Monday, January 25, 2016

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 9, "AKA Sin Bin" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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We are now entering the final third of Jessica Jones season 1, and it is only now that we really get any back story on the main villain of the series.  Actually, in all honesty I was not expecting Kilgrave to get any back story before the season began!  I was really thinking about him in the same way as Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight:  more like a force of nature than anything else, someone that pushes the hero to the breaking point in every possible way and feels more like an insurmountable obstacle, rather than a simple antagonist.  That’s not to say that I was disappointed with the portrayal of Kilgrave in Jessica Jones; on the contrary he exceeded my expectations.  And I thought that giving him a back story actually helped his character much more than I originally thought it would.

The previous episode ended with Jessica taking Kilgrave into custody; this episode begins with Kilgrave waking up afterwards.  He is in the safe room Jessica and Simpson set up, with the doors locked and water on the floor.  Jessica forces him to watch and listen to the recordings from his flash drive, which detail the experiments which his parents performed on him which eventually gave him his ability.  Evidently Kilgrave (which of course isn’t his real name) was only one of several subjects in this experiment, though he never bothered trying to track down the others.  Now that she has Kilgrave in custody, Jessica can move on to the second part of her plan:  force him to use his powers in a way which can be documented and verified by witnesses, evidence which she can use to exonerate Hope.  Her first call is to Hogarth, whose initial reaction is that she needs to free him and hope he won’t press charges—she still doesn’t believe that his mind control is possible.  However, she is still willing to work with Jessica and tells her that legally she needs a police officer to certify that the video of Kilgrave’s powers is legitimate, and Jessica immediately goes to Clemons for help, leaving Hogarth alone with Kilgrave.  Though we don’t immediately find out what the two talked about, it becomes clear by the end of the episode.

At first Jessica offers to use herself as a target and goad Kilgrave into mind controlling her into having sex with him, but instead of using his powers he makes himself appear utterly helpless while Jessica beats and taunts him.  Finally Trish has to hit the shock button to keep Jess from killing him.  However, after this they settle on a different approach:  finding Kilgrave’s parents.  I really like the various scenes throughout the series which show Jessica’s investigative skills.  In this case she analyzes the experiments and realizes that Kilgrave’s parents worked for the University of Manchester, which gives her their names (Albert and Louise Thompson) and pictures, along with Kilgrave’s real name of “Kevin.”  Jessica puts the pieces together and realizes that Louise is actually “Betty,” one of the support group members.  This enables Jess to track down the Thompsons and convince them to help her stop Kilgrave.  Along the way, they also reveal that their intention was never to give their son “abilities;” they were trying to save his life because he had a degenerative neural disease and the virus they gave him was supposed to repair his DNA.  Unfortunately, that virus had an unexpected side effect in that when someone becomes infected with it they become susceptible to Kilgrave’s suggestions.  They stayed with him for several years after his ability manifested, but eventually they managed to escape from him.  I find this whole back story to be very interesting, particularly in how Kilgrave either straight-up lied about the experiments or else twisted his memories until he actually believes the lie.  The fact that his parents ran to escape from him—and that he’s been able to do this since he was a child—also helps to explain his decided lack of remorse or empathy, as well as his attachment and fixation problems.  I was afraid that pulling back the curtain would hurt the character, but I do not think that was the case with Kilgrave.

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However, this is where things really go sideways:  Trish leaves Hogarth alone with Kilgrave again, and Hogarth is about to release him when Jess returns.  This sounds confusing, but in the context it makes sense:  Hogarth thinks that Kilgrave can coerce Wendy into signing the divorce papers without taking everything away from her in the settlement.  This would make Pam happy, which would in turn make Hogarth happy, since Pam essentially emasculated her (“effeminated her”?  Is there a politically-correct term for this?) earlier in the episode over her inability to handle the Wendy situation.

Hogarth doesn’t get the opportunity to release him at this moment, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t royally screw them over with Kilgrave.  Once Clemons is there and handcuffed to serve as an unwilling legal witness, Jess asks the Thompsons to enter the isolation chamber with Kilgrave.  The Thompsons agree, and Louise immediately rushes over to him and hugs him, but suddenly stabs him with a pair of scissors.  However, Kilgrave largely shrugs the stab wound off, telling Louise to pick up the knife and stab herself for every year she left him alone.  Jess tries to shock them to save Louise, but the shock button won’t work, leaving them to watch helplessly while Louise kills herself before Kilgrave turns to Albert and tells him to cut his own heart out.  Trish shoots through the glass to try to kill Kilgrave, but only succeeds in making a hole big enough for him to escape, at which point he orders her to put a bullet in her head—fortunately the revolver is empty.  Jess knocks Albert out so he can’t cut his heart out, and goes after Kilgrave.  Kilgrave orders her to let go of him, but she doesn’t, at which point Kilgrave tells Clemons to fight Jessica so he can get away.  Clemons distracts Jessica long enough for Kilgrave to get away, and Jessica has no idea where he went.  But Jessica now knows that she is immune to Kilgrave’s power.

The other key subplot in this episode deals with Simpson and the fallout from the bomb blast which killed his army buddies at the end of the previous episode.  At the beginning of this episode, Trish brings Simpson to Metro General, where he asks to be treated by a Dr. Kozlov (a comic book character, but not really associated with Simpson/Nuke).  Then, when Kozlov arrives to treat Simpson, he tells the doctor “I want back in.”  This is when we get some more back story on Simpson, who was evidently part of a super-soldier experiment conducted by the U.S. Military.  Nothing in this episode indicates a connection between this super-soldier experiment and the other super-soldier experiments we’ve seen in the MCU (Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger, Hulk and Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, the Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Luke Cage in Jessica Jones), but it would not surprise me if they are all connected in the sense that the later experiments are all attempts to recreate Dr. Erskine’s Super-Soldier Serum—which is very much comic-book accurate.

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This also gives us something of an origin story for Simpson’s transformation into the minor Marvel villain/antihero Nuke.  Simpson is given three different pills to take which will give him a major adrenaline rush:  red keeps him going, white keeps him even, and blue will bring him down.  However, Simpson has little interest in following the doctor’s orders, and takes extra of the red pills.  Overall, this works quite well as the origin for a psychotic super soldier with rage issues.  Even the random “super pills” actually work rather well as a plot device:  they are more than just steroids, but still believable.  I actually wonder if there couldn’t be some connection between this super-soldier experiment and whatever “experimental steroid” it was that gave Francis from  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2x13) his super strength.  If that is the case, it could allow for some interconnectivity between AoS and Marvel Netflix.

In general I liked this episode, especially the back story it gave us on Kilgrave.  I wasn’t terribly thrilled with Hogarth in this episode, particularly the fact that (as we find out in the next episode) she allowed Kilgrave to kill his mother and escape.  Of course, Hogarth is one of my 2 least-favorite characters in this series, so I suppose that’s to be expected!  While her motivations are quite clear—she wants an easy divorce so she can move on from her stodgy ex-wife to marry her attractive, younger assistant—she is the only character on this series for whom I as a viewer have no sympathy.  Maybe she will play a part in either Jessica Jones season 2, Iron Fist, or The Defenders and become a little more sympathetic, but until that happens I’m glad that the other characters are more interesting and sympathetic to make up for it!

What did you think of this episode?  Do you like Simpson as Nuke?  Let me know in the comments!

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