Monday, December 21, 2015

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 5, "AKA The Sandwich Saved Me" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Before Jessica Jones was released, one of my biggest questions was just how much of Jessica’s aborted superhero career we would see in this series.  That question finds its answer in episode 5, when Jessica performs her first couple heroic acts and is first pushed in the direction of becoming a superhero.  In addition to this exploration of Jessica’s superhero career, the episode also gives us our first glimpse into both Jessica’s attempts to capture Kilgrave and the protections Kilgrave has put in place to prevent that from happening.

The episode starts off with a flashback of Jessica attempting to work a 9-to-5 job for the post office and failing resoundingly.  However, when the boss attempts to fire her, Jessica uses her investigative abilities to extort him into giving her severance pay and a glowing recommendation.  Not exactly the most auspicious beginning for a budding superhero career, but it does demonstrate Jessica’s impressive deductive abilities!  Afterwards Jessica meets Trish for lunch at a bar, where Trish comments that she doesn’t think any of the various jobs Jess has attempted have challenged her quite enough; she thinks that Jess should try using her abilities for good by becoming a superhero.  The flashback only notes that it is “18 months ago”—which doesn’t give us much to go on as far as where it fits with regards to The Avengers (May 2012, which could be right around that same time)—but I would guess that it’s before The Avengers, since otherwise Trish probably would have mentioned the alien invasion as a reason for becoming a hero.  Jess comments that maybe Trish should try fighting crime, to which she responds that “I would if I could.”  However, they are interrupted when one of Trish’s creepier fans starts hitting on them, prompting Jess to challenge him to a “Strength Tester” game.  He punches the thing with quite a bit of force, but she pretty much breaks the machine, leaving him speechless and sheepish.

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The next flashback shows Jessica working for a sandwich place as one of those street corner advertisers, dressed as a hoagie.  She’s giving out free samples when a little girl runs out into the street and is nearly hit by a taxi.  Jessica runs into the street and saves the girl’s life by stopping the taxi dead in its tracks (denting the hood in the process).  I think this is to be understood as the event which prompted Jessica to become a superhero; the next flashback shows Jess and Trish talking about better superhero costumes than going out dressed as a sandwich!  This may be the most purely-fun scene of the season, as we see them debating the merits of Jessica’s first hero name and costume in the comics:  Jewel.  Trish suggests the name “Jewel,” but Jessica comments that “Jewel is a stripper’s name.  A really slutty stripper.”  And to be honest, she’s kind of right!  Trish also shows her the exact Jewel costume from the comics, which may be the first purely-non-functional hero costume we’ve seen in the MCU, as it’s pretty much just spandex.  Ultimately, Jessica rejected both the costume and the name.  As far as comic book Easter eggs go, particularly for something like this, I thought that this was a good way to include that type of callback to the comic book source material without becoming too weird.  I also like what this does for both Trish’s character and her relationship with Jessica.  First, we get to see how close the two of them were before Kilgrave happened, and that Trish is Jessica’s biggest fan (something which doesn’t appear to have changed in the present).  Second, we also see that Trish has something of a “hero complex”:  she seems to have it made, but she really wishes she could have what Jessica has, an opportunity to be a superhero.  It’s not explored much further in this season, but I do wonder if part of the reason for Trish’s desire to learn Krav Maga also came from a desire to use it as a superhero if the opportunity presents itself.  Regardless, this does make me think that Trish as Hellcat will appear in The Defenders in some capacity, depending on how the team-up comes about.

The present action of the episode centers on Jessica’s response to learning that Malcolm is Kilgrave’s spy.  Jessica first follows Malcolm and watches him meet with Kilgrave to hand over his latest pictures of her.  Though she has a syringe of Sufentanil all ready to go, she does not attempt to drug him at that time because she doesn’t think she can get him away—and she doesn’t have anywhere to take him.  However, this is the first step in coming up with a plan.  For the rest, she goes to Trish for help.

When Jess arrives at Trish’s apartment, Trish is in the middle of an… intimate… moment with someone who turns out to be Simpson (that escalated quickly!).  Simpson, who is a former soldier, kind of elbows his way into Jess and Trish’s planning meeting, offering a former CDC facility his army buddy used to work at as the location where they can stash Kilgrave once they’ve snatched him.  However, Simpson is not a huge fan of the premise behind their plan:  he doesn’t think that someone as dangerous as Kilgrave should be “snatched” at all because of what he is capable of doing; Simpson thinks that the most prudent course of action involves acute lead poisoning from close-range.  This is where he and Jessica disagree (well, that and the fact that he tried to kill Trish and now he’s sleeping with her!):  being a private investigator, Jessica is very interested in getting evidence which she can use to free Hope (and possibly put Kilgrave in prison).  Murdering Kilgrave in cold blood would not further that goal.  The two of them even have an interesting scene together when Jess locks Simpson inside the soundproof room at the CDC building and they talk at each other while the other can’t hear.  Afterwards Simpson gets a van for them to use in the snatch-and-grab, and they decide how they are going to get Kilgrave to the sealed room.  All through the planning and execution of the snatch-and-grab, it is very clear that Jess and Simpson do not get along, but it’s not entirely clear how much of that comes from their differing ideologies of how to handle Kilgrave and how much of that is Jess’s implicit mistrust of anyone with whom Trish gets involved!  Regardless, Trish is absolutely the glue holding this team together.

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The three of them stake out Malcolm’s next meeting with Kilgrave, and Simpson gets in close with a dart gun to shoot him with the Sufentanil.  When she realizes that Kilgrave is looking right at Simpson, Jessica distracts him, giving Simpson the opening he needs to shoot him.  Jessica immediately grabs Kilgrave, knocks down a couple bodyguards, and gets into their van with Kilgrave.  They drive to the CDC building, but it’s not until they arrive that Jess realizes that Kilgrave is wearing a GPS tracking device.  They are suddenly attacked by a couple SUVs of bodyguards, who knock Trish unconscious with a taser.  Jess and Simpson attempt to fight them off, but are distracted/subdued long enough for them to rescue Kilgrave.  They are left with a single bodyguard, whom they interrogate.  From him they learn that these bodyguards were hired, rather than mind-controlled, because Kilgrave thought that Jess had figured out a way to neutralize his powers.  I actually like this, as it demonstrates Kilgrave’s intelligence:  even though he has the ability to make anyone do anything he wishes, he’s not so foolish as to ignore other methods of controlling people, such as money.  Additionally, we learn later on that Malcolm was not being mind-controlled the whole time; Kilgrave controlled him by getting him addicted to drugs and then giving him drug money in exchange for pictures of Jess.

The “before and after” theme of the episode really comes through with Malcolm’s story.  We learn that Kilgrave first mind-controlled Jessica after she saved Malcolm from a couple thugs who were beating on him.  At that time he was planning to become a social worker.  However, six months before the season Kilgrave took control of Malcolm and got him hooked on drugs in anticipation of placing him in Jessica’s building to keep tabs on her.  Now that Kilgrave knows that Jessica is on to Malcolm, Jessica decides that it is high time to save him from Kilgrave (again).  She chases off his drug dealer and locks Malcolm in her bathroom, where she offers him a choice between taking the drugs (failing her) and resisting the drugs (saving her).  While she was doing so, Kilgrave woke up and called her, threatening to come back for Malcolm unless Jessica takes his place in sending him pictures.  Jessica is unsure about opening herself up to that degree of violation—having to send daily pictures to her abuser is nothing less than a daily violation.  However, when she sees that Malcolm is going to try to overcome his drug addiction and work past his Kilgrave trauma, it gives her the courage to take his place in sending the pictures.

One other interesting moment from this episode for how it builds into the rest of the season is that Hope calls Jessica begging for some cash, which Jessica gives her.  Near the end of the episode, we see Hope being attacked by one of the other prisoners.  What is going on here?  We don’t have to wait too long to find out; the next episode explains it.

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Watching Jessica put together a team and attempt to take Kilgrave into custody may have been the most interesting part of the episode, but I think my favorite scenes were the flashbacks, particularly Jessica deciding to try her hand at being a superhero.  From a thematic standpoint, everything ties together pretty well with the concept of how Kilgrave changes people.  We see Jessica and Trish and their relationship beforehand, and it is worlds better than their relationship and demeanor after Jessica’s first run in with Kilgrave.  We see Malcolm before Kilgrave took control of him, and he had a purpose and meaning in life; after Kilgrave he is left a pathetic drug addict.  Overall, I really enjoyed this episode.

What was your favorite part of this episode?  Did you like seeing them give a nod to Jessica’s comic book origin?  Did you want to see her actually put on that Jewel outfit?  Let me know in the comments!

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