Netflix's last surviving Marvel series rolls out the red carpet for its third and final season this Friday, and when the action picks up, the eponymous heroine (Krysten Ritter) is struggling to make her mother's late wish -- to become a hero -- come true. Her friendship with Trish (Rachael Taylor) is fractured, following Trish's role in her mother's death. Jessica, for lack of a better term, is on her own. But a new villain, one without ties to Jessica's tragic past, forces her out of the shadows.
With this being the final chapter in Jessica Jones' story, season three won't focus so much on what happened in the past, but look ahead to what's possible. "Realizing it was the last of the Netflix/Marvel relationship, it was really serendipitous for all of us," creator and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg tells ET. "It’s a good time to bring this particular story to a close, so we were really able to craft an ending -- a satisfying ending -- and really feel like these three seasons are three acts of a book or a play. [This season will] tell a really rich, complete story."
Ahead of the final season, ET caught up with Rosenberg to dish on how she approached these last 13 episodes, the challenges of mending Jessica and Trish's fractured friendship and what fans can expect from the very final episode.
ET: You really put Jessica through her paces at the start of this season as she's figuring out her definition of what being a hero means for her and how she’s going to go about doing that. What did you want to accomplish with this last chapter?
Melissa Rosenberg: It’s very much a piece of a puzzle for the first two chapters. Seasons one and two were very much about Jessica facing her demons and dealing with the past trauma of her origins and family history. She’s looking inwardly and back into her past, and so it was a very natural place to come to in season three of starting to look forward. At the end of season two, her mother felt that she had the makings of a hero, and said, "Heroes eventually want to get this done." Season three is really about doing something about it. We’re looking at building a future for yourself, finding your place in the world and your contribution to the world. That’s where Jessica is when we catch up with her in season three. For all of the characters, actually.
Part of the conflict is Jessica can’t forgive Trish for killing her mother. She’s trying to not break the law in chasing these bad guys. What kind of challenges does Jessica face in her trying to manifest her mom’s wishes?
Jessica is someone who sees all facets of an issue or a person. She really doesn’t think in black and white, and good and bad. It’s about her trying to be a hero when there is no clear-cut path. Who’s good, who’s bad and what is the appropriate way to respond to it? It’s a pragmatic, grounded perspective on heroism for how she processes it. And then you have Trish, who has always seen things in black and white. She has a much more traditional way of pushing something through as a hero. It creates conflict between the two of them. It’s quite fun to explore.
Especially in the early episodes of the season, they’re not in each other’s orbits. They’re kind of in the periphery. They know the other is there, but they’re not spending time together. What was the challenge in bringing Jessica and Trish back together, as they try to reconcile their damaged relationship?
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EXCLUSIVE: 'Jessica Jones' Stars Krysten Ritter and Rachel Taylor Tease Trish's Hellcat Evolution for Season 2
It’s the primary relationship the series explores. This is the love story too. It explores all facets of a friendship, about people coming in and out of your life. It’s really an honest exploration into that kind of relationship, and it begins this season with a very strange one. Jessica, as she’s trying to step into this role of hero, not knowing what is right or wrong, good or bad, she misses Trish who has been, up until now, her moral compass. So she's feeling at sea without Trish and yet, can’t forgive her. And Trish finally has powers. Who’s the one person that could figure that out? You see longing on both sides of that relationship, and when they finally are able to get together, they have to redefine their roles in that friendship.
Is that friendship forever changed?
It will never be the same and neither will they. Those who have taken a life, that changes who you are and affects them in different ways. Jessica really has to have an honest look at her relationship with her mother and realize that her mother, quite frankly, was a monster. There are a lot of questions she has, so there are shades of grey.
The big bads in the first two seasons were deeply rooted in Jessica’s past and they were her demons. In season three, the main villain, Salinger, has no connection to her at all, just that he’s aware of who Jessica is. What was the thinking behind introducing a character like that and having him be a formidable foe?
This is the result of Jessica stepping into her own as a hero. In the past, Salinger had nothing to do with her. Because she’s really trying to own this hero role, and this character literally shows up on her doorstep, she takes it on. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a hero. There’s always this question, “This is what I’m supposed to do, right?” In facing him, she has to handle it in a very new way for her, which is so much fun for this particular villain. He’s not powered. When you have a super-powered villain and you’re super-powered, the rules don’t apply to you. You can beat this guy up and throw him across the city and do whatever you want. When you’re dealing with a civilian who knows how to work the system, you are now dealing with real-world issues. You can’t just walk up to someone and smash them in the face and get them to confess. She’s really having to dig into a different tool box to deal with him. It’s fun to watch her stretch and she makes so many mistakes.
I’ve never seen Jessica stumble like she has this season, and I suppose that’s where Trish comes into play. She needs somebody's help.
Yeah, she needs help. I mean, she eventually needs help, and Trish jumps in. You get to have this moment of them as a team, which is super fun.
Benjamin Walker joins the season as Erik and I'm not completely sure if we're supposed to be wary of him. Is he a bad guy? Is he good-ish?
He’s a very complicated character, and Ben Walker, what a dream to work with he was. He was just so good, funny -- all of it. What he adds in a time when Jessica is trying to figure out how to be a hero, here is a character who comes along who knows exactly who’s bad and good. This is no question, he knows. So there’s this hope in meeting him that, This could make my job. This could cement for me, this thing I’m trying to do. I could do it with this guy. But the guy is pretty untrustworthy. It’s always going to be a complicated, interesting relationship with Jessica. Erik is the perfect person to walk in her door at that moment, but he brings a lot of baggage.
Last season, Jeri's ALS diagnosis was introduced. In the early going this year, the physical manifestations of her ALS progresses in a significant way. She knows death is just around the corner. Where is she at mentally and emotionally at the start of the season?
We apply that same theme of looking towards the future and finding one’s place in the world, one’s contribution and building a future, here. Jeri knows exactly what her future is, so she’s trying to create something for herself. She’s trying to have some say, some control over that. We begin with her, for the first time, really experiencing what that is. The reality smacks her in the face, so there begins a much more urgent pursuit of a plan for herself. She’s got two tracks going: One is about wanting to leave a legacy. There are urges behind that that might not have always been there. The other side of it is her not trying to die alone, wanting to find support and love for herself and digging back into a very old relationship in hopes something is there. And it turns out, there is.
Jeri has several balls in the air and it's fascinating how she’s juggling different truths she’s put into her head.
One of the things about her character this season is that the wheels are coming off the track a little bit. She is trying to push forward so fast. She’s making some moves she might not have realized she made moving forward on this. The other fun thing we get to see for her this season is we get to see more of her backstory because of her relationship with Jess and the person who has come back into her life.
In terms of tying things up on Jessica Jones, part of its DNA is that nothing is truly wrapped up in a bow. Is that a similar feeling you’re going to be leaving viewers at the end of this season?
Absolutely. We were able to put some closure to the three seasons. It feels like a really satisfying ending for all of the characters. I can tell you she’s probably not going to have a nice picket fence and two kids and a station wagon. It’s not that nice. We really bring each character to a satisfying close at the end, a very honest love.
Do you think Jessica reaches the goal of being a hero at the end of the show? Is that an ongoing internal struggle she will always have?
I don’t think in reality... do we ever arrive? Personally, have I arrived? What does that mean when I arrive? Do I just stop? Life is always evolving and I think Jessica Jones will always be evolving as well.