Jessica Jones finale recap: 'AKA Playland'
Season 2 ends on a surprisingly hopeful note
One of the joys of Jessica Jones‘ second season has been how unpredictable it has felt. In season 1, we knew the finale would feature Jessica’s final boss battle against Kilgrave, but season 2 hasn’t had a clear-cut Big Bad. Yes, Alisa is the foe for the season, but this story doesn’t feel like it’s a bland battle between good and evil. In light of that, I had no idea what to expect when I started watching the season finale, and I was pleasantly surprised — and blown away, yet again, by Ritter’s amazing performance.
PREVIOUSLY: Jessica Jones recap: ‘AKA Pray for My Patsy’
“AKA Playland” opens with Alisa and a very reluctant Jess hitting the road together. Not only does Alisa want Jessica to help keep her in check, but she also wants to form a mother-daughter superhero team and believes fleeing the country together would give Jessica, who spends most of her life numbing herself to the world, a chance to actually live. Jessica’s worried about leaving Trish behind, but Alisa makes the case that Trish might be safer without Jessica because we saw the lengths to which Trish was wiling to go to become more like her.
Eventually, the Jones women happen upon a fiery car accident involving a family of three and a truck carrying explosives (because sometimes you have to throw subtlety out the window). The Jones women rush into action to save the family. After that’s done, Alisa runs back in to rescue the truck driver, and it briefly looks like she dies in the final explosion, but she doesn’t. However, that close encounter with death flips a switch in Jessica, and she’s now on board to flee the country with her mother, who found saving people exhilarating and wants to do more of it. Alisa’s like, “Screw going to Uruguay, let’s hit up a war zone!”
Before they leave the country, Jessica meets up with Oscar to get some fake travel documents, but she ends up having to cut their meeting short because she notices that the cops followed Oscar to Westchester. She rushes out of there before the cops can catch her and goes to rendezvous with her mother. Shortly after that, Detective Costa calls Jessica and urges her to turn her mother in because while Alisa is screwed — she crossed a line and needs to pay — there’s still hope for Jessica. Alisa overhears their phone conversation and the consequences of dragging Jessica along slowly start to hit her. (Next: A hopeful ending)
Alisa and Jessica park the RV at Playland, the amusement park they used to visit when Jessica was younger. Unwilling to let her mom go, Jessica makes a plan for them to steal a sail boat and hit the seas under the cover of darkness. But Alisa has something else in mind: She wants to ride the ferris wheel at Playland one last time before she parts ways with her daughter because she’s accepted that this is the end of the line.
As they ride the wheel, Alisa uses what she assumes will be her last moments with her daughter before the cops arrive to impart some wisdom: “Hero isn’t a bad word, Jessica. It’s just someone who gives a s— and does some thing about it,” Alisa says. “You are far more capable than I ever was.” This is something Jessica definitely needed to hear from her mother. Unfortunately, the moment is interrupted by a gunshot, which strikes Alisa in the head. Jessica looks down and is shocked by what she sees: Trish holding the gun. A few scenes earlier, Costa paid Trish a visit and asked if she knew where Jessica and Alisa might hide out in Westchester. She lied and said she didn’t, but she obviously knew the significance of Playland since Jessica told her about it earlier in the season.
Look, if I had made a list of things I expected to happen in the finale, Trish killing Jessica’s mother wouldn’t have made that list. It’s the last thing I would’ve predicted! This is one helluva dark twist, mostly because it appears to irreparably break one of the show’s main relationships. A rage-filled Jessica jumps down from the Ferris Wheel, and a frightened Trish explains she pulled the trigger because it needed to be done and she knew Jessica wouldn’t do it because Alisa was her mother. There’s very little time to talk because the cops arrive, and Jessica tells Trish to run and end up taking responsibility for the shooting. (Watching Jessica crumble beside her mother’s body before the cops arrived, though, almost brought me to tears. Goddamn, Krysten Ritter is a fantastic actress.)
From there, the show jumps ahead an undisclosed amount of time, and we find that Jessica is back to her private investigating. These days, she has no problem stopping a liquor store robbery if she needs to. Unfortunately, everything doesn’t immediately go back to normal. Jessica and Trish are no more because while Jessica accepts that her mother had to die, she can’t get over the fact that Trish was the one that made it happen. Moreover, Jess and Malcolm — who cleaned himself up, bought an expensive suit, and now works for Pryce — are still on the outs, too, and can barely make eye contact with each other.
However, this isn’t an entirely hopeless finale. In fact, it’s quite hopeful. For one, Jessica resolves to actually start living her life. She ends the season by joining Oscar and Vido for dinner and proudly sharing the story of how she thwarted a robbery earlier that day. Meanwhile, Jeri — who blackmailed her partners into giving her a larger severance— is launching a new firm and hires Pryce and Malcolm for a job that Jessica can’t handle; and Trish miraculously catches her phone with her foot, which means Karl’s procedure may have been successful after all. Again, if you’d asked me how I expected season 2 to end, Jessica sitting at a dinner table with Oscar and Vido wouldn’t have made the list, but I’m glad that’s what happened because it’s a beautiful, optimistic sight.
It’s hard to deny that Jessica Jones‘s season 2 was a mess — but it was a fascinating one. The season began as a poorly paced slog that seemed like it was struggling to figure out what to do without Kilgrave; however, once we reached the season’s halfway point, a lot of the season’s disparate elements started to cohere, specifically the show’s concern with exploring female anger, the nature of heroism, and a super-powered mother-daughter dynamic. Those interesting themes made up for the season’s messy plotting (a.k.a. everything Trish was involved in). My favorite moments of the season mostly involved Jessica and Alisa spending time together, but the biggest surprise was how much I came to care about Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth, who went on a particularly moving journey this year. Assuming Netflix orders a thirds season, I’m most excited to see what Jeri has in store for her new firm. Will she revert to her old cold-hearted ways, or will she actually apply what she learned this season? That’s also a question for Jessica. We’ll have to wait and see.
- Thank you for reading our recaps this season! As Christian mentioned in his final recap, this season of Jessica Jones was satisfying in a way most of the Marvel-Netflix shows we’ve done together tend not to be. It was a difficult season to get through, but it’s more than worth the effort.
- How did Malcolm afford his new suit before he got his job with Pryce?
- “You are far more capable than I ever was. Maybe I don’t have to be amazing. Maybe I just made you” — Alisa, to Jessica, right before she dies.
- Okay, if there’s one thing about the Jessica-Alisa story that didn’t work, it’s that the show never gave a us a clear idea of what Alisa was like before the accident. They definitely spoke about it, but it wasn’t clear enough to really inform how I watched their interactions in the present.