Series creator Melissa Rosenberg reveals how season 3 was originally going to end before the superhero drama was canceled
Warning: The following contains spoilers from the entirety of Marvel’s Jessica Jones season 3. Read at your own risk!
The case is closed on Jessica Jones.
The bittersweet series finale of Marvel’s Jessica Jones saw Krysten Ritter’s super-powered private investigator face her toughest and most personal opponent yet: Trish (Rachael Taylor), her sister and best friend. In the wake of season 3’s fake-out big bad Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb) murdering Trish’s mother, Dorothy (Rebecca De Mornay), Trish mercilessly started dishing out justice across the city (read: murdering anyone she deemed evil). Thus, it fell on Jessica to stop her once and for all and send her to the Raft, a government-run prison for powered people.
Trish wasn’t the only character who’s story ended on a relatively sad note. Ruthless lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), who was suffering from ALS, accepted she was going to die alone after her former flame Kith (Sarita Choudhury) dumped her. Similarly, Malcolm (Eka Darville) realized he wasn’t a good guy he thought he was; however, Jessica offered him a path at redemption of sorts by leaving Alias Investigation to him.
And Jessica? Well after all was said and done, she decided to abandon both the hero business and the city. However, right as she was about to buy a ticket to El Paso, she heard season 1 villain Kilgrave’s (David Tennant) voice in her head encouraging her to quit. In that moment, she refused to do anything Kilgrave would want and resolved to stay. What’s next for her? Well, that’s for her to know.
After watching the series finale, EW hopped on the phone with creator Melissa Rosenberg — who signed a deal with Warner Bros. TV last summer — to discuss the season’s original ending before Netflix canceled the show, Trish’s fate, and her experience in the Marvel-Netflix experiment, which ends with Jessica Jones. Read on for more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve said in several interviews that you found out Jessica Jones was ending with enough time to reconfigure the season’s ending and deliver satisfying series finale. How was the season originally going to end?
MELISSA ROSENBERG: Honestly, I’m having a hard time remembering, because we really embraced this [ending]. It may have been that Jessica actually just was going to leave. I think that was it when we first were breaking the story, before we even started cameras rolling. Then as we began to sense that this was going to be the end, we said, “Oh, my God, she can’t leave, because then our message to the world is, ‘When the going gets tough, a woman should just give up.'” So it’s like, “Okay, that is not the message we want out there.” If we knew there was a fourth season, then we could have brought her back. But just in case it was the end, we did not want to end on that note. It would be contrary to who she was.
Did the season always come down to this battle between Trish and Jessica?
Yeah, that was our intention from the beginning. All three seasons are very much of a piece, as I’ve said before, like three acts of a play, and at the center of all three of those acts is Jessica and Trish’s friendship and sisterhood. Sometimes it plays more in the background, sometimes it’s foreground, but we really wanted it to become foreground in season 3. And so, there’s this little shift that we do. We were presenting Salinger as our big bad for season 3. But as it turns out, Trish is. And we wanted to bring it to a head between Trish and Jessica, and the results are on film.
Trish’s arc is probably one of the most interesting things about the season. I feel most shows would’ve flinched at the end and to redeem her at the very last minute, but you followed her dark path all the way to it’s bleak ending with her being imprisoned in The Raft. How did you land on that being a fitting end for the character?
It just felt right to us. There is a moment [when] she’s in the interrogation room with Detective Costa [John Ventimiglia] and where the camera’s pushing on in her as Costa reels off the various crimes that she has committed. And you see — and Rachael plays this so beautifully — in her face, each one landing. At the end when he says, “Do you understand?” it’s that moment of true understanding where she gets, “I’m the bad guy.” That is the moment. It’s not the, “Oh, I’m going to go off and have a great life.” moment, but it is a moment of redemption of acknowledging where she has landed and become the very thing that she despises and has been fighting against.
During Jessica and Trish’s final fight, Jessica points out that Trish has basically become Dorothy, which reminded me of how some victims of abuse unfortunately go on to perpetuate that cycle when they’re older. Was that something you were consciously trying to get at while arcing her this season?
That’s something that fell into place as we found the story. It was one of those, “Oh, yeah, I guess that rings true for her.” But we knew that we wanted to take Trish to this place. It felt like a natural progression for her. And we’re also exploring the issue of people with power, just the issue of power. As it happens, two women are embodying different sides of it. So this was the progression of where that black and white point of view, red and blue, if you will, point of view leads — us versus them. If those are the colors you’re seeing, then there’s no wiggle room, and that’s where it goes.
I’m not sure if you watched Game of Thrones —
Oh yeah, absolutely.
But, as one of my colleagues observed, that show’s final season did something similar: Daenerys, a character we viewed as righteous and heroic, became the villain of the story because of the qualities we cheered early on. Did you recognize any similarities between Daenerys and Trish’s arcs, and if so, what did you make of that?
I hadn’t actually made the connection, but you’re absolutely right. What I love about both of those characters and both of those storylines is it’s not gender specific. Power corrupts regardless of whether you’re male or female. So you really have these interesting stories about a person who is reacting to power. Jessica’s powerful, she’s making another set of decisions. Jon Snow is a powerful guy, he’s making a set of decisions. Hopefully, that’s something that’s chaining in the world.
When we first started off way back when, Jessica Jones was the first and only female superhero and one of the only flawed, damaged, powerful women onscreen, TV or features. Since then, many more have come to the forefront. As an audience member, it’s been wonderful to be able to see female characters simply be complex. They’re not defined by their gender, they’re defined by their humanity. And I think in this case, I think both Daenerys and Trish are allowed to follow a path that feels authentic in some ways. I mean, there’s a flack about Game of Thrones of course, but I dug what happened with Daenerys. I thought that was the right call.
Both Trish and Daenerys’ arcs also raises the question of how creators view their characters versus the audience’s perception of them. Did you think about how viewers would react to Trish’s turn?
It’s an interesting question. We put ourselves in a position of being viewers: What would I want to see? What do I feel would ring true? And at Netflix, we don’t test things. Because it all drops at once, we don’t get that audience feedback on a regular basis. So you’re really reliant on your writers and the studio and the network to give you that feedback. But mostly, you’re reliant on yourself, what feels right to you. So we’re not making decisions on, “Oh, we want to surprise the audience and do this thing that’s completely inconsistent with the character.” But you’re wanting to keep it alive and feel what feels real.
Throughout the season, a couple of characters pointed out the nature of Jessica and Trish’s relationship. Jessica depended on Trish to her moral compass, and Trish lived vicariously through her super-powered sister. But that dynamic obviously falls apart, and Jessica becomes her own compass, which was a nice beat for the character.
Exactly. I mean, that’s what we loved, is that they’re basically switching positions a little bit. You began season 1 where Jessica’s holed up in the house with Kilgrave and then she goes away and goes to Trish and says, “What would Trish do?” In fact, the name of the episode was, “What Would Trish Do?” And so, you see how much she relies on Trish’s moral compass to guide her. And then in season 2, that starts to go off the rails somewhat. She begins to realize that Trish isn’t necessarily that moral compass. And then you open [season] 3 with her trying to be her own moral compass and failing miserable, because she can’t find the black and white. She can’t see anything in black and white; it’s all shades of gray. So then at a certain point, when Trish comes, where they reunite, Jessica is relieved that maybe she can have that moral compass back, but quickly comes to realize that, that was never actually accurate.
This finale also sees other characters reckon with their mistakes and end in relatively sad places. Jeri is told she’ll die alone. Malcolm realizes he’s not a good guy. What went into the decision to have all of these characters being left in relatively unhappy places?
For me, Jeri Hogarth’s “Yes, you’re going to die alone.” And then Kith exits. But just before she shuts the door, Hogarth says, “You are the last mistake I will ever make.” That’s her last line, and you go off of Hogarth. She is a fighter, and she will be a fighter till the bitter end. So you’re going out on a moment that is very true to Hogarth’s character. This is her season of hoping that she could find someone she could rely on and trust, who would love her and see her through the end. And as she goes out of the season and out of the series, it’s, “Okay, that ain’t going to happen. So, never going to make that mistake again. I will be my own advocate.”
And then with Malcolm, yes, he comes to the end, with his girlfriend saying, “You’re not a nice guy,” which is his worst possible perception of himself. It’s what he’s always tried to avoid. But in the end, Jessica hands him the keys to Alias and says, “It’s all yours.” So he’s finally arrived at what he has always wanted, which was to hang his own shingle and become a PI. Basically she’s saying, “You can do this, you have what it takes. So that’s the last thing we see of him. So, I guess, it’s all in perception. This is Jessica Jones. We’re not tying things up in a neat little bow and everyone’s going to go float on rainbows. It’s not what the show is and would be inauthentic to the characters. But they all land in a place that is right for them, in my opinion. I mean, viewers may disagree, but I felt like it was a logical next step, and this is where they will land.
Since Jessica decides to stay, what do you imagine is next for her? Does she take Alias Investigations back from Malcolm, or does she try something new now that she’s accepted being a hero?
I think she might try something else out, because her worst nightmare is being something that Kilgrave would want her to be, and this is what he always wanted Jessie to be, walk away from the hero stuff. When she realizes that, the fighter in her kicks in, and she steps away. I think she has no idea what she’s going to do, but she’s going to fight. And whatever form that takes, she is going to fight. She is never going to become the person who Kilgrave wanted her to become.
Looking back on the past three seasons, how do you feel about your time as part of the Marvel-Netflix experiment?
Oh, my God, it really has been the highlight of my career thus far. It was an extraordinary experience, an extraordinary opportunity, to dive into a character in a world that just I felt so connected to it and inspired by. Playing in the Marvel sandbox is a real privilege, and getting to work with Jeph Loeb, who’s the head of Marvel TV and was just a great creative partner in all of this. I’ll miss that little sandbox, I’ll miss my partners in this. I’m especially grateful for getting to work with the extraordinary talent I got to work with. I mean, talk about Krysten Ritter, Rachael, Carrie-Anne, Eka. And then Janet McTeer, David Tennant, Jeremy Bobb. These are great actors. Unfortunately, they set the bar so fricking high, it’s going to be a challenge to match that, to hit that bar again.
Do you think you’ll ever return to this world or this character?
I feel like Krysten and I have told the story of this version of the character. If Krysten came back, I guess I’d jump at the chance to work with her anywhere anytime. But we’re feeling like we told a really complete story and arc with this character. So, I don’t know, it would feel odd to visit it again, but never say never, certainly in the Marvel world.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Yes. I mean, for me, so much of the fun of this year was in the characters we’ve introduced for season 3, and the actors who play them. Benjamin Walker as Erik Gelden, [it’s] such a pleasure to watch him and Krysten bounce off one another. They were just perfectly matched. It’s a very new relationship for Jessica. She actually smiles, she actually laughs. There’s a banter between them, and a shared experience of the darkness of the world, which they share a gallows humor about. And then it was also Jessica’s new assistant, who is just one of my very favorites, Aneesh Sheth, who plays the sassy Gillian. And again, there’s that banter. It really is that kind of noir back and forth fun exchange that they have, and they had a really great chemistry together.
I was so bummed when Gillian disappeared in the final few episodes!
Oh, my God, you could do a spin-off on Gillian alone. We had so many more scenes that we loved, but when you start getting into production, you have to kill your children, and some of those scenes fell by the wayside, which just kills me, but had to be done. But oh, my God. And she’s such a delight to work with as well. And then Sarita Choudhury, who plays Kith, Carrie-Anne’s love interest this season, there’s such chemistry between them, and they’re both such amazing courageous bold actresses. Of course, Jeremy Bobb as Salinger, I mean, you got to love that.
The complete third and final season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available on Netflix now.
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