Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA It's Called Whiskey"
Jessica Jones's Feminist Bent
If there were ever a thesis statement for Jessica Jones (aside from the equally awesome title quote), it's Jessica's description of her superpowers. It's not flying, she says, "it's more like- jumping. And then falling." This particular superpower is perfectly symbolic of Jessica's character; she's bursting with personality, competence, intelligence, and-in her best moments-heroism. But every time she tries to play the conventional hero, gravity pulls her down.
If it wasn't clear that Kilgrave's powers, which served as the "gravity" that killed Jessica's superhero stint, was connected to toxic masculinity, this episode is not at all shy about it. Similar to Jessica, Trish (soon to be Hellcat) tries to become a hero, she tries to stand up for herself, for Hope, for Jessica, and for all of Kilgrave's past and future victims. But because she insulted Kilgrave's masculinity, and because they're not playing on an even playing field, her attempts at demonstrating her own strength are immediately smacked down. As I said in my review of the pilot, Jessica's arc serves as an analogy for women's struggle to take control of their own lives within the overwhelming forces of the patriarchy, and now the writers are doing the same thing with Hellcat's developing origin story.
Here are all the Easter eggs in Jessica Jones if you're curious, but this episode had a particularly blatant reference to the Avengers. Luke is counting up all of the superheroes he knows of, and mentions "the big green dude and his crew." That line almost made me laugh, because it just serves to remind us how divorced the TV universe is from the movie universe in terms of tone and aesthetic. I want Jessica and Krysten Ritter to be in everything, so I would love for her to join the Avengers in theory, but can you imagine her sharing the screen with Hulk? It would be funny to see her give Bruce her most withering stare when he Hulks out, but considering their respective levels of realism, it would be pretty jarring.
Compassion for collateral damage
Speaking of Avengers references, Trish refers to the city being attacked by aliens-"buildings were destroyed, people were killed"-demonstrating that the Netflix shows are something of a more sensitive antidote to the films, which often show hundreds or thousands of faceless, nameless people being killed while Tony Stark throws out a few glib one-liners.
As usual, the show demonstrates an enormous amount of sympathy for the people Kilgrave controls. Jessica cringes every time she has to fight one of Kilgrave's hapless victims, like the family who attacks her screaming "You can't follow him!", and the audience cringes along with her.
But the best example of Jessica Jones's compassion comes when she turns poor Malcolm into collateral damage in her quest to defeat Kilgrave. Many other shows would play off the usage of a strung-out drug addict to create a distraction as a necessary evil, or even for laughs, but Jessica clearly knows that she did a shitty thing. Especially when the show frames her actions as taking advantage of others' racism, her manipulation of her friend is portrayed as a possibly necessary, but still extremely shitty decision.
Kilgrave's Complex Mind Control
Kilgrave's powers are a different, more complex kind of mind control than I've ever seen before. In addition to serving as a metaphor for male privilege, its rules are nebulous enough that its victims can't consider themselves to be morally scot-free. Jessica listens to a radio pundit say of Hope, "she's just another weak and damaged person hiding behind the timeless excuse of 'the devil made me do it.'" Although Jessica dismisses that by contending the devil did, in fact, make her and Hope commit murder, it's somewhat ambiguous whether they could have stopped themselves somehow. Hope says she tried to resist killing her parents, but she "wasn't strong enough." And then, in the end, Jessica was shaken out of her mind control stupor enough to resist Kilgrave's orders. I don't think the show intends for us to negatively evaluate the characters as a result of this ambiguity, but I do think we're supposed to regard Kilgrave as a stand-in for the proverbial "devil on your shoulder."
Jessica and Luke negotiate their limits
Jessica and Luke's relationship continues to impress in this episode, as it feels passionate and organic even as the reveal of Jessica's involvement with Reva's death make it a little messy and more than a little messed up. It's a testament to the actors' chemistry that it feels believable that Luke would be openly and genuinely upset when Jessica ends things, even though they've only slept together a few times.
But the characters also negotiate their limits in a more literal way: revealing the limits of their superpowers. I liked that neither of them really seem to know the extent of their abilities, as that's much more realistic. If you're trying to hide your abilities and stay out of sight, there's a good chance you would have no idea what you can do. Luke's description of the extent of his "unbreakability"- "on a scale of 'I don't know' to 'I don't want to find out'?"- is completely apt, and very interesting considering what happens later in the season.
It was also striking to hear them describe the origins of their powers in just one word: for Jessica, an "accident," for Luke, an "experiment." Any other show would have shown Jessica's origin story in flashbacks in the pilot, but Jessica Jones is allowing the characters' backstories to unfold in a much more restrained, subtle way.
I know Trish cares about her career, but I don't believe for a second that she would have opened that door. The character is supposed to be intelligent, she has self-defense on the brain, and she knows there's a mind controller out there who could send absolutely anyone to try to kill her. She asks for identification, even though she knows Kilgrave can compel a perfectly upstanding cop to do whatever he wants. At least her incredibly stupid decision led to the most gripping fight we've seen on Jessica Jones so far, but that's no excuse.
Second pet peeve: the flashbacks to Reva's death make it even more clear that Jessica was able to resist Kilgrave's mind control right before he was hit by that bus. In the pilot, it was a little ambiguous, but now it's very clear. Why isn't that a bigger deal? With all of this talk about surgical anesthesia and trying to find Kilgrave's weaknesses, how has it not occurred to her that she might be immune to his powers now?
Annoying secondary character of the episode
This time, it's Ruben, who creepily watches Jessica having sex through a crack in her door. I think we're supposed to view Ruben as essentially harmless, which really rubs me the wrong way, because being a Peeping Tom is a serious violation in itself, not to mention a slippery slope.
The Kilgrave jokes begin
The writers seem to understand that not everything that works in a comic will work on the screen, and the show is all the better for it. The Purple Man actually being purple, for example, rather than just wearing purple suits, would have single-handedly ruined the realism of the show. That being said, they're still stuck with some really cheesy names that only work in a comic, like Jewel, Power Man, and especially Kilgrave. Some of my favorite jokes on this show are the ones that make fun of the name in a very meta way, and this episode features the first one. "Have you ever heard of a more made-up name than Kilgrave?" No, Jessica Jones writers, I really have not.
"The way I see it, most people got both going on. It just depends on which part wins that day."
"You said, 'Let's do lunch.' You hate that saying."
"Because it's stupid. You EAT lunch." (So true.)
"Not afraid of much anymore. Except clowns, but that's just common sense."
"He teaches in the biology department. Or- chemistry. Is biochemistry a thing? I don't know, it's science."