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'Jessica Jones' loses power in slow-moving second season

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Krysten Ritter in 'Marvel's Jessica Jones' Krysten Ritter in 'Marvel's Jessica Jones'
By Brian Lowry CNN

(CNN) -- "Marvel's Jessica Jones" brought a cool, film-noir-ish vibe to its first season, casting Krysten Ritter as the perpetually surly detective, whose superpowers are as much a curse as a blessing. The second, alas, grinds along so slowly as to significantly blunt its appeal, feeling less connected to its comic-book origins and more like an ABC drama where the protagonist occasionally puts her fist through a wall.

Granted, these Marvel series for Netflix are known for their slow burns, offering a grittier, darker, more realistic take on the company's sprawling cinematic universe. They are positioned as the anti-superhero shows thanks to their tone, and not merely because the title players tend to walk around in jeans and hoodies.

Even so, where the first flight of "Jessica Jones" steadily built toward something -- her inevitable faceoff with the mind-manipulating villain Kilgrave, incorporating a strong underlying streak about women dealing with the trauma of having been victimized that anticipated the #MeToo moment -- relatively little happens during the first five episodes of season two.

Instead, Jessica embarks on a slow-moving quest to ascertain how she became the way she is. The problem is that the notion of a tormented superhero searching to grasp his or her identity is by now a familiar construct, having served as the Adamantium spine of Wolverine's cinematic biography, for one, in the "X-Men" movies and sundry spinoffs.

Oh sure, there are subplots, including one involving Jessica's sister Trish (Rachael Taylor). But that plays more like a drop-in from a different series, while lacking much stand-alone heft and falling short in terms of helping inform what's going in with the main character as she grapples with the fallout from being publicly branded a super-powered menace.

The program does offer some promise with its new-character additions, including British actress Janet McTeer as a woman who holds clues about Jessica's past. Yet again, patience will be required to see whether those assets -- despite flashes of action and hints of larger revelations -- begin to coalesce.

The result, initially, drops "Jessica Jones" from the top tier into the shallower end of the Marvel-Netflix gene pool, joining "Iron Fist" and "The Punisher." At the very least, it feels like the producers are trying to tease out about six hours worth of story over 13, counting on binge-happy viewers to stick with them.

There's nothing wrong with exploring the more mundane aspects of hero-hood, and Ritter remains a compelling presence. Somehow, though, "Jessica Jones'" second season has managed to take its intriguing heroine and make her, well, kind of boring.

"Marvel's Jessica Jones" premieres March 8 on Netflix.

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