Generally, when I review a TV show, I hold back a little on the individual episodes. In the past, I’ve criticized subplots too soon, before they paid out magnificently a few episodes later. But generally, 90% of the time, my unspoken criticism stands by the end of the show. Yet I am continually in awe of how Jessica Jones manages to take what I perceive as a weakness and turn it into an incredible strength.
On my initial viewing, I wrote a note saying, “For being the penultimate episode this is moving awfully slowly.” And it is a little slow-going in the beginning. Luke Cage returns, and he and Jess spend the episode investigating Kilgrave. As much as I love Luke and Mike Colter, I really resented his return here. I felt the show really came alive once Luke was gone, and bringing him in at the eleventh hour feels like an over-correction to fix Jessica’s problems, when she should be fixing them on her own. But Luke’s arrival isn’t an over-correction, nor is it slow. Luke arrives to make Jessica and the audience feel safe again, only to rip the rug out from under our feet.
Though Jessica Jones leans heavily on noir, this episode is probably the pulpiest, most superhero-y of the lot. A huge amount of this episode is dedicated to Kilgrave expanding and testing his superpowers, in the hopes of controlling people for longer periods, in a broader radius, with the ultimate hope of controlling Jessica herself again. This is the one big subplot this season that doesn’t really work for me. As he’s shown the entire season, Kilgrave doesn’t need more, better, bigger powers to control Jessica; all he needs is to tell a roomful of people to jump off a building if he dies. And controlling Jess again seems to fly against every move he’s made so far this season. But at the same time, I can kind of buy Kilgrave’s actions here, because he’s not thinking rationally at all. He’s acting impulsively, emotionally, and without much thought for the future.
Trish is also up to her own investigations after her roid rage in the last episode. She’s investigating a company (or drug? it’s a little unclear) called IGH, which may be connected to Jessica’s superpowers and Luke Cage’s wife. Like Kilgrave, Trish’s plot feels very comic book-y, in that it feels like setup for the next season. When Trish brings it up, Jessica even says, “I can only fight one Big Bad at a time.” Fortunately, the show is smart, and roots Trish’s investigations with her relationship with her utterly grotesque mother. Even though IGH won’t pay out this season, it brings some sense of closure to this story-line. Trish isn’t just being used by her mother, she’s leveraging Dorothy to get something she wants. It’s a far cry from the teenage girl who was forced over a toilet in the last episode.
Yet nothing in this episode is more comic-booky than the final brawl between Jess and Luke. The setup is very familiar; the smooth-talking man in a suit looking down as his gigantic muscle wails on the hero. This happens to James Bond in just about every film, to Batman in the comics two or three times a year. But this has to be the greatest henchman battle ever, right? There’s the real physical danger; you get the sense that a single haymaker from Luke will take Jessica’s head off. There’s the betrayal; Luke reveals that he hasn’t forgiven Jessica for killing his wife, that he’s as furious than ever. There’s the irony; Jessica’s rapist is using her lover against her. And there’s the tragedy; Jess desperately wants to save Luke, but Kilgrave won’t let both of them walk out of there.
In a way, Jessica Jones is a dark comedy about relentless optimism. Jessica keeps thinking she’s hit rock bottom, that Kilgrave has nothing left to take from her. But Jess keeps learning that she has a little bit lower to sink, and that Kilgrave can always find something she loves to use against her.
4.5 Charger Cords out of 5. It’s a small subplot, but I love how the episode captures Robyn’s continuing grief. When we lose someone, we hold on to any tangible reminders that they exist, and how we feel utterly lost without them. I’ve said it before, but it’s astonishing that Jessica Jones can take a broad caricature like Robyn and turn her into a fully-formed, self-aware human being with layers of depth. “Goodbye Ruben. I hope they have free express shipping in heaven.”
There are a couple minor quibbles I have with the episode. When Luke approached Kilgrave with blood in his eyes, Kilgrave shouted, “Stop!” He didn’t shout, “Don’t rip my tongue out!” It’s pretty clear what Luke needed to do. I’m also not sure how a shotgun blast to the head is more damaging to Luke than a gas-fueled bar explosion. Also, is Jess still recuperating from getting hit by that truck and fighting Simpson? We haven’t really spent a lot of time away from her since then, I figured she’d still be on the mend. There’s not much time left to finish the series, and the show has started to fudge the details a little bit.
Poor Malcom’s gonna end up marrying Robyn. He’s just gonna look back in twenty years and not know how it happened.
When Jeph Loeb coined #itsallconnected, I wondered if he had Hope’s aborted fetus in mind. Honestly never expected to see that subplot come up again.
It’s no wonder that Jess and Robyn don’t get along, they’re practically identical. “I’m no good without him… people don’t like me. They liked him. He’s probably looking down on me now so goddamn disappointed.” That was Robyn talking about her brother, but it could’ve easily been Jess talking about her’s.
“Lab equipment’s very popular on eBay. Lots of thrifty meth cooks out there.”