[Guest review from Matt White, screenwriter, twitter.com/tree_and_troll]
It’s a cliche that being a screenwriter ruins the watching experience. And it’s also untrue… mostly.
But it has changed the way that I watch TV and films, in three very specific ways:
1) I check the running time – and I can call, usually to within a couple of minutes, when something important will happen
2) I usually know why I don’t like something now…
3) I’ll forgive anything if it’s motivated. By which I mean: no matter how outrageous an action or decision is, I can happily accept it if it makes sense within the context of the character doing that thing or making that decision.
And that last change is why I thought the second series of Jessica Jones was a disappointment – but the third series was ace.
The last of the Marvel/Netflix superhero stories, Jessica Jones series three continues the tale of our reluctant super/private eye, still reeling from the events of series two: she’s mourning her Mum, she hates her “sister” Trish for killing her. And she’s still drinking and cracking wise. But, thanks to a chance encounter at a bar – leading to a scene which left me both hungry and disappointed – Jessica is facing off against a psychopath with a serious dose of resentment and a penchant for portrait photography.
Cue the usual mix of quirky establishing shots, lots of leather boots and buzzing mobile phones. Oh, and intrigue, dilemmas and dark, dark moments – plus the usual supporting crew with some very entertaining new kids. And it’s great. Not as good as the first series – which is surely an all-time classic. But far better than series two.
So what’s changed? It’s not the bad guys: the antagonists in each show have been powerful, scary and pitched just right.
No, it’s Trish. Or Patsy. Or the Masked Vigilante or whatever. Jessica’s foster-sister, former child-star turned news reporter. In series one I felt she was pitched just right: eager to do well and change the world, and way out of her depth. But as series two developed, Trish lurched into a fairly cliched spiral of drug addiction and murderous do-gooding. And some flashbacks and an amazing Rebecca De Mornay performance wasn’t enough to justify it for me: for Trish to take such a screwed-up turn felt like it needed more investment.
But in series three that investment was there, and Trish’s motivation was much stronger. I’m not going into too much detail about what she does – and why – but she plays a huge role in the series, and has a super-satisfying arc. And it’s all because the writers put the time and space into giving her the motivation.
Keep the motivation coming and you’ll keep me happy at least.