JESSICA JONES is, at its core, a show crafted to focus on trauma. It only makes sense, moving forward into the second season, that there are characters outside of Jessica deal with trauma. Trish is the biggest example of this in season two. Uncovering her backstory lets Trish exist as more than just a “stable” person for Jessica to lean on.

However, the way this season handles her trauma and addiction didn’t feel right, and probably shouldn’t sit right with the viewer. Especially considering people hold the show’s first season in high regard for how it handles issues of rape culture and trauma. I’m happy Trish is getting more backstory and gets to be more than just the stable, functional adult in the series. At the same time, it seemed like JESSICA JONES could’ve handled it better.

Trish and Her Role in JESSICA JONES

It’s not that Trish was flat in season 1 — far from it. Trish in season 1 is one of the main reasons we get to see Jessica’s softer side. A lot of the scenes that make Jessica seem like she really is a hero tie back to her. On top of that, we do see hints of Trish’s struggles in life — usually in flashbacks that center around Jessica, though.

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Season 2 seems to finally let Trish exist outside of Jessica. JESSICA JONES season 2 shows us Trish without showing it through Jessica’s eyes. The show shows us a few of her issues when it comes to her abusive mother and her childhood stardom in season 1, but mostly from Jessica’s perspective. She’s no longer just a pillar to hold up Jessica in this season. She’s a woman dealing with her own past of sexual assault, actively grappling with drug addiction, and still struggling with her relationship with her abusive parent.

Trish trauma
Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

JESSICA JONES is not a show to shy away from difficult topics — they break out what is essentially a tragic backstory in full force. At first, I was super excited for that. The idea of showing Trish as someone with her own struggles and her own trauma instead of the held-together “opposite” of Jessica felt more realistic and genuine to her character. Sadly, my excitement died pretty quickly, due to a few specific reasons.

Storytelling Issues

JESSICA JONES isn’t a story with a reliable narrator. However, I think the show itself sometimes forgets that unreliability can’t stand on its own. When it comes to the stance the show wants the audience to take, things get a bit muddled. Sometimes things even get muddled with what the stance of the characters is. This problem cropped up quite a bit with the narrative surrounding Trish’s sexual assault.

In season 2 we find out more about Trish’s life as a childhood celebrity — including the fact that she was raped at 15 by a director named Max. The director is shown as still actively working on movies, typically with young women or teenage girls. There’s no question that Max is a terrible person. That’s not the problem here. The problem lies in how society otherwise informs our interpretations of sexual assault.

Trish trauma
Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

Firstly, Trish is dealing with some serious issues with shame and victim blaming. This season never fully addresses these issues. While she does verbally express that she knows it was Max’s fault and that she couldn’t consent as a 15-year-old, she clearly still has issues with blaming herself. She approaches the whole situation with Max clearly ashamed of her involvement, despite the fact that she was a victim.

Secondly, the people in her life seem insensitive to her suffering. Is there a point, really, in fleshing out her past and past trauma if her support group is going to be non-existent? In JESSICA JONES season 1, one of the most meaningful things was that Jessica had people in her life that would be there for her as she struggled. Doesn’t Trish deserve the same? Season 2 seemed to miss the memo.

Guilt Complexes and Trauma

It’s understandable that in a world where rape culture is incredibly powerful that a woman like Trish Walker would internalize a lot of shame over her assault. I don’ think it’s unrealistic that JESSICA JONES portrays Trish as ashamed of the fact that Max raped her when she was a child. Factoring in her status as a high profile celebrity with a somewhat tarnished reputation, and that Trish was assaulted by Max to garner a leading role… it’s all too understandable.

However, the guilt that Trish is carrying is never challenged or assuaged. People threatening or injuring Max doesn’t help Trish deal with the side-effects of her trauma that exist in her own head. Trish is able to state out loud that she, as a 15-year-old, couldn’t consent. However, she clearly still struggles with letting herself accept this idea. When she asks Malcolm to film her speaking with Max, she specifically asks not to be judged — as if it could have possibly been her fault that this happened to her.

Trish trauma
Trish specifically says “You’re gonna hear some things about me that I don’t want to talk about after today.” On some level, she sees this as her fault. Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

We’re told that Trish is working with therapists. However, no one on the show actively tackles her self-blame issues. Malcolm is the only one this season who seems to try to comfort Trish at all — even then, there’s not much when it comes to addressing the fact that she’s ashamed of what Max did. The show doesn’t use her guilt to form a narrative of healing, which feels decidedly uncomfortable. Trish sees the fact that she was raped as something she needs to hide — and JESSICA JONES never really contests that.

Support Groups — or Lack Thereof

The two people in Trish’s life that we’re meant to honestly believe are there for her — Jessica and Malcolm — seem to majorly drop the ball. Even when it comes to her relapse, something Malcolm is frighteningly familiar with, Malcolm doesn’t seem to actually tackle the situation. It seems like this entire season we see Trish suffering because of her trauma and essentially floundering…and no one shows up to catch her.

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Even before everything goes south towards the end of the season, Jessica’s relationship with Trish feels off. Despite seeing flashbacks where Jessica helps Trish face her addiction head-on, Jessica seems majorly clueless about her relapse. Not to mention that Jessica’s typical crass personality feels oddly cruel towards Trish in this season. While a jab about Trish making too many bad decisions with her vagina might’ve been funny in season 1, it’s uncomfortable now that the audience knows she was raped at 15.

Trish trauma
The only time Trish’s and Jessica’s relationship feels as solid and meaningful as it was in season 1 is in a flashback. Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

It’s uncomfortable to see Trish as a full human being with trauma and emotional issues only to see her get shafted by her friends. It’s one of my largest sources of discomfort with this season. We’re not just seeing her deal with her past and present addictions, grapple with her status as a survivor of rape and deal with the abusive influences in her life. That makes for a compelling story. It’s seeing Trish deal with these things alone, without the show grounding us in something positive or giving a real solution that feels like a punch in the gut.

Dorothy Walker

I was already uncomfortable with the stance JESSICA JONES takes (or rather, doesn’t take) with Dorothy in season 1, honestly. Dorothy being brought back into Trish’s life when we know Dorothy was actively abusing her in her childhood is incredibly uncomfortable. Season 2 turns this up to 11 — we see Dorothy a lot.

It feels incredibly uncomfortable that she is trying to “rebuild” a relationship with Dorothy. Dorothy only seems to care about Trish’s struggle with addiction because it’s making her look bad. Nothing about Dorothy has changed — especially not her emotional abuse of her daughter.

Hands-down, the worst thing about Dorothy this season are the things she says to Trish about Max. The show told us, the audience, that Dorothy was essentially “pimping out” her daughter to Max. This only makes it worse that Dorothy accuses her of going to see Max for sex. Then, when she slaps Dorothy for saying something so revolting, the show frames it as if Trish is in the wrong.

Trish trauma
Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

It’d be one thing to feel bad knowing that she wasn’t necessarily in her right mind and lashed out violently at her mother because of it. It’s another thing entirely to expect me (or any other audience member) to feel bad for Dorothy. Especially after she implied Trish went to sleep with the man who raped her when she was 15.

Even if Dorothy had been a perfect mother up to this point, that comment was hateful and downright evil. I was incredibly angry that the show wanted me to think Trish had done the wrong thing in that situation. That was probably the final straw for me. That scene made me realize how horribly this season was handling Trish’s trauma.

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How to Fix This

It’s a bit late to take back season 2 of JESSICA JONES. It already exists — it’s out in the world, flaws and all. However, if JESSICA JONES gets a season 3, there is a chance to reverse the damage. The first step, in my opinion, would be to form a stronger stance on Dorothy.

Seeing that Jessica hates her simply isn’t enough when we sit through narratives of Jessica and Trish “needing” her. Especially when the show typically presents the idea of Trish “needing” Dorothy in line with her coping with her trauma. Having her regularly return to her abuser for “help” her simply doesn’t work.

Trish trauma
Courtesy of Marvel & Netflix Entertainment.

JESSICA JONES needs to be more mindful of the actions of the characters towards each other. Jessica’s rude, matter-of-fact attitude wasn’t as much of an issue in season 1. However, when you pair that characteristic with Trish genuinely struggling, it simply feels mean. It makes sense for Malcolm to want to avoid a situation that will expose him to drugs. However, he doesn’t seem to try and help other than a few somewhat patronizing lectures. Characters (and real people) change their actions situationally. JESSICA JONES needs to keep that in mind.

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JESSICA JONES has its heart in the right place as a show. Wanting to discuss addiction and wanting to discuss rape culture’s relation to statutory rape and Hollywood-related rape cases make sense. In fact, done well, these things could be amazing. JESSICA JONES still has a chance to move forward and fix these issues.

They have a chance to have Jessica and Trish make amends. They have a chance to show Trish actually coping, and having a loving support group. I only hope they’re able to take advantage of that chance.

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