Marvel’s Jessica Jones reaches its apex as Jessica (Krysten Ritter) and Kilgrave (David Tennant) finally settle their differences in ‘AKA Smile’. Let’s bitch it out…
After the events of the last episode, it’s no surprise that the finale writers opt to go the more emotional route and dedicate a substantial amount of time to Jessica and Luke Cage (Mike Colter). Anyone familiar with Marvel & Netflix’s plan to take over the streaming world has known for months that Luke Cage is the next collaboration between the media giants, so the likelihood of the character dying here was slim to none. Still, considering how much screen time Jessica Jones has dedicated to their relationship, it’s a smart move to show how affected Jessica is by her near murder of Luke in ‘AKA Take A Bloody Number’.
The opening moments of the finale are a nice balance of tension and comedy. The interplay between powers and secrecy hasn’t been especially prevalent in the series (S1 has featured Kilgrave making people off themselves all around NY for the better part of thirteen episodes), but it is still reasonable that Jessica is apprehensive when she realizes that Luke’s impenetrable skin and a crowded hospital may be a bad combination. Ultimately, in hindsight, the hospital detour feels more like an opportunity to pick up Daredevil‘s Claire (Rosario Dawson, charming in her world-weariness) and introduce a quick action sequence courtesy of Kilgrave-possessed hospital staff before settling into a quiet groove for the majority of the rest of the episode.
The middle stretch is fairly low-key, but it’s substantial nonetheless. As an outsider to the series (who is still aware of the madness of dealing with superheroes), Claire takes on the role of adviser and counselor. Early in the series Jessica told Trish (Rachael Taylor) that she hadn’t found talking to a shrink helpful, but at this point in the series she’s more open to letting people in. Her experiences with Kilgrave have proven to her that she is capable of real love, that she has friends and loved ones, and that she isn’t responsible for the horrible things that Kilgrave has done (to others and, most importantly, to her). It’s a refrain that recalls once again the series’ interest in obsession, rape and privacy. What’s remarkable is Jessica Jones has made the victim the only person who is capable of being the hero, which is an incredibly empowering narrative. No one else can stop Kilgrave; the person that he’s hurt the most is that one that has to take him out.
The other remarkable element of ‘AKA Smile’ is Kilgrave’s downfall. Leading up to the finale, I deliberately stayed away from reviews/recaps/message boards, but I have a feeling that fans hoping for a big action sequence were disappointed by Jessica and Kilgrave’s confrontation at the docks. For me, however, their final showdown is representative of the entire series, which has always been less interested in action setpieces than the emotional toll of Kilgrave’s actions. There’s a moment in this episode when Kilgrave goes on a long-winded rant about why he’s forcing his father to make his powers stronger and last longer: he wants to control Jessica. It’s not a surprise (his proclamation of love in the police precinct and the efforts he goes to in the burbs are evidence that he’s completely driven by his obsession with her), but Kilgrave’s dialogue is telling. His entire pursuit of power is about controlling women, about humiliating them, about making them want him and then rejecting them. It’s an egotistical, misogynistic self-aggrandizing speech that lays out just how pathetic Kilgrave is. Despite all of the power he possesses, despite all of the good he could do, the one thing that he wants to do is use his abilities to make a woman love him or, barring that, make her suffer. If Jessica Jones hadn’t made it clear in its previous twelve episodes what it is like for women to live in a male-dominated world, Kilgrave’s motivation confirms the series as a massively important feminist/contemporary text. Feel free to lie to yourself, but men with Kilgrave’s attitude exist in the world (if you have any doubts, just look up Gamergate).
These powerful ideas carry over into their final confrontation. As predicted last episode, Trish figures into their showdown in a prominent way, as Kilgrave compels her to accompany him aboard his escape yacht in order to punish Jessica. He makes Trish kiss him “like you mean it”, but doesn’t consider his actions rape (he suggests Jessica would call it rape, but the way he says it makes it sound like they just have a difference of opinions). The fact that Jessica tricks Kilgrave by playing on his pathetic belief that she is back under control, luring him closer and closer until she can grasp him by the neck and break it, is unquestionable a fitting end. It’s undignified and pathetic, a sad excuse for a supervillain’s death, which is exactly what Kilgrave deserved.
- Jessica lifting Luke out of the hospital bed is arguably one of the funnier visuals Jessica Jones has employed to highlight her power. Hopefully that was intentional.
- There’s some obvious chemistry between Malcolm (Eka Darville) and Claire when they meet-cute in Jessica’s apartment. They would be adorable together if he jumps ship to Daredevil.
- Anyone else get a Fargo feel when Jessica walks in on Justin Boden(Colin Moss) trying to shove Albert’s (Michael Siberry) arm down the garbage disposal. Side Bar: Is this the funniest/grossest scene the show has done?
- Apparently I got really attached to Albert because I found it quite sad when it was revealed that he not only didn’t find a cure, but was murdered. I legitimately hoped that he would make it out of that penthouse intact.
- Jessica enlists Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss) to represent Justin Boden (and presumably herself) pro-bono after telling her that doing good will help ease the guilt. Which is good, because Jeri has a lot to feel shitty about.
- The look on Claire’s face when she returns to the bedroom to find Luke gone is great, especially her resigned swig of water.
- Finally, Dorothy (Rebecca De Mornay) sends Trish more files – lots more files – thereby planting the seed for a possible second season. With Kilgrave taken care of, Jessica could easily spend 13 episodes tracking down the mysterious government program that created unstable super soldiers and experimented on kids.
- Jessica (when Claire tells her she craves responsibility to feel in control): “You’re in total control and I blame you for all this bullshit.”
- Jessica (when Claire demands that she take off her pants): “I usually like a little more romancing.”
- Malcolm (when Claire asks who he is): “Neighbour.” Claire: “Nurse.”
- Claire (when Malcolm insists there’s something inside Jessica): “An alcoholic?”
- Kilgrave (when Trish removes her hood at the docks): “Oh for god’s sake, it’s Patsy!” The “It’s Patsy” jokes never get old
Your thoughts: what did you think of the finale? Did it live up to expectations or were you disappointed that it was a quieter, less action-oriented affair? Did Kilgrave’s death suit his personality? Did you enjoy seeing Claire outside of Daredevil? Will you watch Luke Cage when he gets spun off? Do you hope Jessica Jones gets renewed for a second season? Sound off below.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available in its entirety on Netflix. A second season has not yet been ordered.