you want the same thing.”
In a sea of superheroes, Jessica Jones is the most human. Krysten Ritter, who portrays Jones, says she is the misfit of the Marvel universe, someone who hangs out in a dark corner by herself. She is burdened by her supernatural abilities, which most superheroes deal with, but their stories rarely explore. Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Bruce Wayne and so many others can’t live normal lives because of who they are, but Jessica Jones seems to be the only one who knows her life can never be what it was. She drinks because she has to live an isolated life; she isolates herself so people won’t get hurt; she drinks to forget she has to be alone.
When Jessica does accept that she belongs to something bigger than herself, a superhero collective tasked with saving New York City, it’s overwhelming. The reality of what her future looks like is forever changed. She can’t be by herself anymore, hidden in her broken down apartment and moving through the shadowy alleyways of Manhattan. Becoming part of a group means she’s responsible for more than herself and it means learning to trust others. Jessica has to open her heart and that petrifies her.
Letting people in and caring for others is the first step in getting hurt — and if that’s not the most relatable fear that everybody deals with at some point, I don’t know what is.
It’s also what makes Jessica Jones one of the only characters you really want to root for. She deserves to have more in her life than an endless supply of whiskey and cheap beer. Jessica Jones isn’t a broken character, but she’s intelligent beyond belief and has faced unspeakable horrors. She’s been in self-defense mode for years and that’s a tough cocoon to break out of. It’s safe and warm in the cocoon, blanketed with a security that disappears the moment it’s torn apart. But Jessica Jones deserves to see the possibility of what life outside it could be and that’s what I kept hoping to see in The Defenders.
It never does and that’s just one of the many problems The Defenders has going for it. The show gets close to giving Jones the closure she needs through an intimate conversation with Cage in the finale, but it falls short. Still, despite The Defenders confirming I never need to see another season of Daredevil or Iron Fist, I can’t help thinking of what’s next for Jessica Jones and hoping she gets her win in the end.
If anyone deserves it, she does.