Maybe these three episodes are among the best in the whole series. Especially 8 and 9 are so intense and isolated, but also really different from each other. So, there is no doubt that the series is not getting any weaker, just the opposite. Let’s get into the specific episodes.
Episode 7: AKA Top Shelf Perverts
Jessica starts the episode being as low as possible, but what’s so great about the opening is both how she keeps insisting on her independence (as she’s thrown out of a bar she says “You didn’t kick me out, I was leaving.”) and how the bum in the trash pile next to her is not treated as a caricature, neither by the show nor by her.
Hopefully the series is not underappreciated for its style and symbolism. When Ruben is killed by Kilgrave and Jessica wakes up next to him, the blood on her hands is not a subtle but really powerful image. Her guilt is strong enough already, but here it becomes this Shakespearean metaphor of not being able to come clean. The desperation she feels at that moment is really effective and her will to let go of her power is extremely convincing. Kilgrave seems too powerful to fight, so she is almost ready to be taken by him. She’d let him win, just to be done with it.
We get another sex scene with the woman (Trish) being on top which equals being in control, just like Jessica earlier with Luke.
We finally meet Trish’s mother, another controlling figure, with a different kind of control, the parental one (which will become a bigger issue in future episodes). Her mother acts as another kind of villain, as a threat that controls your life and traumatizes you. We’ve seen abusive mothers and fathers before and while we see later that the abuse was also physical, it is clear that the mind control was worse. When she says “People can change, Jessie”, we’re unwilling to believe her, maybe because we know how bad parents can act.
Similarly to the opening of the episode, Trish later also tries to act tough when Malcolm shows her Ruben’s body, but fails at it, which was a nice little moment of following the clichés a little without making Trish a weak character in any way.
When Jessica blaming herself for the deaths of people around her, it is another reference to rape victims, who can have a tendency to blame themselves instead of blaming the rapist, the perpetrator. Later, when Kilgrave becomes more active as a character, he constantly claims that he doesn’t kill anyone, increasing the guilt others, like Jessica, feel.
And in the end, when he invites Jessica and professes his love (in that breathtaking precinct scene), claiming she didn’t have a life before him and that only he can offer her something special, it is another callback to the psyche and behavior of abusive men, who of course see themselves as the heroes, the saviors, the answer to the woman’s problems she wasn’t even aware of. Only this way it is possible for him to commit these acts by reversing the guilt and by viewing himself in a good light.
Episode 8: AKA WWJD?
The whole conceit of this episode is intriguing and unlike anything you’ve seen between hero and villain. Kilgrave invites Jessica to the house he prepared for her, but it does not become the typical mind games you’d expect. Jessica really faces him, talks to him, interacts with him. It is endlessly fascinating to watch them both because the lines blur somewhat.
Kilgrave acts both like a romantic lover and a father figure. He professes his love again and again and you feel his sincerity. On the other hand, he tries to give Jessica something parental she has been missing. He is humanized through this, even we don’t necessarily like him but he becomes real and authentic, more than simply a supervillain that has to be fought.
You also start to see the similarities between them, as the show is trying to grey the blacks and whites of heroes and villains, which is amazing. There is this scene where an annoying neighbor comes over and starts saying mean things. When Kilgrave forces her to say the truth, you see in Jessie’s eyes and you feel yourself that she deserves it, that Kilgrave’s powers are rightfully used in that moment. What a feat to achieve that, to admit it! When she has the option to slap the neighbor, she declines but not after considering it for half a second. You can clearly see how someone with Kilgrave’s power might start out at first, by using his powers for something as understandable as this.
Their discussion on rape and parents is incredibly interesting. Kilgrave claims to basically have been “raped” by his parents because they experimented on him against his will. That is a legitimate claim and again shines a disturbing light on the power and control parents can have over children. On the other hand, it turned him into a rapist and mind controller, doing the same to others that was done to him. This doesn’t serve as an excuse here, maybe not even as a real explanation but it adds more complexity to a character that seems simplistically evil at first, something so few stories are able to pull off.
The last part of the episode, with Kilgrave acting as a superhero is just awesome. It is something you rarely have seen before (unless you read some comics where this is an occasional plot device, like Lex Luthor joining the Justice League or Doc Ock as Spider-Man) and it challenges you to switch perspective and question what you thought about Kilgrave. Do you want him to become a hero? Do you want him to fail? Also, the way Jessica has to encourage him to help others is something we see everyday, the apathy we encounter in people, the selfishness, the unwillingness to share. This is not evil behavior but commonplace in our culture. All this amazement is slightly underwhelmed by the final twist of Jessica just fooling him, but this episode still sticks out as a special achievement.
Episode 9: AKA Sin Bin
Jessica is not the last one who makes fun of Kilgrave’s chosen name, but I always like the meta-ness of it, showing the problems modern adaptations can have with out of place-comic conventions.
Now that Jessica has locked up Kilgrave and tortures him to get proof of his powers on tape, the roles are reversed and what you see is that Jessica’s power automatically corrupts her. She is in control now and she exploits it for her interests. Just because she is “good” doesn’t make her control and power better. When Kilgrave asks her “Feels good, doesn’t it? Being in control.” It becomes clear how aware he is of that and how right he is. Control and authority is tempting and Jessica doesn’t fare better at all. It is also ineffective, as torture often is, and probably more ineffective than what she tried before.
All of this is underlined by the torture on children we see throughout, the screams, the pain, the fear. Power over children is the ultimate authority and control that, again, is not exception. The scenes we see here are extreme representations of the suffering many (most?) children go through in their childhood. “No one gets under a person’s skin like their parents” Jessica says and it seems impossible to counter that.
One batch left to watch (I’ll do 10-13 in a row) and since I have watched everything already by now, I know there are many, many, many good things still in store. The series didn’t have any weak points from 1 to 9 and the rest will (mostly) not disappoint.