Family therapy has never been this much fun.
This review contains spoilers for Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2, episode 8, titled “Ain’t We Got Fun.” To see where we left off, check out our review of Season 2, episode 7 and follow along with our full season binge here.
I know we’ve got mysteries to solve, but I would quite happily watch a whole season of Jessica and her mom bickering across New York, yelling at cabbies and snarking their way towards rebuilding their interrupted bond. It’s obvious that Jess is trying her best to keep her mother at a distance for fear of being hurt again, but whether it’s instinct or just an understandable desire for connection, it’s impossible for her to keep those walls up once they start reminiscing. Krysten Ritter is so skilled at expressing Jessica’s inner conflict with the subtlest shifts in expression and stance, you can see the hopeful kid shining in her eyes, even when she’s fighting her annoyance and fear.
Gabe Fonseca’s script does an artful job of subtly underlining the similarities between Jess and Alisa — Mama Jones is every bit as blunt, stubborn and combative as her daughter, giving us a sense of what Jessica’s childhood must’ve been like. While it’s natural for a kid to romanticize their formative years (especially after losing her whole family), it’s clear that Jessica’s been doing a degree of editing herself, repressing the memories that don’t quite fit with her storybook narrative. And after 17 years apart, it’s natural that neither of them can entirely live up to the idealized versions of each other that they’ve been holding on to — it’s refreshing that the show doesn’t shy away from the awkwardness and growing pains of their reunion.
But even if her parents’ marriage wasn’t as perfect as Jess thought, you can already tell what a huge impact it’s having on her just to have her mom back in her life — never clearer than when she panics at finding Alisa missing after Detective Costa pays them a visit.
As Jess points out, there’s probably no version of this “s***show” that ends well, but wouldn’t it be nice to think that it doesn’t have to end, as Alisa suggests? Maybe Jessica could have at least some semblance of a loving relationship with someone, even if it’s with a mom who’s been dead for 17 years and is now a mass murder, as she so succinctly put it. People come with all sorts of baggage, and let’s be honest, in the MCU, this probably isn’t even in the top 10.
While Jess and her mom are having some quality time debating texting and driving and the appeal of Nirvana, Malcolm’s finally taking some initiative and investigating Jeri’s partners, since Jess has clearly dropped the ball on that case. He finds out that Benowitz is gay and firmly in the closet by catching him at a club, but refreshingly, Malcolm decides not to use that information, deciding that using someone’s sexuality as blackmail material is too ugly, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. (Good job, dude!)
That good deed also gets him some dirt on Jeri’s other partner, Chao, but it also gets him attacked by some neanderthal homophobes — he manages to get a few hits in, but it looks like he’s a goner until Trish shows up in full Hellcat mode, beating the crap out of them and even clawing one guy’s face. Me-ow.
Meanwhile, Jeri’s feeling a lot more optimistic after paying a visit to Inez’s super-healer, Shane Ryback (who is definitely not Jessica’s brother, d’oh!), who doesn’t actually agree to cure her — quite the opposite, in fact — but whom Jeri clearly feels confident she can bully or cajole into helping her.
She then goes home and sends Inez some seriously mixed signals — after trying to kick her out, she changes her mind and decides they should hook up instead, which we all saw coming, since the chemistry has been palpable from the moment they met. Jeri clearly has a thing for women who have less power than her (exhibit A: her secretary) and given how vulnerable Inez is right now, with nowhere to go and her life (as far as she knows) still in danger, it’s not one of Jeri’s most admirable qualities.
Despite that, I love that the show allows Jeri to be mercurial and cruel and confident and frequently unlikable — it’s the kind of nuance that female characters haven’t often been afforded, especially in the superhero genre, but Jessica Jones (as a series and a character) has always defied easy categorizations, allowing all of its characters to exist as fully-drawn people, not a series of tropes. That may be the show’s greatest super power.