Monday, February 22, 2016

Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 13, "AKA Smile" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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Here it is:  the Jessica Jones season 1 finale.  After the way the previous episode ended, this one was bound to be a doozy, as Jess still needs to defeat Kilgrave and protect everyone she cares about.  Oh, and there’s also that small issue of just what happened to Luke at the end of the previous episode!  On the bright side, that little cliffhanger ending paves the way for an awesome guest appearance!

The episode opens with Jess rushing Luke into the hospital, desperate for him to be okay after she had to shoot him—oh yeah, she shot him at the end of the last episode!  Evidently he is not in trouble because the shot broke skin—it can’t—but because of the blunt-force trauma to his brain.  Another nurse comes over to help them and tries to start an IV in his arm but is unable to.  Then someone who should be familiar to all of us tries to start an IV in his arm—Claire!—but she also can’t break his skin.  The doctor tries to use a drill on him, but it still doesn’t work.  That’s when the doctor realizes that “He’s… one of them” and goes to call the police.  Jess and Claire are alone with the unconscious Luke, and Jess starts begging Claire to help her save Luke, which is a really great scene.  Jess is afraid that Claire is scared of people like them, but Claire simply responds with “You don’t scare me.  And you’re not my first.”  The two of them get Luke out of the room and into a wheelchair, and Claire grabs some supplies from a cart before the two of them bring Luke to Jess’s apartment.  However, the nurse tells Jess that she has a phone call, so Jess stays at the hospital while Claire brings Luke home.

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Naturally the call is from Kilgrave trying to convince Jess that he isn’t a bad person.  She realizes he’s in the hospital security center and goes to confront him, but he’s already left.  Kilgrave then uses the intercom and CCTV systems to place everyone in the hospital under his control and send them after Jess.  Jess manages to elude the roving squads trying to kill her by putting on hospital scrubs and a mask, but she still gets unmasked and has to fight her way out.  Fortunately all she suffers is a slash to her leg.  The whole hospital scene was really important for building the world of Hell’s Kitchen:  of course the heroes would all have to go to the same hospital, where Claire works, and of course the other hospital staff wouldn’t be too thrilled with treating a guy with unbreakable skin.

Watching Claire treat Luke was also really cool—and I think that was the whole point of bringing him to the hospital in the first place!  Claire needs to relieve the pressure on his brain, but she can’t put a needle through his skin to do it.  Instead, Claire maneuvers the needle through his eye socket.  Because of course a Night Nurse wouldn’t be phased by treating a guy with unbreakable skin and would figure out that the way to do it is by bypassing the skin!  She also gets the opportunity to treat Jess’s leg slash when she returns to the apartment.  This interaction is really interesting for how it furthers both their characters—and the definite allusions to Daredevil.  Jess tells Claire about Kilgrave and his powers, and then Claire tells her about Daredevil and that he also questions every move he makes.  She also offers to give Matt a call and see if he can help against Kilgrave, but Jess rejects the offer, fearing the Kilgrave would just put Matt under his control—she’s already done the “hero vs. hero” thing once!

Speaking of Kilgrave, he’s pretty much going nuts:  he is absolutely desperate to be able to control Jess, so he is willing to take the concoction that his father created in the hopes that it will make him strong enough.  I loved him laying out his plans for Jessica:  make her desperately want him and then reject her over and over.  That’s basically what he did to her in the comics:  in the comics he made her watch him rape coeds and beg him to take her, but he never did.  Albert injects the fluid (which is purple) into Kilgrave’s spinal cord, and the last thing we see of him before the climax is the purplish hue start to work its way up his body from the injection site.  Am I the only one who really wanted him to actually be purple for the climax?

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Meanwhile, Jess figures out where Kilgrave is and calls Trish to give her a ride to the penthouse, where she goes in and leaves Trish behind.  However, before going to investigate, the two of them agree on a safe-word to prove that Jess isn’t being controlled, something she would never say under normal circumstances:  “I love you.”  I think this sums up their relationship as well as anything:  they are sisters and absolutely love each other, but it’s not the kind of thing that Jess would express in words.

Jess finds Albert all-but dead while one of the penthouse residents is busy “removing dad from the face of the earth.”  Albert has only enough time to warn Jess that Kilgrave is now much more powerful and could control her simply by her looking at him or hearing his voice.  Jess has to go after Kilgrave, and realizes that he is going to use the penthouse owners’ yacht to leave the country.  She and Trish put together a plan to take Kilgrave by surprise and defeat him.  Trish walks into the boat terminal wearing Jess’s hoodie with the hood up and her iPod blaring.  Kilgrave (who is not purple) comes out and brings in his trump card:  a squad of NYPD officers.  Trish simply ignores Kilgrave and his officers, and comes to a stop in the middle of the room.  Suddenly, an alarm goes off, Trish takes off the hoodie, and Kilgrave realizes that he’s been duped and Jess is on the second level.  Trish takes cover while the NYPD officers start shooting at Jess, who waits until they run out of ammunition, leaps from the balcony, lands on the ground level, and barricades the officers into the terminal.  Trish and Jess both run out to find Kilgrave along with a large number of mind-controlled people.  Kilgrave orders all the people to kill each other, so Trish and Jess have to work together to break them up and keep them from killing each other.  However, Trish gets knocked out and loses her iPod, so Kilgrave can control her.  Jess goes after Kilgrave, but he orders everyone to “stop,” and Jess stops as well.  At this point he thinks she might be faking it, so he tests her by ordering Trish over and starting to caress her.  He orders Trish to kiss him with meaning.  At this point, watching Jess’s reaction, Kilgrave finally believes that he has control of her.  That’s when he walks over to her and says that he will bring her with him and force her to love him.  He orders her to smile.  And then he orders her to tell him that she loves him.  Jess looks over at Trish and says, “I love you,” before picking him up by the neck and squeezing until his neck snaps.  I kind of figured that Jess would win in the end, but I really liked the twist of tricking Kilgrave into thinking he could control her before snapping his neck.  Essentially, this climax showed Jess outsmarting Kilgrave:  she knew that he didn’t care about hurting Trish, so Trish could act as bait, giving Jess a small advantage; she also knew that in the end his ultimate goal was Jess herself, so Kilgrave wouldn’t take Trish when Jess was available.

There are a couple of other small elements to mention in this episode, particularly the meeting between Claire and Malcolm in Jess’s apartment.  I really liked seeing the two of them interact, as they both have a similar role of being the “normal” friend/supporter of a superhero.  Malcolm believes that Jess has the capability to become a hero—just like Trish does—and realizes that she needs people like him and Claire to help push her in the right direction.  At the end of the episode, when Jess returns to her office and finds that she has become known as a “hero,” Malcolm sort of becomes her “secretary” and starts answering her phone to help her become the hero that he and Trish both think she can be.

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Jess also has a touching moment with Luke before leaving to confront Kilgrave, in which she tells Luke that he’s the first person she ever pictured having a future with.  However, at this point she does not expect to survive the confrontation.  I think this is the closest that Jess ever comes to telling Luke that she really cares for him—and it takes him lying unconscious after she shot him for her to finally do it.  After Jess defeats Kilgrave, Luke finally wakes up from his coma and sees Claire in the room.  He is nervous that the police will be looking for him, but Claire assures him that they are too busy with what happened at the docks to worry about him and promises to keep his secret for him.  She then leaves the room to get him a glass of water, but he disappears before she can return.  This definitely serves as a lead-in for Luke Cage, with Luke still on the run and trying to start over again in Harlem after fleeing from Hell’s Kitchen.

The episode ends with Hogarth using her skills to get Jess released from police custody—using the “didn’t have a choice” defense—and Trish picking her up from the precinct.  Trish has a box of files on IGH that she received from her mom and which she and Jess can use to track down both what happened to Simpson and what happened to Jess herself to give her these superpowers.  In the end, Jess and Malcolm start answering the phone as Jess monologues about how she can “fool” herself into thinking that she’s a hero.

I really liked this season finale for how well it set up everyone’s future arcs, especially Jess and Luke.  The payoff of the “I love you” safe word was also really good.  Ultimately, this season finale didn’t have as much action as one would expect from a comic book series, but it worked very well for this particular series.  While I wish they could have kept Kilgrave around for future stories, I did think that his death was a fitting conclusion for this season.  I can’t wait to see how these plot threads get resolved in Luke Cage, Jessica Jones season 2, and The Defenders!

What was your favorite part of this season?  Did you want them to keep Kilgrave around?  Let me know in the comments!

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