After a less than stellar second episode, Marvel’s Jessica Jones rebounds…then falters again.
Let’s bitch it out…
1×02 ‘AKA It’s Called Whiskey’
After a dip in quality with episode 2, ‘AKA It’s Called Whiskey’ course corrects to become the best episode since the premiere simply because it ups the stakes dramatically. Not only do we finally get to see Jessica (Krysten Ritter) and Kilgrave (David Tennant) meet face to face, the stakes are upped immeasurably when Kilgrave targets Trish (Rachael Taylor) for assassination after she insults him on-air.
If ‘AKA Crush Syndrome’ put too much focus on the mechanics of the case, episode three manages to reintroduce the character work of the premiere without losing sight of the plot. It helps that the darkness swirling around Kilgrave and his powers are off-set by a healthy dose of positivity in the form of Jessica’s burgeoning relationship with Luke and a doubling down on her friendship with Trish. Whereas before Trish seemed like an overbearing maternal figure, by fleshing out her backstory a little and reinforcing how much she and Jessica care about each other, the writers make Trish three dimensional. Their friendship has a lived-in feeling, which makes little scenes like Trish showing off her new self-defense skills on a surprised and mildly-winded Jessica resonate that much more.
Winded is a good way to describe how Jessica’s relationship with Luke is advancing. After their awkward sexual encounter in the pilot, Jessica and Luke come clean about their abilities and the results are electric. One of the early reasons this series was praised is its sex positive approach, which is a rarity in the Marvel universe, which is why it is so encouraging to see a semi-explicit and rigorous sex scene here. Three cheers for beds broken in the throes of passion!
As we suspected back in the premiere, there’s more to Reva’s (Parisa Fitz-Henley) death than we thought; namely, Jessica was definitely involved. This should make for an awkward reveal when the truth inevitably comes out. Enjoy the sex while you can, Jess!
The real meat of the episode occurs in the aftermath of Trish’s live interview with Hope (Erin Moriarty). Initially planned as a way to prop up Hope’s murder alibi, Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) instead uses the interview to paint Hope in an unflattering light in an effort to turn the case into a win. While this is probably the best defense for rational people who aren’t inclined to prove Kilgrave’s existence, it initiates a chain reaction that sees Trish mouth off Kilgrave, who in turn threatens her life.
The resulting fight with Officer Will Simpson (Wil Traval) at Trish’s apartment is a highlight. The fighting on the series thus far has primarily featured feats of brute strength. After all Jessica is certainly not a smooth fighter in the vein of Marvel companion series Daredevil (our introduction to Jessica as she tosses a man through a pane of glass is fairly representative of the show’s fight aesthetic). Trish, with her newfound defense skills but small stature, takes on a large, muscled man determined to kill her with the relentlessness of a Terminator in a fight scene that is reflective of Jessica Jones‘ fighting style, as well as its thematic interest in the plight / invasion / rape of women. The fight is incredibly brutal: Simpson really does a number on Trish, nearly killing her multiple times in a knock-down, drag-out fight that is frequently uncomfortable to watch. The only reason Trish survives is because Jessica uses her brains (not her brawn) to fool Simpson into believing that he has strangled Trish to death. This is the clearest example yet that the people under Kilgrave’s influence cannot be reasoned with, but Trish’s attack is just as significant as a demonstration that Jessica’s smarts can (will?) play a part in defeating Kilgrave.
If there’s one thing that bothers me about the resolution, it’s that after all of the energy ‘AKA It’s Called Whiskey’ spends trying to bring Kilgrave into the light by proving his existence, Jessica simply dismisses Simpson instead of documenting his experience for Hope’s defence. Why remain quiet? It seems rather contradictory, especially considering that Simpson is experiencing the same exact emotions and guilt as Jessica. He’s clearly an asset, so why not use him?
- I like how the fight at Trish’s initially plays on our expectations. We’ve been programmed by the writers to expect that anyone is a potential Kilgrave assassin and the foundation for the attack is laid the moment Trish shows Jessica her training room. Still, when Simpson arrives at her door, despite our certainty that he’s under Kilgrave’s compulsion, we (like Trish) accept that she can’t refuse to open the door in the event that Simpson is legitimately there to question her.
- Before the shit hits the fan in the last act, there is a lot of comedy in this episode: jokes from the guys fixing Jessica’s door, jokes about where her strength comes from, reactions from Luke about their lovemaking, and reactions about the creepy sibling neighbours’ proclivity for tinfoil.
- Finally, nothing creepy about finding an entire room full of photos of you from the last few weeks. This discovery opens up all kinds of questions about who has been taking the pictures and how they’ve been getting the drop on her.
1×04 ‘AKA 99 Friends’
So are we going to have a problem with the even numbered episodes?
I’ll just lay my cards on the table: the case of the week is a waste of time. Thus far each episode, even the step-backward ‘AKA Crush Syndrome’, has been in service of advancing the Kilgrave stuff. That comes to a screeching half with the case of the week, involving a woman who seemingly wants incriminating photos of her husband but in reality she is simply luring Jessica into a trap because her mother died during the NY “incident” from The Avengers. I get that the resolution of the case is meant to introduce a bit of levity to counter Jessica’s realization that Kilgrave has once again invaded her life, but it also has the unintended result of making a substantial part of the episode feel insignificant. There’s context for the world that Jessica lives in as a “gifted” individual, but the pay-off doesn’t merit the time or energy ‘AKA 99 Friends’ dedicates to it.
With that said, however, there are other good elements that make ‘AKA 99 Friends’ worth watching. I was wondering how the writers would handle Trish’s recovery after the attack, so bringing back Simpson (and his immense guilt) is intriguing. I’d be lying if I said that the idea of the attacker and the victim getting together feels icky, which is certainly where this episode insinuates the pair is headed, but I’m glad that my major complaint about last episode has been addressed head-on. What to make of the small, illegal handgun he gives Trish? I’ve never met a Chekov’s gun that the writers don’t use, so let’s keep an eye on it.
The other big component of this episode is the not-so-surprising reveal that Malcolm (Eka Darville), Jessica’s druggie neighbour, has a bigger role to play in the narrative. Back in the premiere, I stated a belief that he was destined to die at Kilgrave’s hands, and while that could still come true, we now know that he’s more than just a bit secondary character. Turns out that Kilgrave’s creepy photos were actually taken by Malcolm, either for drugs or due to compulsion. It’s a huge invasion of trust and reiterates how Jessica’s feelings of paranoia are justified considering Malcolm has been spying on her from a few doors down. It also means that there’s now a chance to turn the tables on the villain by luring him into a trap of their own. Bring. It. On.
- As part of Hope’s defence, Jessica and Jeri (Carrie-Ann Moss) interview a number of potential Kilgrave victims. The legitimate few who don’t spout off about immaculate conception and red skin tones ultimately form a survivor’s support group – something that Jeri (and I) argue Jessica should be a part of. Unfortunately the moment Jessica unearths a clue while listening in, she takes off. Obviously twists and developments make for better TV than watching a character morosely attend mind-control AA, but it’s hard not to feel like Jessica needs more emotional support than people like Luke and Trish can provide.
Your turn: is episode three much stronger than episode four? Were you uncomfortable watching Trish battle Simpson? Did you finger Malcolm for a mole? Was the case in 1×04 a waste of time? Are the even episodes weaker than the odd ones? Sound off below.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Check back Tuesday for our binge review of episodes five and six.