Monday, November 23, 2015

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 1, "AKA Ladies Night" REVIEW (SPOILERS!)

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“AKA Ladies Night,” the series premiere of Jessica Jones, sets a very strong tone for the rest of the season.  In this episode we see Jessica taking a couple different types of cases.  We meet all of the main characters for the season in one form or another.  The key relationships in the series are introduced.  We get a sense of Kilgrave’s power, though not quite the extent of his power.  And we really get to know just about everything we need to know about where Jessica is starting this series.  All in all, I would consider this to be a strong opening statement from a highly-anticipated series.

The episode begins by giving us an idea of just how Jessica pays her bills:  at this point it appears that most of Jessica’s clients are suspicious spouses who want her to take pictures of their spouses cheating on them.  Sometimes they accept it and get angry; other times they deny the evidence and get angry at her.  In a scene completely ripped from the comics, one of these latter clients gets angry in her office, and she winds up throwing him through a window to subdue him!  This is the first indication we get of her considerable strength.  One thing I’ve really appreciated about this series—and which I also appreciated about Daredevil—is the slow reveal of the protagonist’s abilities.  Though this series introduces them all to a certain extent in the first episode, it’s not all at once, which helps with the believability factor.

Jessica is looking for work and “arranges” a meeting with Jeri Hogarth, a high-profile attorney with whom she works.  Evidently Hogarth asked Jessica to become the firm’s P.I. at one point, but Jessica turned the offer down because she prefers to work solo.  However, Hogarth still finds a job for Jessica:  serving a subpoena to a nightclub owner whose establishments are unsafe for strippers.  Naturally Jessica takes the job and serves the subpoena after accosting the man on the road the next night.  However, she doesn’t just serve a subpoena; she picks the back tires off the ground so he can’t drive away!  That’s when he accuses her of being “one of them.”  What does he mean by “them?”  It’s unclear; he could be talking about the Avengers, but he could also be talking about the alien/Inhuman “crisis” which is being explored on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  For right now, I’m going to assume that it’s a combination of the two.  Oh, and as a result of that accusation she also threatens him with her “laser eyes” which can incinerate his insides without leaving a mark!  Of course she can do nothing of the sort, but it wouldn’t really be her if she didn’t embellish a little!  She actually did the same thing on occasion in the comics, going so far at one point as to tell a man to shoot her because the bullets would just bounce off (though she didn’t know if they actually would).  She is very good at bluffing her way out of situations by embellishing her powers a little bit.  One thing should be crystal clear from this scene:  Jessica Jones is not Kara Danvers (Supergirl)!

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Luke Cage also makes his debut in this episode, but it is not until the end of the episode that Jessica finally talks to him.  At first, she simply jumps up to a fire escape a few floors off the ground and observes as he goes through closing the bar and then brings a woman up to his apartment.  Though her voiceover seems to indicate that her interest in Luke is based on a case, it sounds like it is an old case, one which she should have dropped a while ago but can’t.  Eventually we do learn part of the reason for her interest in him, but not this episode.  For now, Luke doesn’t appear again until halfway through the episode, when Jessica is loitering outside his bar and he invites her in.  The two of them talk and flirt for a while before he invites her up to his room and they have sex.  The thing with these sex scenes is that though they more than earn a “TV-MA” rating in my book, they do not do so by showing a lot of skin.  Instead, they show Luke and Jessica in the act and obviously enjoying themselves, but with everything covered in some way, shape, or form.  I’m not a huge fan of sexual content, but this is the way that I can tolerate the most.

Of course, the main focus of the episode is on introducing Kilgrave, but doing so in a very roundabout way.  A couple from Omaha comes to Jessica’s office asking if she can help them find their daughter, Hope, saying that they were sent to her by someone at the police station.  Jessica agrees, reluctantly.  Tracking down Hope is fairly straightforward; between her credit card transactions and her roommate’s recollections, it’s only a matter of time before Jessica ends up at the Chinese restaurant where Hope and her new boyfriend ate.  However, this is when things start getting weird.  Jessica interviews the host, who explains all of the unusual things that happened when Hope and her friend came:  the host chasing a couple away from the table that the “friend” wanted, the restaurant comping an expensive bottle of champagne to them, and the chef hunting down the recipe for a specific dish from the old Italian restaurant that used to be in their building and making it for this man.  And as he is describing all of this, Jessica starts to have flashbacks to the last time she was in this restaurant, with Kilgrave.  She now realizes that Kilgrave is back and that he took Hope.  Jessica’s initial reaction is to go to the parents’ hotel room and demand to know who sent them to her—it was just some guy at the precinct (she suspects Kilgrave).  She then tells them to pack their bags and leave the city as quickly as possible before going back to her apartment/office and attempting to do the same.  However, she does not have money herself for a ticket to Hong Kong, and Hope’s credit card is declined (as if we needed more convincing that Jessica isn’t the most moral hero out there!), so she first turns to Hogarth for money and then to her best friend Trish.

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Trish Walker is one of the characters I was most curious about going into the series.  We already know more or less what will happen with Jessica and Luke, so of course they are going to be pretty awesome and become heroes by the end.  However, the same can’t necessarily be said for a minor comic book hero like Trish “Patsy” Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat, a non-powered hero who eventually joins the Defenders.  Ever since she was announced for the series I’ve been expecting that they will use her to eventually introduce hardcore magical elements to the MNSU (Marvel Netflix Sub-Universe).  However, it was just as likely that she would be little more than a friend to Jessica, along the lines of Foggy in Daredevil. At this point in the series, it is obvious that they have history together, but that Jessica started cutting Trish out of her life shortly after she finally broke away from Kilgrave’s control—it was about a year ago that Kilgrave “died,” and 6 months ago that the two of them last spoke.  However, their relationship is close enough that Trish is not surprised to have Jessica jump up to the balcony of her penthouse (Jessica does a lot of jumping) and ask for money.  And though she thinks Jessica is making a mistake by running away, Trish still gives her an envelope of cash to help her do it.  Jessica is on her way to the airport, but still thinking about what Trish had said and the fact that she is the only one who believes Kilgrave is out there and the only one with the ability to stop him.  Finally, Jessica resigns herself to rescuing the girl and has the cab driver bring her to the same hotel where Kilgrave took her.

Of course Jessica finds the girl almost right away, and in the same room where Kilgrave took her a year earlier.  However, the girl refuses to go with Jessica, who finally has to knock her unconscious to get her out of the room.  The parents meet them at Jessica’s office, and she tells them that they all need to leave the city:  time and distance are necessary to break Kilgrave’s hold over Hope.  However, once in the elevator with her parents, Hope pulls out a revolver and starts pulling the trigger, killing both of her parents—clearly she was still enough under Kilgrave’s control for her to do that.  As soon as it happens, Jessica grabs her bag and runs out to meet a cab.  However, before getting in she finally recognizes that she has to stop Kilgrave: she is the only one who knows he’s out there, and she is the only one who can stop him.  She’s not quite a superhero, but she is going to stop the bad guy because no one else can do it.

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There’s also a quick throwaway scene with Hogarth and her secretary showing the two of them kissing, setting up a side plot involving Hogarth and her wife getting a divorce.  I’m not sure yet what purpose this plot is supposed to serve in connection with the main narrative, but my kneejerk reaction is to wonder if making Hogarth a woman was necessary for this; it makes at least as much sense for a male lawyer to be having an affair with his secretary as a female one.  And my second kneejerk reason is to ask if this is really the light they want to show lesbians in: cheating on their wives!  However, I am willing to reserve judgment on this decision until I see more, and specifically if this will tie somehow into Kilgrave’s plot.

Most of the humor in this episode comes in the first half, particularly with the Schlottmans (Hope’s parents)—which I suppose should have been the first clue that they wouldn’t make it through the episode!  When they first entered Jessica’s apartment/office, Bob (the father) started commenting about Jessica’s broken door and that it was not safe for a single woman in New York to not have a working lock on her door or a way to keep it shut.  While this would be a real concern for just about anyone else, Jessica doesn’t seem overly bothered by it, though she nearly attacked her druggie neighbor, Malcolm, early in the episode when she found him in her kitchen eating her peanut butter.  To be honest, any guy stupid enough to break into Jessica Jones’ apartment is in far more danger than she is!  However, these are really the only lighthearted moments in the episode; after Kilgrave’s indirect introduction in the restaurant scene the episode takes a very dark turn.

Overall this is a very strong first episode for the series.  All of the main characters are introduced, including the main villain, and they all receive enough screen time for us to understand where they are starting the series.  There isn’t really a ton of action in this episode, but I wasn’t really expecting a lot, either.  The one thing that stands out to me so far is that where Daredevil earned its “TV-MA” rating based on graphic violence, Jessica Jones is earning its own “TV-MA” rating for explicit (though not graphic) sexual content as well as regular use of crude language.  This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just one way that they are distinguishing the two series.  This episode definitely does a good job of roping me in:  I want to see why Jessica—who is so physically powerful—is so afraid of Kilgrave, and how she can possibly defeat someone who can control people’s will.  Her interactions with Luke Cage are also very interesting; Mike Colter was reportedly cast specifically because of his chemistry with Krysten Ritter, and that chemistry really shows in their scenes together.

What did you think of the first episode of Jessica Jones?  Did you binge-watch the whole thing, or are you spacing it out more?  Do you want to see Trish become Hellcat in the Netflix shows?  Let me know in the comments!

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