Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA It’s Called Whiskey.” Spoilers for season 1.
“AKA It’s Called Whiskey”
Written by Liz Friedman & Scott Reynolds
Directed by David Petrarca
Upon discovering that they are both superhuman—Jessica superstrong, Luke unbreakable—the logical conclusion is for them to have a lot of sex. Loud, neighbour-annoying, wall-shaking, bed-breaking sex.
In between, they talk. Luke has never met another “gifted” (it’s adorable that they don’t have the vocabulary for this) and is genuinely pleased to get to know Jessica’s take on the weird world around them.
Jessica is reluctant to discuss the others out there—she knows more than she is letting on.
Their night becomes awkward when Jessica (for the second time) spots the photo in Luke’s bathroom cabinet, of Reva Connors, a woman we’ve also seen listed as one of the official fatalities from the bus crash that failed to kill Kilgrave.
Once again, their night together ends with Jessica saying sorry—this time, however, it’s a very heartfelt statement, and feels like something she’s been waiting to say for a long time.
Luke assumes that Jessica squirreled out of there because she panicked at the news he had a tragically dead wife. The flashbacks throughout this episode suggest something far more damaging—that Jessica witnessed (was responsible for?) Reva’s death.
The media storm around Hope’s claim not to be responsible for the murder of her parents is driving Jessica up the wall. She tries to get Jeri Hogarth to fix it, but the lawyer rightfully points out that without overwhelming evidence, arguing the “mind control” case in the court of public opinion would be career suicide.
Jessica turns then to Trish, a popular chat show host with a built-in audience, who also knows that Kilgrave exists and Hope is telling the truth. Trish is reluctant, but after talking to Jeri, gets fired up about doing a special show on the topic.
LUKE CAGE: Just say it, woman. Whatever it is you’ve not been saying since we first met.
Oh, sweetie. You really don’t want to know.
After yet another night of not-quite bed-breaking sex with Luke, Jessica takes the opportunity to sound him out on the idea of a man who has the power to control minds. Even Luke Cage, with his unbreakable skin, finds that too hard to swallow. Which isn’t good news for Hope and her case.
To Jessica’s alarm, Trish’s interview with Hope turns into a debate about the existence of mind control between Trish and Jeri—with Trish’s unresolved feelings about Kilgrave pouring out in a vicious tirade about him.
First time caller, British accent. Kilgrave purrs his way on to Trish’s airwaves, and while Hope has a meltdown at the sound of David Tennant’s voice, Jessica’s best friend makes a public target of herself.
Good thing Trish is now a lethal weapon and lives in a highly secured fortress, right? Only Trish is about to learn what Jessica has been telling her all along – traditional methods of protecting yourself don’t exactly work against Kilgrave.
Jessica has other things to worry about—like how exactly to steal medical-grade anaesthetic drugs from a hospital? After trying her most obvious routes, like attempting to threaten/bribe Jeri Hogarth’s soon-to-be-ex doctor wife, and checking in with the friends most likely to have drug dealers, she hits on a solution inadvertently suggested by her neighbour Ruben: Most people are at least a bit racist, which means that Malcolm, her young, black, druggie neighbour, is the perfect distraction.
After carting Malcolm to hospital and allowing him to create his special brand of chaos, Jessica liberates the necessary drugs to take Kilgrave down. She feels bad about using the kid when he gives her the puppy eyes of “I know what you did.”
It’s wrenching, because we’ve pretty much only seen Jessica’s nurturing side with Malcolm—despite his heroin addiction, he’s as helpless as a teddy bear, and there’s been a gentleness to her interactions with him that we haven’t seen her display anywhere else (though it’s hinted at that she used to be equally protective of Trish, back when she allowed herself to have friends). Betraying Malcolm’s trust in her shakes Jessica up, but she doesn’t allow herself to dwell on it.
Trish is on a hair trigger, and accidentally beats up a fan outside her studio, thinking he is attacking her. When the police come to investigate the matter, she is caught in a bind—to open her steel reinforced door or not?
It’s only one police officer, Will Simpson (Wil Traval) and he is not above using emotional/career blackmail to convince Trish to let him past the door. She caves, and he instantly attacks her on Kilgrave’s orders.
She disarms him, but the fight is brutal, showing off Trish’s skills at Krav Maga. (Jessica was there earlier and stunned by Trish’s impressive set up as well as her bruises—which she at first thought might have been caused by this legendary mother we keep hearing about.) Will is relentless, however, and ends up beating her to the ground. Jessica (who never uses Trish’s door, either) crashes in to save her friend, but ends up having to use one of the syringes of knock-out drugs on her so that Will can be convinced he has obeyed orders and killed his target.
His orders include returning to Kilgrave—this is Jessica’s chance! She tracks him back to a glass-walled apartment, where Kilgrave is holed up in his usual stolen luxury. This is her chance to confront the villain—except, of course, that he casually sends Will to throw himself off the building, and Jessica can’t let that happen.
For the first time since his supposed death, Jessica and Kilgrave’s eyes meet—and her flashback elaborates on her history with Reva. She sent the woman flying on Kilgrave’s orders, killing her—and for the first time was able to break free of his control when she realised Riva was dead…
(Based on what we know of the show so far, that’s going to be super significant.)
Saving Will gives Kilgrave a chance to escape—and Jessica has to knock out several of his protectors, one after the other, as he sends them in her way. Seriously, she needs to invest in a taser, or some less-hard-to-get knock out drugs, or she’s going to spend all her time immobilising people at this rate.
Kilgrave gets away, and Jessica is confronted with a roomful of recent pictures. Someone has been spying on her for him, constantly, for weeks. For once, instead of being the eye behind the lens of the creepy stalker camera, she’s the subject.
In a final piece of cleanup, Jessica fakes a fall off the roof into some garbage bags for Will, so that he thinks he did what Kilgrave told him. The police officer is muddled and stressed about apparently killing Trish, but Jessica sends him home without any answers.
She then goes to not-break-up with Luke, because what the hell was she thinking? He’s resigned, assuming that it’s either the tragic dead wife, or some other Jessica hangup that means she can’t have nice things, like relationships with unbreakable bartenders who have kind eyes.
I assumed at first that the Luke-Reva twist was Jessica’s life doing terrible things to her, but it’s starting to look like it was the other way around. Was she spying on Luke to find out how Reva’s widower had turned out? In which case, yes, it doesn’t matter how pretty his abs are, or how sexy and funny he is (sigh, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage is adorable), sleeping with him was the Presidential Suite of Terrible Ideas. Par for the course with Jessica Jones.
Comics and Continuity:
I didn’t think I was as fannish about Luke Cage as I obviously am, because when he gasped “Sweet Christmas” after great sex with Jessica, I actually made a very high pitched “squee” noise. (“Sweet Christmas” is one of those phrases Luke typically uses in the comics books to make it appear like he’s swearing, because he’s a “street” character in a G-rated world.)
Iron Fist/Danny Rand isn’t exactly one of my favourite comics characters, but the thought that Luke hasn’t met him yet made me genuinely sad for them. He needs his bro. Of course, his bro would hate Jessica, so maybe it’s a good thing they have not yet found their BFF soulmates. Something to look forward to.
(Potentially I suppose, he might know Danny, and Danny might not be all mystical supered yet. I guess we’ll find out next year.)
I love that Luke refers to the Avengers as “the big green dude and his crew”—does everyone assume that the Hulk is the leader because he’s the biggest? Has anyone told Cap? Hell, has anyone told Bruce?
Jessica reveals that she gave “the hero gig” a shot once, which is another hint about her past. But was she Jewel? No sign of a pink wig in any of the flashbacks so far!
LUKE: Tell me there’s a costume and you still got it.
In Alias, Luke was one of many possible love interests for Jessica, but once the series closed out, that was it for both of them—they have to be one of the most devoutly-‘shipped 21st-century canon couples of the Marvel Universe. (I base this assumption on the way that fanfic almost always pairs them together even as supporting characters, though I suspect that’s going to change as the Trish/Jess ship builds steam over on AO3.) This episode is so thoroughly immersed in Jessica/Luke as a potential couple—their shared sense of humour, past traumas, sexual chemistry, and deep curiosity about each other.
One of the worst pieces of writing advice I ever saw someone give was that humour has no place in sex scenes. The best fictional sex allows for a realistic sense of the absurd, and the way that Jessica and Luke tease and grin and flirt their way through experimenting with their mutually super-powered bodies (down to the cheeky text from him about buying a new bed) suggests that, serious real-life problems aside, they are well on the way to becoming the kind of couple who make their friends pull grossed-out faces in public.
All they have to do is sort out that pesky matter of her having murdered his wife, and deal with the psychotic brainwashing villain, and we’re good to go! Also, possibly they need to acquire more friends.
And how cool is it that explaining their superpowers is done like this:
JESSICA: Accident. You?
That’s how you do an origin story! Spider-Man screenwriters, please take note.
Luke/Jess isn’t the only relationship given prominence in this episode—we finally get to see the warmth and history between Jessica and Trish. There’s one teasing detail in particular that stands out as a canon reference—Kilgrave refers to her as Patsy, and the fan who accosts her is after “Patsy Walker,” too—he even says he misses her red hair. So Trish isn’t just a modernised name for the show, it’s an example of her reinventing herself! Elegant radio personality Trish was once a redhead teen star with her own TV show…
With all these hints about her mother, we’d better get followthrough on that. Trish’s mother sounds almost as evil as Jeri Hogarth—and it can’t be a coincidence that Trish is awed by Jeri’s ruthless can-do attitude!
A word about Malcolm—there was a Malcolm in the original Alias, a fanboy who turned up randomly in Jessica’s office and kept volunteering for the position of sidekick/assistant. Eka Darville’s take on the character doesn’t really dovetail with that at all, apart from the occasional random appearances in other people’s rooms—if anything, Ruben has more notes in common with comics Malcolm, given his slightly sinister over-friendly attitude.
Jessica and Luke have sex without closing Jess’s cardboard door, and get peeped on by Ruben the upstairs neighbour. Jessica then hires a humorous father-and-son duo over to handle the repairs, but the price is terrifying—and they spotted her bluff about being able to pay. When she comes home to find the glass fixed (with the panel Trish had made for her), the lock has also been changed. There’s a note: pay us and you get the key. Jessica being Jessica promptly breaks the lock and carries on with a broken door.
“My father says this is our business, not a charity for women with broken doors.”
Tansy Rayner Roberts is a Marvel Comics tragic, and a Hugo Award winning blogger and podcaster. Tansy’s latest piece of published short fiction is “Fake Geek Girl” at the Review of Australian Fiction, and she writes comics reviews on her own blog. You can find TansyRR on Twitter & Tumblr, sign up for her Author Newsletter, and listen to her on Galactic Suburbia or the Verity! podcast.