Monday, December 14, 2015

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 4, "AKA 99 Friends" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Jessica Jones takes a bit of a detour from the main plot in episode 4, “AKA 99 Friends,” to comment on the conditions in New York City for those with “gifts.”  However, that doesn’t mean that the main plot disappears entirely, as Jessica continues her efforts to protect those she loves and track down Kilgrave before he can hurt anyone else.  All in all, the insight this episode provides into the “New York Superhero Community™”—and even more into the general public’s reaction to it!—is very welcome, particularly as the Superhero Civil War nears.

Let’s start off with that side plot.  While Jessica is trying to track down her spy, whom she discovers to be her druggie neighbor Malcolm from police surveillance footage helpfully provided by a penitent Simpson (does NYPD really have that many interconnected surveillance cameras all around the city?  Creepy…), she is visited by a potential client who says she was referred to Jessica by her divorce attorney, who is a partner at Hogarth’s law firm.  The client, Audrey Eastman (as in Eastman and Laird, the TMNT creators?), wants Jessica to take pictures of her husband for use in their divorce settlement.  However, Jessica is extremely suspicious of the timing and follows her for 12 hours to makes sure that Audrey is not being controlled by Kilgrave.  In that time she follows Audrey to an abandoned building where she practices shooting a revolver (this series really has a thing for revolvers), but does not see her meet Kilgrave at all.  Satisfied that Kilgrave is not setting her up, Jessica completes the job by following the husband and watching from the door while he has his “affair.”  However, just because Kilgrave isn’t responsible for the job doesn’t mean it isn’t a set-up!  Jessica discovers this when Audrey calls to make sure she had followed Carlo—and Jessica hears her voice coming from the bed!  Jess bursts into the room to be met by both Carlo and Audrey, with Audrey holding the revolver pointed at her.  Well, huh.

It turns out that Audrey’s mother was killed in the Battle of New York when a building fell on her and Audrey was left trying to dig her out while the Avengers fought above them.  As a result, Audrey blames all “gifted” people for her mother’s death, and she wants to take it out on Jessica before moving on to any other “gifted” people Jessica knows.  I have to say, this whole thing is ridiculously hilarious:  it’s like the “Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe” comic series, but with someone without training and without any hope of success attempting to carry it out!  And of course, Jessica first tries to bluff her way out of a confrontation by claiming to have bulletproof skin.  Unfortunately, though that line worked in the comics, it didn’t work for her in this instance.  Audrey winged her in the arm once, but after that it was all Jessica:  she tore the apartment apart, throwing the heater across the room, all the while shouting at them that she wasn’t involved with the Battle of New York and that they aren’t the only ones dealing with trauma.  Finally, she concludes by telling them that she has 99 “gifted” friends in New York City, and that they will all stop by tomorrow to make sure they’ve left.  I highly doubt this is the way the Eastmans expected the confrontation to go!  But at the same time, I think this may have been the best outcome they could hope for:  They got a helpful lesson in not provoking super-powered people, and didn’t have to lose any limbs!

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In terms of the Kilgrave plot, this episode gives us quite a bit of development for Simpson, the police sergeant who tried to kill Trish in the previous episode, “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” (1x03).  Early in the episode Simpson returns to Trish’s apartment, throwing her into a panic because she thinks he knows that she’s still alive and is back to finish the job.  However, when Jess arrives she recognizes the look on his face as that of someone who believes they committed cold-blooded murder and is horrified by the realization.  Jess opens the door and shows Simpson that Trish is still alive, and then explains to him who Kilgrave is and what he can do.  Simpson is really looking for ways to help out, but Jess refuses his help, preferring to avoid police involvement since they could just be used by Kilgrave.  However, Jess does let him help a little bit by giving her access to police surveillance cameras so she can find her spy.  In addition to this, Simpson also returns to Trish’s apartment later on, looking to apologize for attempting to kill her.  Because she knows that Kilgrave told him to do it, Trish doesn’t blame him for what happened, but she is still extremely cautious around him, refusing to let him into the apartment until the end of the episode.  However, he also brings her a gift as a way to protect her:  an unregistered revolver (again with the revolvers…).  This leads to the two of them bonding through the closed security door, and Trish eventually letting him in.  Something about Simpson seems off, but at the same time he still seems like a decent guy who is trying to make up for a horrible mistake.  Based on his childhood stories, he is someone who tries to protect others, and that desire to protect seems to drive a lot of his actions during the season.

Because Trish cannot hide from Kilgrave forever, Jess convinces her that the only way to protect herself is by apologizing to Kilgrave on her show, which she does, albeit begrudgingly.  Later in the episode a little girl is mind-controlled into telling Jessica that Trish is safe because Kilgrave liked her apology.  I found Trish and Jess’s conversation afterward about Trish’s acting ability—and specifically her mom “blowing half the jury” so she would win an acting award—to be quite amusing.  However, at the same time that conversation highlights an important facet of their shared history, one which will become even more significant as the series progresses:  Trish’s mother.  The drawn-out reveal of their history is one of the most intriguing elements of this season.  We find out just enough to keep us interested as we go, but the whole thing doesn’t come out until near the end of the season.

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As part of her ongoing campaign against Kilgrave, Jessica also consults with Hogarth to see if the radio interview bore any fruit in terms of Kilgrave’s mind control victims.  Hogarth asks Jessica to get some dirt on her wife, Wendy, but Jessica tells her that she will only take that job after she’s vetted the “victims.”  Unfortunately, most of the so-called “victims” appear to be either criminals trying to deny responsibility for their crimes or nut jobs; one of the “victims” is a teenage girl attempting to explain away her pregnancy!  Nevertheless, Jessica manages to identify about a half-dozen legitimate Kilgrave victims based on their descriptions of Kilgrave, and she sets up the legitimate victims as a support group, hoping that this group’s recollections will help her figure out what Kilgrave wants and how she can find him.  That is an interesting element of Jessica’s character throughout the series.  On the one hand she pretends not to care about people—the number of people she actually shows any attachment or affection towards is limited to Trish, Luke, and Malcolm.  However, on the other hand she shows by her actions that she does genuinely care:  she tries to teach the same PTSD recovery technique to Hope in the first episode, and in this episode she does something which might actually help the victims recover in connecting them together as a support group—even if that is just a secondary reason.  Though Jessica absolutely does not see herself as a hero at any point during the series, it is quite obvious to me that her actions betray a strong desire to do the right thing and help people.

Hogarth’s character receives some interesting character development in this episode, as well.  Among other things, we learn that Hogarth is seeking a divorce from her wife (and assuming that the MCU is consistent with the real world, that’s just pathetic:  New York established same-sex marriage in July, 2011, meaning that Hogarth and Wendy could only have been married for 4 years!).  Further, Hogarth is having an affair with her secretary, Pam, whom she is planning to marry (kind of cliché).  And on top of all that, this is when Hogarth starts to take something of a villainous turn:  she comments to Jessica that Kilgrave’s powers could be used for good if they could be harnessed.  At this point in the story Jessica rejects entirely the concept of using Kilgrave for good; her history with him and experience with his recent victims has made her leery of even considering the possibility.  Now, Hogarth considering the possibility of using Kilgrave for good does not in and of itself make her a villain, but it is somewhat disturbing that she can hear all these stories of the misery he has caused and immediately think of the good he can do!

I really enjoyed a lot of this episode.  The exploration of the common person’s reaction to all the powered people running around New York was quite amusing and yet rather appropriate.  Considering that the Avengers are so far above the street level events of the MCU, it would make sense that if someone wants to take their frustration out on a superhero, they would choose someone like Jessica Jones whose powers aren’t exactly a secret and is more available than, say, Iron Man.

The one character that I really don’t like so far is Hogarth.  I think that they are make her a little too clichéd and a little too unlikeable.  I can understand her motivations all through the series, but that doesn’t necessarily make her a great character; she’s too close to the clichéd “strong, powerful, wealthy business person who gets what he/she wants and just uses people to do it.”

What did you think of this episode?  Do you like Hogarth’s character?  What do you think of this semi-tie-in with Captain America: Civil War?  Let me know in the comments!

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