Monday, January 4, 2016

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 7, “AKA Top Shelf Perverts” REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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You know how just about every superhero-based movie and TV series has a moment in the second half where the protagonist looks to be at the end of his or her rope and the villain looks to be nearing victory?  Of course you do; you read this blog and watch many of these same shows and movies!  In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 it would be right around Hydra’s coming-out party, specifically when Ward reveals himself to be a Hydra agent and Coulson gives his “S.H.I.E.L.D. has to mean something” speech.  In Daredevil season 1 it would be Matt and Foggy’s huge fight which ends with “Nelson and Murdock” quite literally in the garbage.  In Jessica Jones season 1, this episode is the first time that Jessica hits that low point, though it is not the last one.

The episode begins with Kilgrave inside Jessica’s apartment/office taking a look around.  However, while he is there Jessica’s upstairs neighbor Ruben comes down with a loaf of banana bread for Jessica.  Kilgrave kind of mocks Ruben for being nosy, and finally demands to know why Ruben came down, at which point Ruben says that he “loves” Jessica.  The scene ends here, but it doesn’t talk long for us to find out what happened afterward:  Kilgrave told Ruben to lie down in Jessica’s bed and slit his own throat.  This is not the darkest moment of the season—or even of this episode—but it is nevertheless tragic, as Ruben is easily the most naïve and innocent character in the series, despite being a bit creepy in the way he “pursues” Jessica.  His death has a galvanizing effect on Jessica:  here’s yet another death which Kilgrave has caused in his pursuit of her, another death for which she blames herself.  This discovery pushes her to do something completely desperate in a desperate bid to stop the carnage.

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For her part, Jessica starts the episode already in a fragile emotional state:  the last episode, “AKA You’re a Winner” (1x06), concluded with Luke’s discovery of her role in Reva’s death and subsequent rejection of her.  How does Jessica cope with this?  How else; she goes to another dive bar and gets resoundingly drunk!  In fact, her first scene is of her getting thrown out of that bar and landing in a pile of trash.  Between the previous trauma and the “liquid courage,” she is not in the best frame of mind when she confronts Wendy to pressure her into signing the divorce papers for Hogarth.  Jess follows Wendy into a subway station, where she actually picks her up and holds her out over the tracks while the subway is coming to threaten her into agreeing to Hogarth’s terms.  Unfortunately, Jess is a little drunk and accidentally drops her onto the rails.  She has to jump down and throw Wendy back onto the platform, and jumps out of the way just in time to avoid the coming train.  At this point Jess is quite alarmed by her actions and chooses to flee without getting the papers signed.  This is when Jess returns to her apartment (with a little assistance from Malcolm) and finds Ruben dead in her bed.  It is incredible just how far this pushes Jessica—she is very near the brink, now that there have been no less than 3 deaths she’s directly connected to (the Schlottmans being the others; the police don’t know about her part in Reva’s death).

Partly because of Ruben’s death, and partly because of her guilt over Reva, Jess decides that she needs to draw Kilgrave out and force him to use his powers in a context where he can be caught on video.  The best option she can come up with is to use Ruben’s murder to get herself locked up in the Supermax Prison:  if she is there, then Kilgrave will have to come out of hiding and actually enter the prison to get through all the security to reach her.  It’s a ridiculous long-shot for her to assume that he would come after her before going after anyone else, but I think at this point it should be fairly obvious that Jessica is not thinking clearly.  Jessica decides to wait until Detective Clemons (the detective who questioned her concerning the Schlottman murders) comes on duty that evening, turn herself in to him, and take responsibility for Ruben’s murder.  Again, it’s a terrible idea, but it definitely shows Jessica starting to spiral as she tries to take on Kilgrave by herself.

Before she can turn herself in and hopefully (!) get locked up for the foreseeable future, however, Jessica decides that she needs to take care of a few things to protect the people she cares about.  First, she tells Malcolm that he needs to get out of town so he’s safe from Kilgrave.  Next, she stops at Luke’s bar to try and say “goodbye” to him, though he’s not there.  Instead she tells Roy (his bartender) to pass on a message that “the right people are going to pay for what’s been done.”  Finally Jess goes to see dear old Mom (meaning Trish’s mother, whom Jessica also calls “mother”) at her “Stars & Tykes Talent Agency.”  From this scene it becomes abundantly apparent that Jessica and Dorothy do not get along at all.  Evidently Dorothy took advantage of Trish for the duration of her childhood and built her talent agency using the royalties from Trish’s acting career.  However, Jessica seems to have put a stop to it by placing Dorothy under an unofficial restraining order—something to the effect of “You get too close to Trish and I’ll tear your limbs off.”  Now that she is going to prison, Jess wants to make sure that Dorothy is aware that the “restraining order” is still in effect, and that Jess will carry it out even from prison (how???).  From a character standpoint, this scene really does a lot to fill in the details of Trish and Jess’s relationship.  Even though in previous episodes Trish told Jess that she didn’t need her protection anymore, Jess is still looking out for her, and specifically with the one threat against whom Trish has no defense:  her mother.  Even without a single flashback, this scene tells us everything we really need to know about Trish, Jess, and Dorothy’s history.

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While Jessica is saying her “goodbyes,” we also learn that Trish has been blaming herself for the failure of their first attempt to capture Kilgrave, though Simpson tells her that it’s actually Jess’s fault for refusing to kill Kilgrave—an assertion which Trish vehemently rejects.  However, Trish has a plan to make up for that failure:  she went to all the private protection companies in the city and managed to “persuade” them to tell her the names of the new bodyguards assigned to Kilgrave.  Simpson agrees to follow them until they lead him back to Kilgrave, at which point Trish will call in Jess and they can take another run at capturing Kilgrave.  Simpson agrees with everything up until the last part; he thinks that they need to put Kilgrave in the ground because he is just too dangerous to be allowed to live.  I think this is when we really start to see a divide within “Team Jess,” with Jess and Trish both intent on capturing Kilgrave—Jess to save Hope, Trish to put him on trial for his crimes—while Simpson refuses to consider the ramifications of killing Kilgrave and instead has become focused on the need to kill him.  At this point in the series, I find myself very much sympathizing with Jess and Trish, that they need to capture Kilgrave if they’re going to have any hope of freeing Hope, but I can still see Simpson’s reasoning.  The fact of the matter is that Kilgrave truly is dangerous; the question that needs to be asked is whether killing him is worth Hope losing her one shot as freedom, to say nothing of whatever other consequences his death might have.  Simpson of course finds Kilgrave quite easily, working to make Jess’s old house look as much like it did while she was growing up as possible (creepy), but he does not share the information with Trish.

Trish goes over to Jess’s office to explain the plan to her, but she instead finds Malcolm with Ruben’s dead body.  After freaking out, she agrees to help Malcolm cover up Ruben’s murder and prevent Jess from throwing her life away on what is by all rights a long-shot.  Malcolm takes the body down to the docks and tosses it in, while Trish waits for Jess.  Jess is angry when she gets home and learns what they had done, but Trish tries to convince her not to carry through on her plan.  However, Jess eventually convinces Trish to let her try it, and that this could be their only chance to take Kilgrave in.  I find the end of the conversation, with Jess apologizing for not being the hero Trish wanted her to be, and Trish telling her she is “exactly the hero I wanted you to be,” to be very touching.

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Jess goes down to the docks, retrieves Ruben’s head, and takes it down to the police station, where she drops it on Clemons’ desk and tries to convince him that she belongs in Supermax.  Though he is at first hesitant, he changes his tune when Jess says she ripped the head from the body with her bare hands, and proves she has the strength by breaking her handcuffs and folding her metal chair up like cardboard.  However, before Clemons can book her, an officer who should be familiar from Daredevil (Brett Mahoney) walks in and releases Jess.  Jess and Clemons walk out into the main room to find all the officers holding their handguns on each other or themselves.  Brett suddenly pulls his own gun and points it at Clemons’ head, and Kilgrave himself appears.  (Side Note:  Stan the Man sighting!)  This is a terrifying scene as Kilgrave tries to convince Jess to leave with him.  He tells her that he loves her, he tells her that he is the only one who matches her, he tells her that he wants her because she’s the only person to ever walk away from him.  Finally, after the police have finished deleting the footage of what’s happening, he leaves, telling them that it was all a joke and they are going to let Jessica go.

Jess returns to her apartment, where she discovers a gift Kilgrave had left for her:  her journal growing up.  In the journal she finds a note:  “Start at the beginning.”  This is when she realizes that Kilgrave is waiting for her at her childhood home.  Considering how things have gone down, I think Jessica realizes that she has no choice but to walk into Kilgrave’s lair to try to take him down—or at the very least get the evidence she needs—before he does something worse than he did at the police station.  As a result, the episode ends with her going back to her house and going inside with Kilgrave while Simpson watches from his car.

I really like all of the emotional moments in this episode, particularly Jess looking out for Trish.  I think this is when Kilgrave’s plan starts to take shape for us:  he is trying to win Jess over because she is the “one that got away.”  The precinct scene was every bit as crazy and horror-inspired as the trailers made it appear to be.  And the ending—Jessica going to Kilgrave’s house—was definitely not what I was expecting.  Overall a good lead-in to the remainder of the season.

What did you think of this episode?  Do you agree more with Jess or Simpson as far as what to do with Kilgrave?  Let me know in the comments!

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