Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA 99 Friends"

Monday, 30 November 2015 - 11:06AM
Jessica Jones
Monday, 30 November 2015 - 11:06AM
Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA 99 Friends"
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Like many of you, I binge-watched the entirety of Jessica Jones last weekend, and it was amazing. It boasts a compelling central character, played perfectly by Krysten Ritter, the scariest villain Marvel has to offer, strong supporting characters, 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).

Stand-out moment of the episode

I wasn't a huge fan of the case-of-the-week format in this episode, and I'm glad that they basically abandoned it for the rest of the season. The stakes with Kilgrave are too high to take random time-outs, and it just feels like killing time. While the plotting wasn't terrible, the characters were sketchy and far too one-dimensional for such a well-written series.

That being said, I loved everything about Jessica's superpowered tantrum in the couple's apartment. First, it was hilarious that after she lied about her laser vision and being bulletproof, they still believed her extremely obvious lie that she has lots of superpowered friends who are going to "stop by later" (but completely in keeping with their characters, since they're supposed to be idiots). At the beginning of Jessica's tantrum, it seems that she's just trying to scare them, and destroying their apartment has a clear purpose. But after a few minutes, she begins to completely lose control of herself, and by the time she says "Because I don't take my shit out on other people!", she's clearly taking her shit out on these simpletons and their apartment. It's not particularly healthy, especially in light of her "screw therapy" mentality, but it's completely Jessica. And if there's another contender for a thesis statement of this season, it has to be "You take your pain and you live with it, assholes!"

And as I said last week, the restraint the writers show with their exposition is impressive. Can you think of another superhero show that would wait this long to play the orphan card?

Marvel madness

Jessica Jones continues to be an antidote for the lack of thoughtfulness in the big-budget Marvel blockbusters by showing the repercussions of the Avengers' actions. The "Incident," the fight between the Avengers and Loki/the Chitauri, killed what must have been thousands of people, and so has achieved 9/11 levels of significance in this fictional version of NYC. While the movies only really show the hero-worship side of things, people are now suspicious of superpowered people, and why shouldn't they be? The Avengers sleep like babies thinking that they "saved the city" without any thought to all the people who become collateral damage. Jessica Hecht's character being motivated by her mother dying in the Incident was a little trite, but it's always refreshing to see Jessica Jones being considerate of consequences.

Side note: why is Jessica Jones avoiding saying the Avengers' names? When Luke said "the green dude and his crew," it sounded somewhat natural, but this week Jessica awkwardly referred to them as "the green guy" and "the flag-waver" as if they don't have the rights to the characters or something. This is a Marvel show, right?

Compassion for collateral damage

In addition to the victims of the Incident and the broken city left in the Avengers' wake, there was that little girl. This is probably the most disturbing non-violent usage of Kilgrave's powers so far, in which he controls a tiny child to give Jessica a message and then spew profanity-laced invective at her. Jessica genuinely apologizes to her and is visibly shaken by the experience, as is the audience, and that's the way it should be.

Kilgrave's Mind Control Uncovers Toxic Masculinity

This episode is key to establishing Kilgrave's powers as a different, more complex kind of mind control, one which highlights the flaws and deep-seated fears in its victims. It is still mind control, obviously, as I'm sure that little girl didn't want to call Jessica a "bitch" and tell her to go die, but it sometimes reveals sides to people that they never saw in themselves. One of the men in the support group who abandoned his wayward, difficult child on Kilgrave's orders admits that he hates himself because he "wanted it." Will knows that he didn't really want to kill Trish, but he knows that he has violence inside of him, so he expresses his fear that he's "a goddamn monster." He earnestly tells Trish that "he's not that guy," but he's clearly protesting so much because he's worried that there's some kind of tendency towards violence within him.

Will is the most illustrative case that Kilgrave's powers are meant to be symbolic of male privilege. Trish explicitly alludes to this when she gives her painful apology and says, "Men and power, it's seriously a disease." Spec-ops macho man Will can't handle it when his power is taken away from him, so he begins to overcompensate, and demonstrates every sign of toxic masculinity. He inserts himself where he doesn't belong, he becomes needlessly aggressive, he even attacks poor Malcolm. He and Jessica both share a disdain for discussing their feelings; Jessica goes so far as to characterize the support group as "circle jerking with a bunch of whiners." But Will becomes dangerous while Jessica remains simply abrasive because men are taught to externalize their feelings. Jessica may destroy apartments on occasion, but ultimately she "takes her pain and lives with it," which Will is unable to do. Add to that the fact that Kilgrave keeps forcing his victims to "smile" (which yes, people only ever say to women), and the scene in which Jessica is thinking about Kilgrave and hears catcallers, and the metaphor becomes even more apparent.

Pet peeve

Aside from the lameness of the case-of-the-week and the fact that the Malcolm reveal was a little obvious (there are no other secondary characters that the audience cares about who would have access to her), Jessica's treatment of Pam is still rubbing me the wrong way. Although the "I couldn't hear you over that print" line was funny, it bothers me that Jessica would write someone off because she's a pretty secretary. Jessica is allowed to have flaws, so this wouldn't bother me on its own, except that the show hasn't bothered to develop Pam as a character in general, so Jessica's dismissiveness isn't really challenged.

Which leads me to the more systematic flaw: the Jeri/Pam/Wendy triangle. The scene at the restaurant was well-done and even poignant at times, but the writing and acting was seriously undermined by the fact that we know absolutely nothing about these relationships. Yes, it's inherently sad that Jeri is taking her new lover to the restaurant at which she proposed to her ex-wife (I loved Pam's "Jesus, Jeri"). But why should we care, really, when we don't know why Wendy and Jeri fell in love, why they fell out of love, or why Jeri loves Pam aside from her looks?


Best one-liners

"You know who people hate more than litigators? Puppy killers."

"Everyone keeps saying I'm paranoid, it's like a conspiracy."

"What have we or the mentally challenged ever done to you?"

"You shoot at me, I'll pull the gun out of my ruined jacket and shove it up your ass with my pinky finger. And who do you think that's gonna hurt more?"
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