Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA Ladies Night"

Monday, 23 November 2015 - 12:52PM
Jessica Jones
Monday, 23 November 2015 - 12:52PM
Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA Ladies Night"
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Well, here we are, binge-watchers. I promised myself that I wouldn't finish all of Jessica Jones this weekend, but I did. I couldn't help myself. The show is amazing, with a compelling central character, the scariest villain Marvel has to offer, strong supporting characters (especially Mike Colter's Luke Cage), and sharp writing all the way through. Now that the binge-watch is over (boo-hoo), I'll be reviewing one episode per day, but for those of you who are better at this whole self-control thing, I'll be staying away from significant spoilers for future episodes (but obviously, spoiler alert for this one).

Jessica Jones's Unapologetic Feminism

The first season of Jessica Jones never once utters the word "feminism," nor does it ever explicitly discuss sexism, misogyny, or equality. And it's all the better for it, because its feminism is much more subtle and effective than shows that just repeat women are equal to men out loud (*cough*Supergirl*cough*). The character of Jessica herself is a coup for feminism, as she is arguably the first proper female antihero on television. She's funny, smart, competent, unapologetic, abrasive, and occasionally difficult to root for. We don't just need female heroes, we need female villains, and we need characters like Jessica Jones.

The entire premise of Jessica Jones becomes a metaphor for the plight of women in society. Where a man who decides to use his powers for good, like Matt Murdock, obviously faces huge obstacles and hardships, none of the male Marvel superheroes are turned into lobotomized sex slaves. The show is very aware that women face a different set of obstacles in life; where women are inherently just as capable of being strong and heroic, they are much more likely to have experiences of objectification, emotional abuse, and psychological terrorism. In the world of Jessica Jones, women who try to be heroes are broken, and it becomes a testament to Jessica's superior strength and resilience that she retains an unapologetic sense of self and the ability to endure and persist.

Compassion for Collateral Damage

Jessica Jones is distinct from other superhero properties, and most other shows on television for that matter, as a result of its keen sense of compassion. It might be one of the most compassionate shows I've ever seen, showing sympathy for its characters even when they don't have sympathy for themselves or each other. Unlike Avengers, Man of Steel, etc., there is no casual collateral damage, faceless strangers getting killed, maimed, or mind-controlled without any regard for their suffering. Every character who becomes a victim of Kilgrave's (and for those of you who, like me, think that name is idiotic, the writers were stuck with it from the comic, and some of my favorite lines of the season are the ones that make fun of it), is shown sympathy in one way or another, even if they're not significant characters.

Hope is, in fact, a significant character, but it's still worth highlighting the compassion shown this character. She's not the most well-developed character, often fulfilling stereotypes of the "innocent, fresh-faced Midwestern girl," but her suffering is certainly not taken lightly. The ending is tragic, and gave me chills, but equally chilling was Jessica finding poor Hope on that hotel bed, immobilized, urine-soaked, staring at the clock in perpetuity. And her plight becomes a metaphor for rape in real life; her guilt over "wanting to" do what Kilgrave told her, even though she knows she was being controlled, is analogous to rape victims' unjustified but understandable guilt. And when Jessica tells her to repeat that it's not her fault, the viewer gets the feeling that she's not only indirectly talking to herself, but to all victims of sexual abuse.

Jessica and Luke

The most important relationships on this show are between complex, three-dimensional women, which is a great thing, but Luke Cage is a welcome exception. Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter's chemistry is amazing, with every line of dialogue between Jessica and Luke charged with sexual tension. A lot has already been said about the sex in Jessica Jones, which is refreshingly adult, but I'll say that this lack of shyness leads to an unusually honest love story. Jessica and Luke are both damaged, complicated people, and the unsentimental, slightly f*cked up (this will make sense later, for those of you who haven't seen the rest of the season) beginning to their love story does them justice.

This is a superhero show, right?

Jessica uses her powers in this episode, but just barely, which contributes to the gritty, grounded feel of the show. Although the "Laser eyes. Moron" moment was hilarious, my favorite usage of her powers was Jessica throwing her shoe at her noisy upstairs neighbors and cracking the plaster of her ceiling. Because of course that's how an embittered, drunken mess would use her superpowers. That and breaking her alarm clock.

Pet Peeve of the Episode

Jessica Jones is mostly stingy with exposition, preferring to allow the relationships and histories to unfold organically. So it was all the more jarring when Jessica delivered the line "I was never the hero that you wanted me to be" to Trish. It was the only moment that this otherwise exemplary episode really felt like a pilot.

My only other qualm is a little nitpicky: considering how competent and clever Jessica seems to be, her methods of investigating Hope's disappearance were a little pedestrian. She looks through Facebook to find that Hope has a friend, and this seems to make sense, until you realize that Hope's parents probably would have mentioned that Hope had a roommate, and if not, then Jessica should have asked, and talking to the roommate should have been the first step whether they were friends or not. For reasons that become obvious by the end of the episode, the case-of-the-week format is somewhat limited in the rest of the season, so this doesn't become a problem, but I might have gotten frustrated if Jessica's cleverness weren't actually proven every week.

Annoying Secondary Character of the Episode

None of the secondary characters were annoying this episode, because the really irritating ones haven't been introduced yet. But I'm putting in this category in anticipation of their arrival, and to draw attention to the adorableness that is Malcolm. The above scene was so cute, and this relationship continues to be a highlight throughout the season. 

Best One-Liners

"You use sarcasm to distance people."
"And yet you're still here."
"You work this late so you can return calls without reaching people."

"I don't flirt, I just say what I want."

"If you turn that thing on, I'll pull your underwear through your eye."
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