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In a World of Complicated Female Friendships, Jessica Jones Offers True Growth

Jessica and Trish could potentially come out stronger than ever in Season 3

Kaitlin Thomas

The character of Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) was a pleasant surprise in the first season of Marvel's Jessica Jones. More than just eye candy or a stereotypical sidekick to the show's titular powered private eye played by Krysten Ritter, Trish was revealed to be a capable and confident woman before she aided Jessica in ridding the world of Kilgrave's (David Tennant) evil.

By the end of the show's second season, however, fans were left questioning how Trish, whose storyline followed her laser-focused quest to become powered -- disguised as a desire to help Jessica investigate how she got her own powers, of course -- could have unraveled so spectacularly that the two women were no longer friends by season's end. But there exists the possibility that both Jessica and Trish might come out the other side of this stronger and better than they were before, and if that's true, we might be able to forgive what was an unsatisfying resolution of the show's central relationship in its sophomore outing.

Jessica Jones is, among other things, the story of two women and how they overcome their differences and insecurities to better each other. For this reason, there was more pressure to develop Trish's character than either Eka Darville's Malcolm or Carrie-Anne Moss' Jeri in Season 2. Adding to that pressure is also the fact that in the comics, Trish is a superhero in her own right; known as Hellcat, she has enhanced physical prowess, and many fans were hoping -- or at least expecting -- to see her come into these powers this season. But according to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, it was first imperative to create a compelling and well-rounded character.

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"The best friend role is always a very thankless job. There's not a lot of story to play with in any sort of best friend who's just there to be a sounding board for the lead. So, it was extremely important that we build a character for Trish that has her own drive, her own agency," she says. "She's pushing story -- her own story as well as Jessica's -- and that makes her a really rich [character]."


Rachael Taylor, Marvel's Jessica Jones


Not only was there pressure to further develop Trish as a character heading into Season 2, but there is also a dearth of female friendships on TV, and Jessica and Trish's relationship is one of few portrayed as being imperfect with both compassion and brutal honesty. Trish's not-so-gentle nudges early in the season -- punctuated by giving Jessica the ashes of her deceased family members -- were meant to push Jessica into action to find out the truth about how she got her powers. However, her actions quickly turned into obvious jealousy over a desire to be able to do what Jessica wasn't quite willing to do: embrace her role as a superhero. Her aspirations of being more than just a former child star or the host of a lifestyle and news radio program hinted at a deeply personal arc for a woman who from the outside seemed to have every measure of success, but on the inside yearned for a sense of purpose.

"Trish has always had everything. She has it all. She's got talent, looks, fame, success, social grace. People like her. She has everything Jessica doesn't," says Rosenberg. "The one thing she doesn't have is what Jessica has, which is power."

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This desire for power, which stems from both a fear of being vulnerable and a deep desire to help people, eventually put Trish in a position of working against Jessica rather than in tandem with her. The enhancement inhaler left behind by Simpson (Wil Traval) was the easy fix for her perceived inadequacies, and not even knowing what it did to Simpson could stop her from putting it to use. The power it gave her was just as addicting as any drug she'd ever taken, and as a result she made poor decision after poor decision, nearly bringing Malcolm, a former addict trying to start over, down with her.

It was heartbreaking to watch, not just because Trish is a promising character with a bright comic book future, but because the show was falling victim to a very familiar problem: pitting women against one another. Which is why it was refreshing to see that, even as Trish spiraled out of control, Jessica -- in the midst of her own personal crisis after her mother Alisa's (Janet McTeer) sudden return to her life -- refused to completely abandon her best friend. She saved Trish when she nearly died from a procedure similar to the ones that gave both Jessica and her mother their own abilities, but once Trish shot Jessica's mother in the finale following one of Alisa's rage episodes, the odds of ever repairing their fractured relationship fell to an all-time low.


Rachael Taylor and Krysten Ritter, Marvel's Jessica Jones


One could argue Trish's actions were done out of love for Jessica -- the latter was never going to be able to do what needed to be done when it came to her mother -- but the string of rash decisions Trish made throughout the season certainly put her judgment into question. And yet, the fact that Trish was even afforded the opportunity to grow and make mistakes at all is evidence of one of Jessica Jones' greatest strengths: its willingness to go places and tell stories that aren't necessarily easy or comfortable. Still, it's a shame that for Trish to gain powers and finally become Hellcat, she had to, at least temporarily, lose something else in return: her friendship with Jessica. And yet, that also falls in line with what we know about the show.

Jessica Jones regularly gives women the freedom to be flawed individuals and to have diverging desires. It also give them the opportunity to be angry, to fall in love, to feel conflicting emotions at once. They're not limited to being one thing or another. And Jessica and Trish disagreeing or choosing to take different paths as they grow and age is a great example of this. The series has shown us time and again that they've disagreed often throughout the tenure of their relationship, but they always eventually reconcile because they need each other. And so although Trish's relationship with Jessica is currently in shambles, and although the chasm between them is the largest one they've come to yet, their relationship is likely not completely beyond repair.

"I love that we get to bring a version of female friendship to the screen that is not always perfect. It's not this kind of sanitized version of friendship either, it's complicated, it's messy," notes Rachael Taylor, who plays Trish. "I am really proud that the friendship is, I think, the centerpiece emotionally of the show."

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Being that centerpiece has traditionally meant that Trish has always been Jessica's moral compass, guiding her and supporting her when she enters a gray area. In return, Jessica has always been Trish's fiercest protector. As the season wore on and the two drifted apart and became embedded within their own personal journeys, they still managed to help one another indirectly: Jessica was forced to become her own moral compass while Trish learned there are always consequences for your actions.


Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor, Marvel's Jessica Jones


Until now, Trish has largely only witnessed second-hand the risks and the burden having powers placed upon Jessica's shoulders. She thought being powerless made her vulnerable, but there's a larger target on her back now than there ever was when she was just Patsy Walker or the singer of the pop hit "I Want Ya Cray Cray." Although there there will likely be animosity between Trish and Jessica if/when the show returns for its third season, it's equally likely that Jessica will still be there when Trish needs her -- and it will be mean more because of what they've been through.

Despite what little character growth both women may have had this season, neither can truly move forward on her personal journey without the other. It will always come back to Trish for Jessica and it will always come back to Jessica for Trish. So disappointed fans who've maybe been let down by this latest obstacle in their path, or let down by an uneven season, should look forward to what could be -- hopefully will be -- an equally complicated but emotionally fulfilling resolution next season.

Marvel's Jessica Jones' second season is now streaming on Netflix.