A Series of Series: Jessica Jones, Episode 4-6

Episodes 4 to 6 of Jessica Jones don’t disappoint and continue what the first three episodes started so excellently already. The themes are followed through but by showing more of Kilgrave, the show attempts a little of what Daredevil did with Wilson Fisk, although up to now, he has not really been humanized much more. But he’s not that mystery figure anymore. I also like how all the other characters, especially Malcolm and Will, become more layered and really develop, which is something, just like in Daredevil, these shows seem to do extremely well. I don’t know if Marvel gets enough credit for both shows, not just as good entertainment, like their movies, but really deep, well-made, thought-provoking shows that rarely fall into clichés or stereotypes. This is not just another comic book TV show (but then again, this is not based on just another comic). I’m going to focus on some highlights from the next three episodes (again, spoilers, obviously).

Episode 4: AKA 99 Friends

Trish and Jessica talk about Kilgrave and the effects his power has on both of them. While the series usually is relatively subtle with this concept, Trish here delivers the simple but fitting quote: Men and power - it’s seriously a disease, just to be clear everyone knows what the show is mostly about. This is emphasized too when Jessica becomes slightly paranoid and Trish tells here that Kilgrave isn’t actually there at this moment. Jessica replies: But he’s always here and points at her head, again, clearly showing the psychological damage Kilgrave as the rapist afflicted upon her.

The appeal of power is further evolved when Jeri, already a powerful woman in society, contemplates whether it’d be good to have Kilgrave’s powers. Jessica gets really angry at her, but if you asked people, I’m sure many wouldn’t mind having them. Again, living lives where you don’t feel in control makes such power very tempting to have.

Malcolm is an interesting character here already, just for the fact that he is a regular character, a drug addict, is incredible in some way. He is not used as a prop but the show clearly shows the consequences the addiction has on him without focusing too much on it. The fact that he later develops into a fully formed character is even more astonishing, because he is allowed to break out of his stereotype.

Jessica has to solve a case in this episode and its conclusion comes from a woman who seeks vengeance for the collateral damage that the alien attack in the first Avengers movie wreaked. The idea itself is great and feels like a comment on the absurdity of Man of Steel. Jessica’s reaction, completely destroying the apartment and shouting “I don’t work out my shit on other people!”, is simply priceless.

Trish and Will grow closer in this episode and when he tells her his childhood story of his G.I. Joe dolls saving the Barbie dolls is a very typical cliché, but Trish makes it clear that she doesn’t need him to be his savior, even if they are bonding, as we get that great shot of her keeping the hand on the gun while they talk.

Episode 5: AKA The Sandwich Saved Me!

This episode has the overarching theme of men and women and follows it in different variations. Another theme is Jessica’s responsibilities as a superhero and how she is supposed to use her power.

The episode opens with a flashback in which Trish and Jess are hassled by an idiot guy in a bar who makes sexist jokes. Jessica provokes him into getting into a kind of duel with him, which she wins of course, but she also gets him to say “Sorry,” which feels like the harder thing for him to accept. She takes away his manhood, with physical strength but also with some cunning, making her superior in every way. In some way, she made him do something that wasn’t good for him, not unlike Kilgrave.

Will had been taken over by Kilgrave to kill Trish but the fact that he had his power taken away from him, drives him almost insane. Kilgrave emasculated him and since Will sees himself as the strong, righteous cop, he can’t deal with it. His weakness somehow enables him to get into Trish’s bed and when we see them together, he is performing oral sex on her, showing off his new position again.

When they try to find a plan together (with Jess), he wants to be the leader but Jess puts him down immediately and he apologizes. Besides punching and jumping, Jessica also seems to have the power to reverse gender roles.

This is continued when they check out the safe house together and Jessica and Will have a conversation while being on opposite sides of a soundproof glass wall, which is absolutely brilliant. The whole scene symbolizes misunderstanding of genders that we often take for granted, but the thing is that both of them fall back on clichés instead of really seeing who the other one is.

The episode features the moment where Kilgrave meets Jessica for the first time. Tennant is so brilliant as Kilgrave and it’s fascinating to see him amazed by her, as if she is something he has never seen before. The way he appears here is fascinating too: as the 1% super villain who can afford anything but can’t stop looking for more (we’ll see more of that in the next episode). What a great moment.

Episode 6: AKA You’re a Winner!

We get more from Kilgrave as he invades an underground, rich guys poker game and takes it over. He seems to enjoy the power he has, but you have to wonder why this doesn’t get boring? How many women can you take over? How many people can you abuse? How many new things can you think of before you’ve done everything with your power? In episode 5 he tells some women off because they bore him, so we see his attention span can be short. Is that why Jessica captivates him so much because she is so powerful in both physicality and mind?

When we see him buying the house later in the episode (although he has some other motives), it makes him seem like the embodiment of people from our culture, so restless and looking for more to fill the void that they can’t stop. If you compare those three scenes, meeting Jessica, the poker game and the house, he is someone who is never satisfied and keeps on looking for more and more and more. The fact that he can basically have whatever he wants doesn’t put an end to his pursuit.

Another aspect of this episode is the way he makes Jessica take pictures of herself, which is a further, almost fascinating form of abuse, even evoking the kind of cyber blackmail we encounter nowadays. He controls her and makes her face it all the time. She has to look at herself while being submissive, which increases the domination, and she also basically has to look at him too. Notice also how the first time we see her do it, she is locked in behind a fence, as if she is still not free of him.

When Hope talks about Kilgrave’s baby inside of her, it’s a direct, brutal statement on the consequences of rape that, again, may not be subtle, but is very powerful. Scenes like these are really a slap in the face for all the Mark Millars and others who think rape is an entertaining narrative device.

Malcolm’s comment in the self-help group says a lot about the influence and power of authority figures. It’s not just that they obstruct the other’s free will, they change the controlled person’s personality. “But, I don’t know if it was in me to begin with or if it’s part of who I am now,” he says and this could be the quote for millions of children who suffer by their parents abuse of authority throughout our culture’s history. We make them believe that they want what we want them to do until they forget who they actually are anymore.