After all the butt kicking and intense chases in episode 3, Episode 4 “AKA 99 Friends” takes a little bit of a breather. In this episode, Jessica takes on a new client, Audrey Easeman, who wants Jessica to get pictures of her husbands infidelity for a divorce settlement. However, Jessica is not completely sure that the woman isn’t another plant from Kilgrave and proceeds cautiously.
Meanwhile, Trish gets another visit from the police officer that tried to kill her. Frightened she calls Jessica for help, who quickly realizes that the officer is no longer being controlled by Kilgrave but is obsessed with earning Trish’s forgiveness and tracking down Kilgrave. She urges him to let it go, but he insists, saying that once Kilgrave realizes Trish isn’t dead, he’ll keep sending people. Later, Jessica takes Trish to the radio station, where Trish issues an apology to Kilgrave in order to end his vendetta against her.
With Kilgrave appeased (for now) Jessica continues on with her case but her paranoia of being watched by Kilgrave makes it hard for her to focus. She reluctantly enlists the help of the police officer, Simpson, to pull surveillance footage of her so she can find out who has been following her. While all this is going on, Jerry has Jessica come in to the office. Much like her current client, Jerry is cashing in a favor by asking Jessica to pull up dirt on her wife to help with her impending divorce. Meanwhile, Jessica is made to sit in on interviews by a slew of potential Kilgrave victims who have come forward as a result of Trish’s radio broadcast. Most seem to be using mind control as an excuse for their own bad behavior but three actual Kilgrave victims are revealed. Back at Trish’s apartment, Simpson returns to apologize and the two begin to bond. By the end of the episode, Jessica tracks down Audrey’s husband only to find it is a double cross. Audrey’s mother was killed (apparently during the events of the Avenger’s movie) and intended to trap and kill Jessica as revenge. Jessica destroys the room, frightening Audrey and her husband, and vents about how everyone has experienced loss. After she leaves she walks goes to newly founded “Kilgrave support group” and learns, from one of his victims, that Kilgrave met with a man in a blue and white scarf every day. Jessica rushes back to her apartment and looks over the surveillance videos Simpson obtained for her and realizes who Kilgrave’s spy is. It is her junky neighbor, Malcolm.
Episode 5, “AKA The Sandwich Saved Me” opens on a flashback of Jessica’s life before Kilgrave. In the present, however, Jessica is not nearly as chipper as she follows Malcolm and confirms that he is a spy for Kilgrave. With this new information, she decides to use Malcolm’s scheduled meeting to set a trap and kidnap Kilgrave. She goes to inform Trish of her plan and discovers that Trish and Simpson are now having an affair! Needless to say, Jessica is not crazy about this (what with Simpson having tried to kill Trish when he first met her) and is even less crazy about him trying to be involved in the plan to kidnap Kilgrave. Simpson shows Jessica an abandoned CDC building that has a hermetically sealed room but insists that it will be easier to simply kill Kilgrave rather than try to catch him. After a day of planning the trio team up and use Malcolm’s daily meeting with Kilgrave to trap, sedate, and kidnap him. However, Kilgrave has body guards who track them down before they can secure him in the CDC. A fight ensues and the body guards retrieve Kilgrave. After their defeat, Jessica returns to her apartment, where she decides to save Malcolm from himself by chaining him to the toilet where he can choose to remain a junky or choose to live. A final flashback reveals that Jessica came under Kilgrave’s influence after he sees her save Malcolm from two guys. As she leaves Malcolm with his decision she gets a call from Kilgrave, who promises to leave Malcolm alone if she does his job for him and send him a picture of her every day. She responds by sending a picture, “freeing” Malcolm of Kilgrave’s influence.
Episode 6, “AKA You’re A Winner” opens with a quote from Malcolm speaking of the “freedom” that comes from being controlled by Kilgrave because you are free of the guilt of what you’ve done. We then see Kilgrave, which is an interesting change of pace. In the first scene, he uses his power to win an illegal underground poker game. He leaves with everyone’s money, totaling over 1 million dollars.
Back at Jessica’s apartment, she and Malcolm are trying to figure out a way to deal with Kilgrave when she gets a visit from Luke Cage. He wants to hire her to find a woman’s missing teen brother, Antoine. Meanwhile, back in prison, Hope has been beaten by another inmate. When Jessica investigates she learns that Hope paid the inmate to beat her. It turns out that Hope is pregnant and is desperate to get Kilgrave’s child out of her. Jessica promises to help and later in the episode procures an abortion pill for her. After visiting Hope, Jessica starts looking in to Luke’s missing teen case and finds that Luke is already there looking into it himself. Jessica comes up with a plan to lure out whoever has the Antoine’s phone and agree to regroup the next day, but when Luke drops her off at her apartment, he is confronted by Malcolm. That evening, Luke returns to Jessica’s apartment and apologizes for not believing her when she first told him about Kilgrave, believing that what he said caused her to distance herself from him. Jessica tells Luke that it wasn’t what he said that caused her to pull away, but that it was because she’s “a piece of shit.” Luke assures her that she’s not, that whatever she did was Kilgrave’s fault, not hers.
The next morning, the two wake up together and prepare to meet the person with the Antoine’s. Jessica asks why Luke is so determined to help this woman. That is when Luke drops the bombshell that the woman he is helping has information on the “accident” that killed his wife. From that point on, Jessica goes into panic mode. She tries to talk Luke out of completing the job, saying that it won’t change anything. With every new lead, she tries to separate herself from Luke and beat him to it. She is unable to shake him and eventually they do find the missing teen but a fight over possession of the teen between Luke and Jessica and the Loan Sharks the kid owes, breaks out. Jessica is able to get away with Antoine and return him to his sister, leaving Luke to fend for himself against the gang. Jessica demands that the sister give the information to her, since she was hired by Luke but she refuses. Suddenly Luke arrives (understandably pissed about being left behind) and the sister reveals her information: the name of the driver who crashed his bus into Kilgrave, as well as his name and the fact that his inebriation had been covered up. Luke storms out in a rage and Jessica is forced to chase after him. She arrives just in time to stop Luke from murdering the bus driver but he is too angry to listen to reason. Jessica is forced to confess that she killed his wife on Kilgraves orders. Luke is furious that Jessica withheld that information from him, all while continuing an affair and asks if she would have ever told him the truth. When Jessica cannot answer responds, ‘I was wrong, you are a piece of shit’ and leaves. The final scene reveals that Kilgrave has legally purchased Jessica’s childhood home from it’s current owners using the money he won at the beginning of the episode.
These three episodes deal with a plethora of different issues but I will focus on what I thought were the central themes of each.
Episode four revolved a lot around Kilgrave’s victims and, more broadly, the different ways people cope with trauma. Our protagonist chooses to shut all but a few treasured people out of her life and deal with her feelings herself. Similarly, there are Trish and Simpson. While Trish is initially completely against hearing anything Simpson has to say, Simpson’s adamant need to be forgiven and prove that he’s not a bad person, win her over. They talk about their childhoods and form a bond even while separated by a door. This episode also includes the newly formed “Kilgrave Support Group” who meet in a diner and talk about their feelings and experiences while being controlled by Kilgrave. Finally, there is Jessica “client” Audrey, who lashes out with hatred and fear at anyone who has “gifts” such as Jessica.
Episode five is the answer to the question, ‘is this a superhero show?’. The answer is ‘no… but it could have been’. This episode centers around the idea of being a hero. Earlier in the series, Jessica tells Luke that she tried the superhero thing before and it didn’t work. Episode four, explores through flashback Jessica’s desire to be a hero. Through feats both big and small, Jessica is shown using her strength to protect those around her. She protects Trish’s dignity by humiliating a group of jerks at the bar, she stops a little girl from being hit by a car, and she saves Malcolm from being beaten in the street. It is this final act that draws Kilgrave’s attention. It was almost heartbreaking seeing how sincere Jessica was, when Kilgrave forced her to tell the truth about why she enjoyed beating up the thugs. She says, “because I made a difference”. Although, she doesn’t show it, Jessica still has the same desire to make a difference even though she has been jaded by her time with Kilgrave. She is still fighting to set Hope free, she gives Hope money despite not knowing what she’ll use it for, and she saves Malcolm from Kilgrave by coercing him to go clean and taking his place as photographer. Despite all of her arguing to the contrary, Jessica can’t help but be a hero.
Episode six deals with the idea of accountability. How accountable are you for your actions in a world where mind control is possible? At the start of the episode, Malcolm can be heard in the “Kilgrave support group” talking about a freedom that comes from not being accountable for your actions. However, this is not at all the case for Jessica who lives with the guilt of killing Luke’s wife. This guilt eats away at her because she is afraid to face Luke and admit the truth of what happened, even when he learns about Kilgrave and his abilities. In the end, it is her actions that cause Luke to hate her. Although I’m sure he was angry to learn that Jessica had killed his wife, the issues he pressed were of her keeping it a secret for so long. “You touched me with the hands you used to murder my wife… you told me to move on… Did Kilgrave make you do that?” In these instances, the ‘Kilgrave made me do it’ excuse will not work and Jessica is left with nothing to say in her defense.
Other notable occurrence was Hope’s medical abortion. I’m sure no one came in to watch Jessica Jones expecting to see something so profoundly real. Especially handled in such a way. Although I hadn’t really thought about it before, the treatment of Jessica’s character, her friendship with Trish, and the development of the female characters in general combined with the unflinching and authentic handling of that scene made me sure, this show wasn’t being helmed by a “woman” it was being helmed by a feminist. One who knew how to tell a story. So I looked in to it. Turns out, she is! Although there are those who may take issue with the great dela of focus on the women in this show, I personally feel relieved not to have to force myself to come to the defense of women who are turned into plot devices on male dominated superhero shows. I also appreciate that it interweaves a feminist message simply by treating their female characters as complex and consistent rather than by waving a banner and screaming “girls and smart and strong and just as good – yay GIRL POWER!”
That being said, can we get some consistency with Jessica’s strength?
Listen. I was alright with Jessica being beaten up by the body guards. After all, as I said in my last review, having super strength doesn’t make her impervious to pain, especially when that pain consists of being attacked repeatedly with electric batons. I even brushed off the fight with the loan shark guys and with other thugs with the idea that she never goes full out in a fight because she doesn’t want to accidentally kill with every throw of a punch. I mean, she did that with Luke Cage’s wife and it’s been killing her ever since. I didn’t have a problem with the bad guys repeatedly getting back up after she hits them and attacking again. In fact, I found that way more realistic than the one punch knockouts of most superhero shows. I even laughed off the fact that her destruction of Audrey’s room looked, well… not so real. I mean, that closet door looked like it was cardboard the way it fell apart. However, I had to draw the line somewhere.
Luke Cage is described as having unbreakable skin. With a lot of training, I’m sure he’s naturally very strong – but they have never said he had super strength. HOW IN THE WORLD DID HE THROW THE BUS DRIVER THROUGH A WINDSHEILD? The bus driver doesn’t have unbreakable skin and Luke Cage does not, as far as I know, have the super human strength required to throw him through it. He also punches the bus and leaves a huge dent. His skin might have been fine but his bones would have had to have been toast! Then, Jessica tries to hold him back and gets pushed back. In episode 3, their kinky sex was so kinky because she was STRONGER THAN HIM! She grabbed his wrist and he couldn’t move! Now because he’s made she’s powerless to hold him back? What. The. Hell?
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, overall, I’m very satisfied with the direction this season is going and I eagerly await the next three episodes. What did you all think?