JESSICA JONES’ first season introduced a cast of memorable characters, ranging from Jessica’s wannabe superhero best friend Trish Walker, to her amoral attorney/employer Jerri Hogarth. But let’s face it, the true centerpiece of season one was Kilgrave. Part of what made Kilgrave so great as a villain was that he and Jessica were total opposites in their personal philosophies on being superhuman.

Throughout the series, Jessica keeps people at a distance because she’s afraid of her powers hurting them. Kilgrave, on the other hand, has powers that allow him to use people directly, despite his sociopathic lack of empathy. It’s telling that in season two when Jessica accidentally kills someone, her guilt even manifests itself as hallucinations of Kilgrave.

Trish Walker Actually Jessica Jones and Kilgrave
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Thus, it makes sense that season two didn’t try to one-up Kilgrave by creating a newer eviler villain. Instead, we get Jessica’s mother Alisa, who supposedly died in an accident but came back to life. Alisa is stronger and far more unstable than Jessica, which complicates things when she tries to reconnect with her daughter. This results in a compelling tragedy that pits Jessica’s desire for familial connections against her innate responsibility to protect people.

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Where’s The Action?

Still, if you’re a lowbrow superhero junkie like me, Jessica hunting down Kilgrave did have a certain urgency to it. But there’s no need for a Kilgrave replacement to keep things tense. Sure, Jessica’s arch-nemesis died in season one, but in season two, Alisa’s arch-nemesis literally ended up murdering her in front of her daughter.

In season one, Trish Walker was a goody-two-shoes radio host who actively encouraged Jessica into becoming a morally upright hero. So, it was a bit of a surprise in season two to see Trish get addicted to experimental combat enhancers. It was especially surprising to see her destroy her personal and professional relationships. And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Trish ends up killing Jessica’s mother right in front of her.

Trish Walker
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The New Trish Walker

Obviously, Trish went into some pretty dark places this season. But does this shift in characterization work?

Well… it sort of does. At the start of season two, Trish is investigating IGH, the shady medical company responsible for Jessica’s powers. From there, a variety of inconveniences and screw-ups ensue. There’s a failed grandiose marriage proposal. Then, there’s an awkward attempt at blackmailing a predatory movie director. Afterward, Jessica’s mother kills off possible leads for the IGH investigation.

Also, Trish is broadcasting this investigation on her radio show Trish Talk. However, it seems her viewers and producers want Trish Talk to focus on lighthearted lifestyle topics instead of investigative journalism. So, Trish feels like she’s got something to prove, which is when she comes across mood altering super-soldier drugs. Her luck gets worse from there.

Trish Walker
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

But while her motivations make sense, Trish Walker’s sudden shift in characterization still seems somewhat undercooked.

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Let’s Talk About Trish Talk

When Trish quits Trish Talk later in the season, she goes on a rant about the show is nothing but vapid meaningless fluff that distracts the masses from the horrors going on around them. Which it is a bit odd, since only a few episodes ago, Trish was using Trish Talk to report on IGH’s illegal secret superhuman experiments.

Apparently, she got pretty close to the truth: former IGH victims were trying to reach out to her, and Alisa felt nervous enough about Trish’s investigation to the point where she started killing off possible leads. Despite all that, Trish still ends up totally denouncing the show.

Trish Walker
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

I think the Trish Talk rant does a pretty good job of demonstrating why Trish’s subplot doesn’t quite work. Trish certainly has reasons to be frustrated with Trish Talk, but it’s not enough to denounce the show entirely. Throughout season two, there are a lot of moments like that, where Trish has reason to be upset but it isn’t quite drastic enough to match the change in her character.

For instance, it’s understandable why Trish got addicted to super soldier drugs, but it’s not enough to justify the sheer selfishness of what happens later in the season when Trish kidnaps the man who illegally experimented on Jessica and Alisa so that she could get superpowers as well.

To be clear, I’m not saying that Trish denouncing Trish Talk and kidnapping Dr. Malus shouldn’t have happened. It’s just that given how stable and supportive Trish was in season one, season two needed to do a lot more to convincingly knock that down. Which brings me to Alisa.

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Trish Walker Versus Alisa Jones

While Trish was off having a meltdown on her own, Jessica was getting chummy with her mother Alisa, who in several ways, is Trish’s perfect foil:

Alisa is Jessica’s long-lost mother who’s trying to reconnect with her. Trish is Jessica’s closest family-like figure. Alisa started out in season 2 as a volatile monster-like figure but becomes more sympathetic and stable by the end of the season. Trish starts out as a morally upstanding and reliable ally to Jessica but becomes more selfish and erratic as the season goes on. In terms of ability, Alisa is more or less a stronger version of her daughter. Trish, on the other hand, is a normal human being who has always been a bit envious of Jessica’s powers.

Trish Walker
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Most tellingly of all, Jessica has often stepped in to defend Trish against Trish’s abusive mother. Yet Trish isn’t able to do anything about Jessica and Alisa’s relationship until she kills Alisa at the end of the season.

And even if the parallels weren’t as obvious, it’s still an interesting situation to put Trish Walker in: on top of all the other personal and private issues she has to deal with, her best friend/sister-figure is being taken away from her by a powerful superhuman who she thinks is an unstable murderer.

Given Trish’s longstanding insecurity about her seeming powerlessness, it’s clear how a situation like that could drive Trish to the brink, and makes it more understandable why she acts so selfishly in the name of attaining power later in the season. Given that there are about thirteen hours per season for the show to pad out, you’d think they would have room for something like that, while still keeping the rest intact.

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Plot Points Going Nowhere

Well, in total, Trish and Alisa only had about two major moments with each other. There was the time where Trish visited Alisa in prison so she could try to find out where Dr. Malus was. The conflicts I brought up earlier, like Alisa wanting her daughter for herself, and Trish’s envy of Jessica’s powers, are touched on, which is nice. Then there was the time Trish shot Alisa in the head while she was having a heart-to-heart talk with her daughter. Other than that though, the two of them barely interacted.

Trish Walker
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Obviously, I think season two should’ve done more with that. There was a considerable amount of time dedicated to things that ultimately didn’t amount to anything, like the prolonged focus on Griffin and Trish’s romantic relationship, or when Jessica broke into Robert Coleman(AKA The Whizzer)’s apartment to try and find his pet mongoose.

I mean, it was good to get some closure on The Whizzer. But if we have to pad things out, maybe Trish and Alisa could meet more than once, instead of just calling each other out in a single jail cell visit.

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A Missed Opportunity

Trish’s relationship with Alisa would have helped complement Trish’s feelings of powerlessness and her integration within the main plot. Malcolm and Jerri might be able to get away with doing their own thing. But even after shooting Alisa, Trish is still Jessica’s closest ally.

This is especially relevant since Trish Walker might be the next MCU superhero. If that’s the case, building up her enmity with Alisa could’ve been a great opportunity for a superhero trial run. With Alisa as the “supervillain”, Trish could demonstrate what her approach is when dealing with supervillains by herself. At the very least, we would get to see how Trish views superhumans outside of her dealings with Jessica.

However, none of that was there. So it just seemed like Trish acted out of self-centered insecurity and her addiction to power-enhancing drugs. Now, I don’t think fictional characters, even ones in superhero shows, need to be morally perfect at all times. Trish does have a history of drug addiction, after all. Given everything she’s been through, it makes sense that she would fall back into bad habits.

But in season one, Trish Walker was Jessica’s most stalwart ally. Sure, her backstory lends her towards self-centered drug addiction and extreme superpower envy. But it’s still a drastic departure that the series never convincingly portrays as consistent with her character. At the very least, you shouldn’t be keeping her away from another character who could actually help justify those changes. 

2 Comments

  1. ljones1966

    August 14, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    When Trish quits Trish Talk later in the season, she goes on a rant about the show is nothing but vapid meaningless fluff that distracts the masses from the horrors going on around them. Which it is a bit odd, since only a few episodes ago, Trish was using Trish Talk to report on IGH’s illegal secret superhuman experiments.

    Why was Trish’s rant strange to you, when you had earlier pointed out that her producers and audience wanted her to cease talking about the IGH and go back to reporting lighthearted topics? And this is why I found this criticism of your . . .

    Trish certainly has reasons to be frustrated with Trish Talk, but it’s not enough to denounce the show entirely.

    . . . rather confusing.

    Reply

    • Chris Zhang

      August 20, 2018 at 4:04 pm

      In hindsight, I realize I definitely could’ve phrased that better. What I meant to say was this: on paper, it seems like it would make sense that Trish would denounce Trish Talk, since she’s hopped up on Super-soldier drugs and her producers/audience clearly want her to stop doing the investigative journalism she’s passionate about.

      However, while those reasons may make sense on paper, the show’s execution of these plot points doesn’t quite work. In both seasons 1 and 2, most of what we see of Trish Talk is dedicated to serious investigative journalism. In season 1, Trish uses Trish Talk to help Jones in her fight against Kilgrave, and even has an interview with murder convict Hope Schlottman, which isn’t treated as a totally out-of-the-ordinary thing for Trish Talk. In season 2, Trish mainly uses Trish Talk for her IGH investigation before she has her meltdown. So, when we get the news that her producers/audience wants Trish to go back to doing lighthearted topics, it kinda comes out of nowhere. Up until that point, Trish Talk was portrayed as a platform that could regularly be used for serious journalism, so the fact that most of her listeners are there for lighthearted topics doesn’t really gel with what we’ve seen so far, and it just seems like a contrived out-of-nowhere plot point to get Trish to destroy her livelihood.

      Reply

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