Thursday, March 15, 2018

Assorted Musings - 3/15/2018 Edition

By Jerry Chandler

Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones just had its second season drop in full last weekend. No matter your opinion on the first season, the second season is worth a look. There be some spoilers ahead. 

The first season of Jessica Jones was a bit of a letdown for me as a fan of the Marvel Netflix and television properties, and this was largely due to the villain and the season arc. More and more in fandom we were hearing of late from some groups charging (amongst other charges) that male written/run books and shows do the female heroes and protagonists wrong. An often heard complaint is that male heroes get generally worthy advisories that give the hero various reasons to face off against them, but far too often the female heroes/protagonists get the crazy stalker ex-relationship type who may also have abused or raped them in the past. It was a charge I didn’t entirely disagree with, and it was a plotline I was tiring of seeing almost as much as the vocal critics of it claimed to be tiring of it.

As such, I was looking forward to seeing where series creator Melissa Rosenberg was going to take Jessica Jones. A lot was made about the series having a female showrunner and a large number of female writers and directors and this giving us a new look how to do female superheroes. While early announcements about the series had identified Zebediah Killgrave as a character for the show, the character’s early comic book ties to Daredevil could have meant that this Killgrave might be based on the character before he mind-controlled Jones and treated her like a sex abuse toy for the better part of a year.

As such, especially having long gotten tired of short story arcs or one or two episodes of abusive ex from the past stories, it was a bit disappointing to have the entire season be about Killgrave having in the past controlled her and emotionally and sexually abused her before stalking her in the present day to essentially get back together with her. The overall result was my losing interest in the series in fairly short order and not being particularly impressed with it.

However, I liked where they seemed to be moving the character in The Defenders, and the death of Killgrave in season one meant that he wasn’t going to be a dominant presence in season two. So I decided to give the new season a look. I’m glad I did. The second season of Jessica Jones is easily the best single season of a Marvel Netflix show since the first season of Daredevil.

The second season does an excellent job of both diving into Jessica’s past and expanding the world of Jessica Jones for future seasons. We get to see what made Jessica a superhuman, and we meet the man who did it as well as Jessica’s mother. The parallel to having Trish Walker’s mother on hand shows how both women have an ultimately more damaging relationship with their mothers, and the interactions they each have with and around the other’s mother serves to separate the two of them by the end of the season. Well, Trish herself doesn’t help matters on that score…

By the end of the season, many of Jessica’s wounds- physical, emotional, mental -have been laid bare for the viewer to see, and they’ve caused her to drive everyone away from her, Hogarth is striking out on her own with a new crew that’s partly made out of Jessica’s old one, and Trish is a lot closer to being her superhero persona. Everything is in place to make season three a very impressive affair.

If you liked the first season, you’ve likely already seen the second season. If you were like me and found the first season to be less than it could have been, you should go ahead and give the second season a look.

Dear Undertaker,

Just say no.

For wrestling fans, this week puts us well into the last stretch of the road to WrestleMania. We last saw Undertaker in a WWE ring as an active performer (not counting a quick appearance on the anniversary Raw show) at WrestleMania 33. He and Roman Reigns ended the show in a match that was widely believed before the big event to be Undertaker’s last match. That was a belief that many felt was a reality after the match when Undertaker placed his hat, gloves, and coat in the middle of the ring, broke character outside of the ring when he embraced his wife, and then went up the ramp and disappeared.

The belief among wrestling fans was that we’d seen Undertaker’s retirement match and watched his last dance in the squared circle. Another belief among wrestling fans was that he was overdue for a retirement match. While he had been working as a limited appearance, special attraction wrestler for a good while before this, it was becoming obvious that time and injuries had been having an effect on his ability to perform in the ring. Plus, well, the company had decided to end The Streak prior to this by having Brock beat him at Mania, so some of the WrestleMania mystique of the character was gone.

Even though he went out on his shield in the match, there were many that were happy to see him go out in a match where he could still perform at a higher level. But there were rumors floating around the wrestling world that this wasn’t the match that Taker wanted as his last match. Supposedly, as the rumors went, he wanted to have his last dance at WrestleMania with John Cena, but, being a longtime company man, he agreed to put over the man the company wanted to give a boost to.

So here we are a year later and four weeks before WrestleMania we have John Cena trying to find his path to WrestleMania by calling out the Undertaker for one more match on the grandest stage of them all. It came across as a bad idea on many levels.

The first issue was Cena’s pitch for the match. They have a wrestler who has been for weeks now desperately trying to get his spot on the Mania card and failing to do so calling another (presumably retired) wrestler an egomaniac for not coming out of retirement and giving him a spot at WrestleMania by agreeing to wrestle him. His promo boiled down to proclaiming that since he has failed to earn a spot on the card after multiple attempts, the other guy better agree to help him get a spot by coming out of retirement and wrestling him or else the other guy is an ass and an egomaniac. But the takeaway from the promo- the basic vibe of it -makes Cena look like an egomaniac for not simply accepting the fact that he didn’t cut it for this year’s Mania. It wasn’t a great sell of a promo.

The bigger issue is that Taker should probably not be in the ring in four weeks. His career was taking a toll on him before, and now it’s a year later. He hasn’t wrestled in a year, he’s undergone several surgeries, and he’s gotten a year older. Yes, I keep hammering away on the year older thing. Why? Because Father Time is a bastard and he hits all of us harder than we sometimes want to admit.

I don’t want to see one more match with a slower Undertaker. I also don’t need to see another match. We were given a huge WrestleMania moment last year after that match. Trying to play it over again will just tarnish that and likely not come off as well in and of itself. Stay retired, give us an amazing career retrospective, and enjoy retirement.

Black Panther is getting a lot of positive buzz, and the various aspects of the Wakandan culture created in the film is making its way out into the real world as a result of the film’s amazing success and popularity. Good for the film and the people behind it. In the meantime, Back Lightning is chugging along on the CW almost being ignored by many of the same people praising Black Panther. I realize this is to some degree due to the amazing abilities of the Disney/Marvel promotional machine, but Black Lightning definitely deserves more love than it’s getting, and, frankly, for me, the characters and the world they inhabits are far more interesting than the ones we saw in Black Panther.

The series can be seen on the CW’s Roku app, and I’m sure other sources. Sit down and binge much of the first season so far. You’ll enjoy it.

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. When not wasting too much time on social media, he can be found writing regularly here at Needless Things, but has also written for websites like Gruesome Magazine as well as remembering to put up the occasional musings on his on blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, Decades of Horror, and the Subject Matter. He has also recently become a regular cohost of The Assignment: Horror Podcast

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