Our binge reviews of Marvel’s Jessica Jones continues with episodes 1×07 & 1×08. Let’s bitch it out…
1×07 ‘AKA Top Shelf Perverts’
The moment that Ruben (Kieran Mulcare) walks in on Kilgrave (David Tennant) rooting around through Jessica’s (Krysten Ritter) apartment, it’s clear that things will not end well for the boy. There’s only so much that banana bread can protect you from and a mind-controlling psychopath is certainly not one of them.
Discovering Ruben’s body puts Jessica over the edge, which has been a long time coming. The tough exterior that she’s been using to protect herself proves to be little more than a fragile shield, one that completely collapses when Kilgrave adds another body to her guilty conscience. Of course we know as well as Malcolm (Eka Darville) that Jessica isn’t to blame, but it’s hard to deny her her downward spiral when she ends up covered in blood next to Ruben in bed.
The rest of the episode plays out like a superhero version of Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour as Jessica darts around the city, making amends and trying to ensure that her life is taken care of before 8pm. That’s the self-imposed deadline she has before she drops Ruben’s decapitated head on the desk of Detective Oscar Clemons (Clarke Peters) and asks to be sent to supermax. I could understand why some viewers might complain about this episode, but it’s really significant to show how prepared Jessica is to walk away from her life in order to expose Kilgrave, as well as how trapped she feels. It may not be the most exciting episode , but it’s certainly integral in setting the stage for what’s to come.
- It’s obvious that a bad fate has befallen Ruben long before we ever see the body. The writing is on the wall as soon as Jessica lies down in bed and the door frame blocks the other half of the bed; the framing used to build the tension around an all-but-confirmed outcome. Still, it’s icky to see Jessica completely covered in blood, leaving marks on the walls in her dazed grief.
- Jessica contributes to Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Wendy’s (Robin Weigert) fraught divorce proceedings when she nearly kills Wendy at the subway station. Wendy’s reaction is surprising; instead of buckling, the accidental assault galvanizes Wendy into blackmailing Jeri for 70% of her net worth. Ouch. Still not sure why we’re meant to care, though.
- One of Jessica’s most significant stops is at the talent agency of Dorothy Walker (Rebecca De Mornay) AKA Trish’s (Rachael Taylor) mom. As expected, Dorothy is a real piece of work – firmly in denial and refusing to take any responsibility for damaging Trish. I’ll admit that it was a shock to learn that Dorothy is played by DeMornay because I had no idea it was her until I looked it up for this review. She really blends into the role!
- Having seen images of the police officers holding guns to each other’s heads in the series trailer, I was a little disappointed that the actual scene doesn’t pack as much of a punch as I expected. Watching Jessica’s disbelief at Kilgrave’s declaration of love is the highlight of the scene for me.
- Jessica (to Trish’s mom): “You look done. How much of Trish’s money did that cost you?”
1×08 ‘AKA WWJD?’
Huzzah! The curse of the even episodes is over!
‘AKA WWJD?’ is the best episode of Jessica Jones to date. It’s definitely not the flashiest episode of the series’ run and there’s virtually no action until the final memorable scene when poor neighbourly Mrs. DeLuca (Kathleen Doyle) delivers Will Simpson (Wil Traval) a bag of death. No, the episode works because it pits Ritter vs Tennant in the most mundane of settings and just lets them talk.
So much screen time has been dedicated to Jessica fretting about Kilgrave, paranoid about where he is, what he’s doing and who she can trust. By stripping away all of the questions about his intentions and simply letting them live in each other’s space for a few days, Jessica Jones lets the characters breathe and develop. The result is gripping, especially because it addresses the thematic questions that the series has been so eager to explore.
That theme is rape and it’s the defining aspects that distinguishes Jessica from every other Marvel property. It’s almost dismissive to say that Jessica Jones is a feminist text, but it can’t be denied that this is the most frank series to address sex and gender from a giant corporation that sometimes seems to exist entirely to sell obscene amounts of merchandising. I don’t think that we’ll be unwrapping any Jessica Jones toys beneath the tree this holiday season, but that’s completely fine by me if the result is a series that repeatedly uses the word “rape” to describe the actions of a character who wields words to force people to do things against their will, including sex. With ‘AKA WWJD?’, Jessica Jones unequivocally proves that it is fearless in tackling dark, uncomfortable, topical subjects that other Marvel properties have strictly avoided.
One thing I appreciate in ‘AKA WWJD?’ is the inclusion of tragic backstories for both Jessica and Kilgrave that neither of them is allowed to use as an excuse for their behaviour. Kilgrave isn’t afraid to remind Jessica about the guilt she carries around for causing the deaths of her family (in yet another incident of misplaced blame, Jessica believes her destruction of a gameboy caused her father to drive into the back of a truck). Jessica, meanwhile, refutes Kilgrave’s assertion that he never raped her because he was wining and dining her; even after learning about his torturous childhood as a lab rat to scientist parents, she refuses to let him off the hook for misusing his powers to murder and profit.
All of the conversations about guilt and responsibility inevitability lead to discussions of heroism. It’s only natural that Jessica would ask Kilgrave, who is so desperate to prove that he can abide by her rules, to use his powers for good. When he flips out, plotting a life of “do gooding” with her by his side, it’s no surprise that Jessica slides back into the moral quandry that nearly landed her in supermax last episode. After all, as she rationalizes to Trish when she runs away to clear her head, a life beside Kilgrave is really no different than a life in jail. It’s simply a different kind of prison.
The fact that heroism is dismissed almost as quickly as it is raised feels appropriate. Everything we know about Kilgrave suggests that he is a master manipulator and although he’s on his best behaviour around Jessica, the proof of his malicious intent is evident in the fact that he never stops threatening the lives of the help he’s hired. It’s almost a relief that Jessica doesn’t fall for the 180 degree change in his behaviour; instead she knocks Kilgrave out as soon as she returns and “flies”* off with him when Will tries to intervene. The fact that the episode ends with a bomb in a bag that kills poor Mrs. DeLuca and possibly kills Will definitively erases any doubts we may have had about whether Jessica made a hasty decision or if Kilgrave could change his stripes. The question is whether Jessica can make it to the sound proof prison before he wakes up or if she has other plans for him now that she has recordings of him admitting responsibility for Hope’s murder of her parents.
*Of course, comic fans of Jessica Jones know that she can’t really fly so much as jump highly and poorly.
- It’s really bizarre to see Miriam Shor as Jessica’s mom. And by bizarre I mean distracting. I keep expecting her to spout outrageous one-liners like her characters on GCB or Younger.
- There’s a surprising amount of tension when Kilgrave compels Mrs. DeLuca to admit that lying to feel important makes her want to slap someone. There’s an uncomfortable pause as we wait for him to instruct her to self-harm, but he simply lets her go. Annnnd exhale.
- The moment you know you’re not in a regular Marvel property: Jessica lays out exactly how Kilgrave raped her. “Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head…It doesn’t matter what you meant to do.”
- In no way does Kilgrave’s childhood abuse justify his adult behaviour, but the video on the USB he recovered from the night Reva was murdered is still upsetting. Just the threat of watching a cerebral spinal tap on a child is enough to make me squirm.
- Jeri and Wendy’s divorce remains a distraction, but something tells me that Kilgrave sending Jeri a text means that there’ll be payoff on that front shortly.
- Luke Cage has been gone for two full episodes now. I’ll admit that the strength of these episodes is such that I didn’t really notice his absence.
- Finally, it’s a petty thing to say considering all of the other things going on in the episode, but damn Tennant’s suit is amazing.
- Kilgrave (when Hank literally repeats him): “Sorry, I slip sometimes.”
- Kilgrave (when Trish calls): “It’s Patsy!”
- Jessica (when Kilgrave asks about the dress): “Purple’s not really my colour.”
- Wendy (when Jeri says she’s sorry): “I’m going to have to ask you to say that in cash.”
- Kilgrave (when Jessica mentions rape): “I hate that word.”
- Jessica (when Kilgrave orders police officers aside): “Obiwan Kenobi?” Kilgrave: “But cooler.”
- Jessica (when Kilgrave asks why the help have to eat with them): “First step of heroism: don’t be a prick.”
Your turn: was Ruben’s murder surprising? Did you expect Kilgrave to extricate Jessica from the police station so quickly or easily? Were you hoping for more action? Were you surprised to see the series delve so deeply into issues of rape? Is Kilgrave more interesting with a torturous background? Did Will survive the bomb blast? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers if you’ve watched ahead.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available in its entirety on Netflix. Check back Tuesday for our review of episodes 1×09 and 1×10.