Season One, Episodes Three & Four – “AKA It’s Called Whiskey”, “AKA 99 Friends”
By Molly Jane Kremer. Only four episodes in, and Jessica Jones is already working at a maturity level well past any of Marvel’s various other live-action forays—up to and including Netflix’s Daredevil series. The emotional complexities and psychological depths, not to mention sex scenes leaving little to the imagination, are taking this series on paths yet unexplored in the live-action superhero genre; which isn’t to say it doesn’t still falter with a few “whuh?” moments. The positives still outweigh the negatives, however, and keep Jessica Jones well on its way to becoming one of the best television series of the year.
WHAT WORKED: Focusing on Jessica’s victimization could have taken the series into the realm of Lifetime movie schmaltz, but instead we’re given a dimensional and nuanced look at the journey of sexual assault and abuse victims. So much of what Jessica does is a byproduct of her PTSD, and she has a long way to go in getting over David Tennant’s Kilgrave—emotionally, she’s never left his shadow even if she escaped his control—but she has nine more episodes to figure her shit out, and pry this louse out of her subconscious (and out of her life) forever.
Jessica’s relationship with Mike Colter’s Luke—the sexual aspects at least—is a bright point within her darkness, although his unwitting past connection with Kilgrave ensures Jessica will go no further with him than physical intimacy. (It was kinda dumb of her to get involved with him to begin with, but Jessica’s decision-making skills still aren’t exactly well-calibrated.) But as an assault survivor, depicting her enjoying sex (because c’mon, did you watch these episodes? Who wouldn’t have enjoyed that?) is significant: abuse victims don’t need to shudder at any touch, especially when Jessica’s strength is shown to overpower Luke’s. And it’s about time we got a realistic depiction of superhero sex. “Sweet Christmas” indeed.
Jessica’s relationship with Trish, now that it’s back on the up-and-up, is one of the best lady-relationships on television. The two women and their interactions are without question the backbone of the show, and the strength of their friendship is an enormous and reassuring contrast to Kilgrave’s remorseless atrocities. Without them, and their wonderful chemistry together, the show would be that much more difficult to watch (even while it already is, and often).
WHAT DIDN’T: After three episodes of delving into the depths of Jessica’s darkness, Episode Four devolved into a parade of silly plot point after silly plot point. There’s some mucky melodrama outside a restaurant with Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth, her soon-to-be-ex-wife Wendy (played by Robin Weigert, who you might recognize from HBO’s Deadwood), and Jeri’s current girlfriend Pam (Susie Abromeit)—which would have been perfectly acceptable if not for minutes’ worth of cliché-ridden, cringe-inducing bad scripting and acting. If only the writers could have fabricated some other, more restrained, method of raising Wendy’s ire.
Then, after a heart-to-heart with Officer Simpson (a steel-enforced door between them at least), who just last episode gave her visible bruises when he nearly strangled her to death, Trish invites him inside for coffee/tea/somethin’. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like something a person in that position would do: let alone a character who’s been established as incredibly cautious (bordering on paranoid), as Trish very much has. (See previous reference to steel-enforced door.)
The case Jessica investigates this episode, instead of being a setup by Kilgrave, is… still a setup, but by another, absolutely random person: Audrey Eastman (played by Jessica Hecht), who simply hates people with superpowers. (Although for some reason we can’t call them that; it’s only ever “gifts”, and those “gifted” with them.) This “twist” is completely out of left field, and an incredibly awkward way to shoehorn in a reference to The Avengers and its alien-attack “Incident”. The scene itself is incredibly goofy: when Jessica realizes it’s not a setup from Kilgrave, she starts threateningly throwing furniture around the room and screaming at Audrey and her husband. If it was some attempt at poignant X-Men-esque xenophobia, it was incredibly off the mark and off-putting—a stumbling reach towards ham-fisted social commentary.
Episode Three –
“Robyn says you’re too loud.” – upstairs neighbor Ruben, accidentally(?) witnessing a little of Jessica and Luke’s adult-time.
“I’ve never done it with someone else who has, y’know…” “Gifts?” “Yes, well, you are very gifted.” “Likewise.” – Jessica and Luke, in one of the show’s rare giggle-inducing moments.
“Sweet Christmas.” – Luke Cage. Duh.
“I miss your red hair.” – A Patsy Walker superfan, wielding a bagged (but not boarded? Come on!) comic book to get signed by Trish.
Trish: “I let you fight my battles for too long. When you left…” Jessica: “You became a ninja?” The cutest.
Trish: “I hate feeling this way, I don’t know how you handle it.” Jessica: “It’s called whiskey.” Still the cutest.
Episode Four –
Pam: “She won’t wait. She wouldn’t listen.” Jessica: “I couldn’t hear you over that print.” And Pam really does wear the same variation of loud, max-cleave-v-neck dresses every single time she’s on screen. Costuming really biffed it on that one.
Jeri: “You are coming across distinctly paranoid.” Jessica: “Everyone keeps saying that, it’s like a conspiracy.”
“You shoot at me, I’ll pull the bullet out of my ruined jacked and shove it up your ass with my pinky finger. And who do you think that’s gonna hurt more?” – Jessica, to the dopes who tried to set her up.
Episode Three – Luke and Jessica’s amorous encounters have been supremely watchable, even if Jessica’s varying degrees of intoxication and guilt have almost immediately triggered regrets about their involvement. But for a few scenes at the beginning of “It’s Called Whiskey,” she manages to kick all of that behind her and enjoy the company of a handsome man who breaks power tools with the steeliness of his abs. Their matched strength (well, nearly matched—Jessica proves the stronger) makes for epic bed-breaking and uttering of catchphrases (Yes, it causes Mr. Luke Cage to breathlessly murmur “Sweet Christmas”), and their earnest, clothed conversation about their “gifts” is equally delightful. Ritter and Colter’s chemistry is undeniable, and they create a few minutes of fleeting joy in a show full of anything but.
Episode Four – Collecting further possible victims of Kilgrave, thanks to Trish’s signal boost on her radio show, makes for funny moments to be slyly interwoven with truly disturbing testimony. Kilgrave’s sociopathic nature, and his complete disregard for all humanity’s free will, is narrated in these individuals’ stories. Another Kilgrave-related moment that deserves mention: the deeply unsettling twist at the end of the episode. Though it was brought about by Jessica’s very trope-y discovery of Kilgrave’s room o’ creepy Jess-photos in “It’s Called Whiskey,” the reveal of who in fact had been surveilling her makes sense while it makes you rethink certain interactions throughout the past four episodes.
EPISODES’ MVP: The more we learn about Trish, the more she becomes an incredibly appealing and entertaining character. Based on Marvel mainstay Patsy Walker — sans the trademark red hair (and she, as yet, sadly remains neither Hellish nor Catty) — Trish takes on the “gal pal” role that Carol Danvers filled in the Alias comic series. The switch works well (especially since Carol’s characterization in Alias was, well, a little less supportive and a lot more snobbish and shitty), and seeing a positive relationship between the two women is a lovely contrast to, well… everything else going on in Jessica’s life. Rachael Taylor gives Trish’s calming and sweet nature a tough-as-nails undercurrent, a good complement to Jessica’s taut abrasiveness over buried vulnerability. Also, her radio voice is totally on point.
– So Kilgrave is the kind of sports guy who shouts at the television, eh? And a gingerist? Makes sense.
– That must have taken a very long time, and a LOT of printer calibration—which might be its own circle of hell—to print and meticulously pin up all those pictures of Jessica in Kilgrave’s crazy-stalker-man-cave.
– Bringing together Kilgrave’s victims is reminiscent of Alias’s final storyline (the only arc where the Purple Man – and his fourth-wall breaking cleverness – actually appears), when a group of his victims hire Jessica to obtain confessions from him, for their various and otherwise unprovable Purple-Man-involved cases.
– Revealing that Jessica killed Luke’s wife, and then did her stalkerish following him/photographing him thing afterward, kinda makes more sense (while still being so insanely creepy). I guess Jessica was just keeping tabs on a man whose life Kilgrave ruined, through her actions while under his control. (But it feels like keeping such a close eye on him could have been some self-punishment on her part, even before she got involved with him.)
– Officer Simpson, showing up at Trish’s door in the most painful of rom-com tropes, wants to give her a gun. If she’s so security conscious, why didn’t she have one already?
– Everyone’s hardcore disbelief in the possibilities of Kilgrave’s powers seems to conflict incredibly with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why would people who know about “the green guy” and “the flag-waver” (guh), who have assumedly heard of Thor—a Norse god!!—be so skeptical of someone who can control minds? If they weren’t so damn insistent to have the only reference to the greater universe be the Chitauri invasion, maybe they could have explained this a little better.
– Relatedly: why on earth is this show not allowed to mention Avengers’ characters? I can see Luke calling the Hulk “the big green dude”, it sounded cute and conversational instead of odd, but at the end of episode four, Jessica’s “Take it up with the green guy, or the flag-waver” comes off awkward as hell.
– A quote from Alias #6 is used almost verbatim in the otherwise silly scene with Audrey Eastman and her husband. The actual line from the comic was: “You shoot that gun at me–I will pull that bullet out of my ruined four hundred dollar leather jacket and I will shove it up your ass with my pinky finger. And which one of us do you think that will hurt more?” (That jacket gets so much love in the comic, too.)