Spoilers ahead for Jessica Jones’s fourth (“99 Friends”), fifth (“The Sandwich That Saved Me”) and sixth (“You’re a Winner!”) episodes.
In this era of streaming TV, we so often find ourselves talking to friends who are either several episodes behind us or maybe many episodes ahead of us. Telling us which season or individual episode you are on is sometimes meaningless because when we watched the same show we binged it meaning the seasons and episodes all blend together in our memory now. So, why not start by telling me the last major thing that happened?
Well, in my case the last thing I saw on Jessica Jones was Luke Cage learning the truth about his wife’s death and calling Jessica a piece of shit.
I loved it!
Wow. That seems like a really awkward transition. I loved the male love interest calling the female lead of the show a piece of shit? What the heck is wrong with me? Let’s back up.
WHAT WENT DOWN
Sweet Lady Wikipedia can take over for a moment:
“99 Friends” – Jessica learns Kilgrave has a spy watching and photographing her, and sets out to uncover the person responsible. Simpson (the cop) and Trish bond over surviving Kilgrave’s influence.
“The Sandwich Saved Me” – Jessica, Trish and Simpson plot to take down Kilgrave, but their plan goes awry when Kilgrave anticipates their attack. Jessica gives Malcolm a chance to make up for his misdeeds.
“You’re a Winner!” – Luke needs Jessica’s help to find the brother of someone who has evidence on who killed Luke’s wife. Jessica’s hidden link to Luke is revealed and threatens everything she has.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I was engaged by, but not enamored with Jessica Jones’ first three episodes. I found the monomaniacal fixation on David Tennant’s Kilgrave to be a tad suffocating. Yay, feminism and all that, because look at all the strong women who are either in positions of power or fighting to regain their agency from oppressive men. However, I felt that the need to build up the legend of Kilgrave held me at an arm’s length from the rest of the characters, even Jessica. I was definitely hooked by the general set-up of the show, but I wanted to get to know these people better. Plus, upon reflection, I think that my advanced knowledge of how this all went down in the comics probably limited my ability to enjoy the mystery of Kilgrave and what exactly happened to Jessica to make her this way.
And, then, voila, the fourth episode of the series actually takes a beat to remember that Jessica has a day job, and Trish is going to need some time to heal after almost being murdered by a brainwashed cop. It’s more of an episode-of-the-week, and I imagine many will regard it as one of the lesser efforts of the first half of the season. The identity of Kilgrave’s secret photographer seemed obvious several episodes ago, and the twist that Jessica’s new client is actually setting her up to enact some kind of misguided vengeance for her dead parents, crushed to death during The Battle of New York, ultimately felt like a forced connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, it smacked too much of the regrettable Zachary Levi storyline on the new Heroes.
Sidenote: There will always be something slightly weird about the idea that the PG-13 blockbuster movie world of The Avengers co-exists with the R-rated world of Jessica Jones. For example, similar to that one scene with Danny and Arnold in Last Action Hero, if Jessica were to write down some of her favorite curse words on a piece of paper and hand it over to Captain America, Thor or Iron Man and request that they read the words aloud they literally wouldn’t be able to because they are characters in a PG-13 movie (despite that one curse word we got in Age of Ultron).
Even recognizing the ultimate weaknesses of “99 Friends,” I actually welcomed the diversion. I loved watching Jessica’s paranoia over whether or not any random, prospective client is truly who they say they are or in fact a spy for Kilgrave. I got a kick out of seeing Jessica nonchalantly spy on her client while balancing in-between two buildings, at a height only someone with superpowers could reach.
I liked seeing her work a case, one which ultimately turned out to have nothing to do with Kilgrave. Seeing her react to an attempt on her own life by merely destroying the woman’s bedroom in a display of all the power she bottles up and never lets out because she’s not the type of person who takes her grief out on others helped me understand her even more. Plus, the episode actually delivered some genuine laughs with the bogus interviews from people claiming to be Kilgrave victims.
I am perhaps more conflicted about Trish and the cop because I know that after their bonding in “99 Homes” they become a sexual item in “The Sandwich That Saved Me.” In the context of the show, I find this to be a logical progression, and admired the character details we learned about each one of them as they chatted through her locked door. Jessica is the first to point out the apparent creepiness of Trish sleeping with her former attacker, and on a metaphorical level this is like an abusive ex-boyfriend who has promised he wasn’t in his right mind and will never do it again. However, in the world of this show he quite truly was not in his right mind and was victimized by Kilgrave almost as much as Trish (if it’s a contest, she wins, what with almost dying and all).
Plus, there is some fascinating commentary on gender roles going on with the cop in “99 Homes”/“The Sandwich That Saved Me” and with Luke Cage in “You’re a Winner!” There isn’t a more telling speech about male psychology in the run of this show to this point than the cop’s childhood recollections of using his army men to save his sister’s Barbie as an example of how he’s always been a guy saving people. It’s hard-wired into him to want to save Trish just as Luke Cage grows more protective of Jessica once he hears about Kilgrave. The guy saves the girl, and when the girl feels down the guy swoops in like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca to lift her chin up to say something romantic or re-assuring. In the world of Jessica Jones, that’s Luke Cage telling Jessica that despite how bad she feels about herself she is not a piece of shit, and when Trish is neutralized by a single tazer the cop confidently tells her that she did a good job even though the evidence suggests otherwise.
It’s going to be far more complicated than that in Jessica Jones, though. Trish is more than happy to let the cop orally pleasure her. It says a lot that he came to her place to recover her body when he thought she was dead. He seems like a genuinely caring person. Plus, did you see those abs? However, the second his macho tendencies flare up, with him trying to seize control and dictate orders while planning their operation to eliminate Kilgrave, Trish doesn’t hesitate to snap, “Look, last night was fun, but did I ask for your opinion?” And Luke Cage has to process the fact that the woman he wanted to save and emotionally support actually killed his wife and would have never told him on her own.
Seeing the usually noble Luke leaving Jessica in the middle of the road after verbally re-affirming all the worst things she thought about herself was devastating, beautifully realized in the tortured reactions on Krysten Ritter’s face.
The amazing thing is that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what happened in these three episodes. “99 Holmes” was the more episode-of-the-week case with a side-helping of Jessica trying to track down Kilgrave’s photographer. “The Sandwich Saved Me” was the daring catch and unfortunate release of Kilgrave as well as Jessica’s incredibly admirable stab at helping Malcolm the drug addict detox, a further example of the personal responsibility she feels for most of Kilgrave’s victims. “And You’re the Winner” was Luke and Jessica working a case together and falling back in bed before the truth she’d been keeping from him finally came out. Along the way, the show has transitioned from a stage of everyone being terrified of Kilgrave to everyone pausing to reflect on their scars, emotional and physical, and either seeking comfort in a self-help group or actually reacting in anger and trying to do something about putting an end to Kilgrave.
If you just count the number of times I used the word “Kilgrave” in that paragraph, you’ll see that this show is just as much about its villain as it was in the first three episodes, but I no longer feel as suffocated by it. That’s partially because the subplots with Trish and the cop growing closer and Carrie Anne-Moss being so in love with her new girlfriend that she actually cracks a smile for a change has helped to enrich the universe of the show for me. I also feel as if I understand who Jessica is a little more now.
The flashbacks to her life pre-Kilgrave (blackmailing her boss out of 6 months pay, turning down the suggestion to dress up like a traditional superhero and fight crime, saving a little girl and feeling the rush of having found a purpose in life) as well as her first meeting with him (when that purpose was robbed from her) were remarkably informative, chock full of comic book easter eggs on top of that. I am glad that the big “R” word finally came up when Hope revealed that Kilgrave raped her, and now she wants to abort the pregnancy, even if it means paying a fellow prisoner to nearly beat her to death. Also, the reality that Jessica put her plan into motion (kidnap Kilgrave using a surgical anesthetic) and it failed, meaning she now has no idea what to do about Kilgrave, re-introduces a considerable amount of tension.
Lastly, the curtain is gradually being pulled back on Kilgrave, who kind of seems like David Tennant’s Doctor from Doctor Who if he’d never been humbled after his turn to the dark side in “Waters of Mars.” The moment that most intrigued me was when he chose not to use his power to convince the person to sell his house. He started to but stopped, looking as if he might actually enjoy the challenge of having to obtain something without using mind control. But I’ll stop here because I’m sure there will be plenty more to discuss after the next couple of episodes.
Until next time….