Jessica Jones Binge-Watch: "AKA Smile"
Here are our thoughts on the perfectly named "AKA Smile":
It was, of course, satisfying to see Jessica finally kill Kilgrave, although some of the final showdown felt a little perfunctory. The shootout with the police was lackluster, and it was fairly obvious that Jessica was faking being under Kilgrave's control. But the death itself was well-done, precisely because it didn't feel triumphant. Jessica snaps Kilgrave's neck, and while it's clearly well-deserved, she takes no joy in it, and we aren't supposed to, either. She wanted to be the kind of hero that Trish would be, the kind that would find a way to stop Kilgrave without committing murder, and justified or not, killing him is admitting that she's not the hero she wants to be.
But even more powerful is this episode's continued portrayal of Kilgrave's deep-seated depravity. As I've stated in previous recaps, he's depicted as the typical entitled "Nice Guy," a misogynist who feels entitled to sex and affection simply because he wants it, the most extreme recent example being the 2014 Santa Barbara shooter who wanted "retribution" because "Girls gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to me." This parallel is never more clear than when Kilgrave is imagining making Jessica love him so he can "reject her over and over"; it's toxic masculinity at its finest. He's right when he tells Jessica that he's not "evil" in the sense that he wants to hurt other people just for the sake of it; he hurts people to soothe his ego and get what he wants, just like real men who commit violence against women.
With its repetition of the word "rape" and its portrayal of Kilgrave as an irredeemable villain, Jessica Jones is the antidote to the victim blaming that too often occurs in society. I found this comment under the above Youtube video of Kilgrave's death:
I realize that this one commenter doesn't represent the majority, but in my experience, these opinions are still fairly prevalent. People still blame women when men commit acts of violence, whether it's within a domestic relationship or a large-scale massacre like Santa Barbara. Comments like these, and the attitudes that accompany them, illustrate why shows like Jessica Jones are so important. We need sensitive portrayals of violence against women that understand not only that it's not the victim's fault, but that society enables the abusers.
Is Kilgrave really dead?
Technically, Kilgrave could still come back, as he possesses healing powers in the comics that can make him appear dead for a time before he comes back to life again. David Tennant turned in an amazing performance this season, and Kilgrave is definitely the best villain of the MCU, but I hope he's gone for good, as it would seriously undercut the power of this episode, and the arc of this entire season, if he returned. Plus, considering that he had to steal someone's kidneys to heal himself after the bus crash, it doesn't seem that he shares the superhuman healing powers of his comics counterpart (nor should he, considering how grounded Jessica Jones is compared to Alias).
Aside from the brief fan service of Kilgrave's veins turning purple and a little bit more teasing about the mysterious IGH, which is likely the MCU's version of Weapon X, the Marvel Easter eggs were mostly connected to Daredevil. Claire Temple probably had a little too much screentime, considering that this was the season finale and she's a relatively minor character. But it was definitely less distracting than having Daredevil come on the scene, and Claire's dynamic with Jessica was fascinating to watch. Jessica might be a superhero, but Claire is a real-life hero, which becomes all the more evident during the excellent (and cringe-inducing) needle-in-eye scene. Not only does Claire, as Jessica says, "make the rest of us look like selfish assholes," she's also even more inured to body horror than Jessica, as the latter can barely stand to be in the same room as a needle going into Luke's eye.
And although her presence was a little superfluous, this exchange about Daredevil cracked me up: "He's- like you." "Bleeding and unconscious?" "Yeah, more often than not." The show in a nutshell.
Where is Jessica now?
"Doing something good... It helps with the self-loathing, trust me."
The appropriately muted final scene with Jessica and Malcolm was perfect, and served to justify the anticlimactic nature of the showdown with Kilgrave. Jessica isn't magically healed because she snapped Kilgrave's neck; on the contrary, she's more convinced than ever that she's not really a hero. It's a little rough to see her ignore the calls of abused women, but it demonstrates one of the strengths of her character: you don't always like her, but you still root for her to keep trying to overcome her demons and become the hero she could be. And although she's not done growing as a person by any means, and she's still kind of "an asshole," as she so delicately puts it, her tender scenes with Luke and her "I love you" to Trish show that she is, at least, making progress.
As a big Luke/Jessica shipper, I loved the cuddling scene. Jessica never shares her feelings, so it was touching to hear her tell Luke that she had dreamed of a future with him, but emotionally damaged as she is, she can only tell him when he's unconscious. It makes sense that it will take them a while to find their way back to each other, and I like Claire, so I'm fine with it if Luke dates her for a while, but this scene demonstrated that these two are clearly endgame.
As I've said in previous recaps, there are a lot of logistical problems, a lot of ways that Jessica and co. could have defended themselves better from Kilgrave's powers. And while it was fun to see Trish take off her hood to reveal noise-canceling headphones, it's frustrating to realize that they should have just had noise-canceling headphones on hand all the time. If they had all put them on when Kilgrave killed his mother and escaped from his holding cell, for example, then he never would have been able to tell Trish to put a bullet in her head and poor Clemons to rip his hand out of his handcuffs. I realize that some suspension of belief is necessary when dealing with mind control, but the writers could have had the characters deal with it a little more realistically.
I absolutely love when they draw attention to the corniness of certain aspects of the comic, like Jewel's costume or the name "Kilgrave."
"Why not just snuffcarcass?" Claire asks, as do we all. "Murdercorpse" was funnier, but this was a pretty good one, too.
"Fortunately, we're already at a hospital, so when I rip your tongue from your skull, it'll be a short trip."
"I'm merely removing nuisances, it's a public service, really."
"It's five in the morning." "Exactly."
"You're leaving? With a large, unconscious man in your bed."
"Won't be the last."
"You were the first person I ever pictured a future with. You were also the first person I ever shot in the head."