Hot off her Alias reread, Tansy Rayner Roberts reviews Netflix’s Jessica Jones. In this post: “AKA 99 Friends” and “AKA The Sandwich Saved Me.” Spoilers for season 1.
“AKA 99 Friends”
Written by Hilly Hicks Jr
Directed by David Petrarca
“Nothing plays like pictures in court.”
Jessica gets a new client, and her paranoia—already off the rails thanks to the mystery photographer who has been stalking her on Kilgrave’s behalf—hits previously untapped levels. Audrey Eastman seems on the level, an angry woman looking for pictures of her philandering husband Carlo to support her divorce, but Jessica can’t be sure that this isn’t another Kilgrave trap.
Trish, meanwhile, calls in a panic because Sergeant Will the murderous cop is back with a bemused friend, banging on her reinforced security door. Jessica realises that the poor guy is acting out because he thinks there’s a dead body in the apartment.
JESSICA: He thinks he killed you. I recognise that look.
Trish and Jessica answer the door politely for proof of life, and let Will in on the truth out of pity. At the sight of the bruises around her neck, he thinks he’s a monster, and the more Jessica tries to explain, the angrier he gets.
Nice Guy Syndrome much? Will is ex-military, used to thinking of himself as a good, heroic person. What he did under Kilgrave’s influence contradicts his very sense of self—and while Jessica knows exactly what he’s going through, she doesn’t have a lot of patience with his determination to protect Trish.
Jessica has her own plan to keep her friend safe—and it’s awful. In a cringemaking scene, Trish makes a conciliatory statement on the radio to apologise for what she said about Kilgrave before.
Wow, so the theme of “compromises women make to protect themselves from the violence of men” has always been a strong part of this show, but this episode is awash with it.
Jessica might be keen on having a police officer in her Scooby gang (or indeed having a gang at all, she doesn’t do sidekicks), but Will is eager to be useful—he doesn’t bat an eyelid when she asks him to track down security footage to help find Kilgrave’s spy.
Jessica is still not sure if Audrey Eastman is legit. She goes so far as to track the woman’s movements for 24 hours, on the grounds that Kilgrave’s power has never lasted more than 10 that she knows of, without having to be “topped up.”
Her spywork uncovers a surprise: Audrey is practicing handgun target practice in a secured warehouse, which suggests she doesn’t just want a divorce from her cheating husband… Maybe it’s a good thing Jessica doesn’t usually look this closely at her clients!
HOGARTH: You need to control yourself. You are coming off distinctly paranoid.
JESSICA: Everyone keeps saying that, it’s like a conspiracy.
After an unpleasant encounter between her girlfriend/assistant and her soon-to-be-ex-wife, Jeri Hogarth summons Jessica to do what she does best—digging up dirt on spouses. Jessica is distracted by Hogarth’s office full of walk-ins—after Hope’s appearance on the radio, “Kilgrave made me do it” is the new favourite alibi for everyone from major criminals to knocked-up teenagers.
In a clever montage, Jessica sorts the legitimate Kilgrave victims from the liars—and we the viewers know enough to do the same. We already know that Kilgrave would never bother to seduce a teenager or her friends, but yes, he would make that man give him a great jacket, or make that woman play her cello for two days, or make that other woman smile incessantly.
Jessica encourages these witnesses to stay in contact, forming an unofficial “Victims of Kilgrave” therapy group. She loses her temper with Hogarth when the lawyer gets misty-eyed about how Kilgrave is wasting his “gift” on indulgences…
Ah, moral ambiguities, we love them here.
Speaking of anger and paranoia, Will is not doing great. When he brings Jessica the security camera tape of herself, he ends up screaming at Malcolm for looking at him funny while high.
In one of the super creepiest moments of the show so far (lotsa competition there!), Kilgrave communicates with Jessica via an adorable 8-year-old, who tells her “Patsy” Walker is safe thanks to the grovelling apology, and then starts swearing her head off about how Jessica is a bitch who could have stopped that bus. Cue awkward moment with the kid’s mother!
Will returns to Trish’s door, far more concerned with “making things right” than respecting her wish to be left alone. He brings her a parcel and she agrees to open it without letting him inside. Turns out—it’s a gun!
Wow, Will really does not get the whole Kilgrave situation, does he? If Trish isn’t safe behind her reinforced steel with her extensive martial arts training, how would she be any safer with a handgun? (It will certainly make it easier for Kilgrave to make her kill herself, as he has already threatened to do.) Still, Trish is impressed by the gesture.
Jessica tracks Carlo only to discover that he is with his wife… it’s a set-up. Audrey turns out to be an anti-super obsessive who is out to kill “gifted” people. Her mother was killed in “the incident” AKA the Chitauri invasion of New York, and Audrey is so swept up in anger and blame that she is acting out by trying to murder superheroes.
After the week she’s had, Jessica loses it. She rants at them both, smashing up their place one piece of furniture at a time. Among other things, she yells about how her own parents died in a random accident, but she doesn’t go around killing all drivers:
JESSICA: 99. You want to know how many of us there are? The last time I counted, I had 99 gifted friends, in this borough alone. And now every single one of them is going to know about this shit that you tried to pull. And they hate attempted murder, they really do. Cops hate it too, because… it’s against the law.
I’m assuming this is a lie, because the idea that Jessica has 99 friends, let alone superpowered ones, is highly unlikely. Her bluffing skills are excellent, though.
Hours later, Will and Trish are still talking through the security door, and it’s starting to look a lot more like a date (or at least a friendly therapy session). We learn more about Patsy Walker, teen star, and her tie-in merchandise, while Will confesses his own obsession with saving people via a frankly disturbing GI Joe anecdote. Finally, she decides to let him in.
TRISH: I might shoot you by accident.
WILL: It’s worth the risk.
Jessica’s survivor therapy group pays off—not in closure, but by providing useful evidence. A gutting confession by one of the victims of how he abandoned his baby son by the side of the road because Kilgrave wanted to ride around in his car provides a clue as to who Jessica’s photo-stalker really is…
When she follows the blue-and-white scarfed man via the security footage, there he is. And oh. It’s Malcolm.
Comics and Continuity:
“You shoot at me, I’ll pull the bullet out of my ruined jacket and shove it up your ass with my pinky finger, and who do you think that’s going to hurt more?”
This line is taken directly from the pages of Alias, delivered to someone equally deserving of scorn as Audrey Eastman. It’s pretty great that Audrey immediately wings Jessica with a bullet to see if it’s true.
It’s fixed! Jessica actually unlocks her door to let Audrey into her office—and she assists Malcolm with his key-turning skills, because he’s too befuddled to make it through his own door. Jessica is a key-turning champion.
She also snaps a chain on Audrey’s warehouse door, partly shatters Hogarth’s glass wall to make a point, and does a lot of furniture damage to the Eastmans’ apartment.
The main door featured in this one is Trish’s reinforced security door, which is still in good nick despite Will’s best efforts to physically beat it down. I wonder if the durability of that door is going to be plot relevant later?
“AKA The Sandwich Saved Me”
Written by Dana Baratta
Directed by Stephen Surjik
So many questions are answered in this episode, hooray!
With an “Eighteen Months Ago” tagline, we learn about Jessica’s life before Kilgrave—her run of crappy jobs, her stubborn refusal to use her strength for anything other than making a point to assholes, and Trish’s own desire to live a heroic life vicariously through Jessica.
I’m delighted to see that Jessica is the same bad attitude wrapped in a grouch wrapped in a hoodie before and after Kilgrave—she’s basically Daria without a college degree. Her sarcasm and defensiveness is exactly the same, not a result of trauma (or at least, not this trauma).
Trish’s longing for Jessica to act out her own superhero fantasies explains so much about her in the present day (the militant training regime, etc) and I love that she’s the one who came up with the name Jewel as well as the costume.
While Jessica constantly deflects her friend’s attempts to push her into the role of superhero, she still can’t help doing good and helping people when she can. In one notable scene, she rescues a small child from a traffic accident while dressed like a hoagie/sub sandwich.
We also see a tantalising hint of where Jessica’s real skills lie, as she peaces out of a cubicle job having not only liberated office supplies for her own amusement, but also having traced the dodgy financial crimes of her supervisor through the computer system.
Back in the present day, the comparison between “before Kilgrave” and “after Kilgrave” is horribly relevant with the raw revelation that Malcolm is Kilgrave’s spy. Jessica sees a picture of the kid from just six months ago where he looks happy and healthy—before he became a junkie.
And that’s Kilgrave’s secret—he isn’t only relying on his powers. Meeting Malcolm every day at the same time to receive pictures wasn’t enough to ensure his compliance via mind control, so he set himself up as his dealer instead, swapping the daily photos for drugs. Which of course means, he had to get him hooked in the first place…
We’ve had four episodes of Malcolm bumbling around, high and twitchy and basically harmless as background wallpaper of what a rough neighbourhood Jessica lives in, what a gritty world she takes for granted, and her general kindness when it comes to troubled youth. With this reveal, Jessica still sees him as a victim rather than a traitor, which shows us yet again what a good person she is under her sharp tongue and resting bitchface. Every time she finds another of Kilgrave’s victims, she adds a new person to her list of people to save.
This new information is the key to catching Kilgrave, as Jessica finds out when she follows Malcolm and spots the pattern: he goes to the park every day at the same time, wearing his blue striped scarf, and a different stranger approaches him with instructions as to where Kilgrave is waiting for him for the swap.
For those who have commented on Jessica’s limited wardrobe in the show, take note of the different variations of her stalking outfits, particularly the way she uses a variety of hoodies and caps in different combinations.
Jessica goes to tell Trish that it’s time to hero up (she doesn’t drive and plans for Trish to drive the getaway vehicle) only to find a surprise policeman in her best friend’s bed. Bonus points for Will going down on Trish in this scene; it’s not a sex act that we see nearly enough of in TV drama, and makes me think more kindly of him generally. It is hilarious that his response to Jessica interrupting their sex is to be aggressively shirtless in the following scene.
Will clearly wants in on the operation, citing his special ops background and experience, but Jessica rails against his involvement. The two of them wrangle over every detail, while Trish watches in amusement, well aware that her BFF and new man are fighting over her as much as they are over the correct way to kidnap a man in a nice suit during broad daylight.
The negotiation scene was one I found very believable. My partner thought Will was suspicious in the way he kept talking over the women and trying to control the decision making process, and therefore might still be under Kilgrave’s influence. I replied that no, that’s just a really believable interaction when a man feels he has more expertise than the women in the room. As is pointed out in the narrative itself, he does have a lot of relevant expertise, but also has some major points of ignorance, especially about Jessica’s capabilities. Also, Will’s own experience with Kilgrave means Jessica has good reason not to trust whether he will stick with the “Save Hope” program rather than killing Kilgrave outright.
Speaking of Hope, there’s a brief aside in this episode where she calls Jessica to come to prison, needing money. Hope has clearly been hardened by her time in prison as an accused murderer, and is expecting trouble. Like Jessica’s paranoia, hers bears out when she is attacked in her own bunk.
Will’s greatest contribution to the mission is a site in which to keep Kilgrave once they have captured him—a conveniently abandoned “safe house” floor in a warehouse district, including a sealed, soundproofed wall. At one point, Jessica and Will, separated by the soundproofing, use the opportunity to vocalise their distrust of each other without causing further conflict. Let’s hope neither of them read lips?
I also really appreciated the scene where Trish and Will are arguing about Jessica, and she asked him if he trusted her. His response is “With what?”, because he’s not willing to commit to that statement without context. Will is a fascinating character, so wrapped up in his own definitions of what the right thing is to do that he remains a wild card. I can’t help thinking that his righteous attitude is going to take him down a dark path…
The mission goes off brilliantly at first, with Jessica enjoying the chance to punch an unconscious Kilgrave on their way to the safe house. Team Anaesthesia Dart Gun For The Win! It goes wrong when they realise that Kilgrave has a tracker on him, and are promptly attacked by a mob of his security operatives.
The fight scene is gruelling, especially with its use of tasers—Trish is taken out with the first use of this weapon, whereas Jessica is tased repeatedly and she and Will fight a long and bloody battle. Most of the men get away, rescuing with Kilgrave’s unconscious body.
Will attempts to torture the remaining guy for information, but Jessica quickly realises the truth: This isn’t one of Kilgrave’s mind control victims at all. It’s just a dude who works for a private security company. Her mistake was thinking that Kilgrave would rely entirely on his power, but he’s much cannier than that—he’s hiring employees, too! Damn it. Why can’t he be a less intelligent super villain with fewer of his bases covered?
Trish is gutted that she was the weakest link in the fight, and Jessica can’t summon the energy to make her feel better about it. Instead, she goes home to sort out the one person she can help—maybe—Malcolm.
After rescuing him from a new supplier, Jessica handcuffs him to her bathroom sink and prepares to help him through withdrawal. He is miserable and angry, and confesses that he wasn’t always under Kilgrave’s mind control. Often, he simply took the pictures for the drugs.
Jessica digs her heels in, refusing to make a distinction between Malcolm’s addiction and what he did under mind control, because they are equally Kilgrave’s fault. She leaves him with the choice as to whether or not to continue as a junkie, by giving him access to that day’s payment.
Kilgrave calls Jessica, wondering why she didn’t kill him when she had the chance. He makes her an offer, to protect Malcolm by replacing him—sending one photo a day, “and don’t forget to smile.”
Another flashback shows us exactly how Kilgrave found Jessica (while saving a mugging victim who turns out to be Malcolm) and took her under his power. This is why Malcolm insists she can’t save him “again.”
Back in the present day, Jessica checks on Malcolm and when she sees he has ditched the drugs in the toilet, sends Kilgrave a selfie.
Ugh, ugh, ugh.
Comics and Continuity:
This beginning to feel as much like Trish’s origin story as it is Jessica’s. I hope we see Trish put on a mask and a Hellcat costume by the end of the season, and that she ends up as part of the Defenders team! She has the mad fighting skills.
Jessica’s refusal to wear a mask is very cute, up there with The Incredibles and “no capes!” for its commentary on Superhero Problems 101. (Also, the image of Trish with the mask askew on her face is reminiscent of Daredevil’s ninja costume, as well as hinting at Hellcat.)
The Costume, you guys. The Jewel outfit that Trish holds up hopefully for Jessica in the flashback is exactly what she wore in the comics! It makes so much sense—I had been wondering about that, because Jewel never entirely made sense as an identity that had come directly out of Jessica’s psyche, and makes even less sense with this especially nihilistic, sarcastic version of Jessica. If it turns out Trish has a pink wig somewhere in her wardrobe, I will be delighted. Though I will be completely OK with us never seeing Jessica actually wear the Jewel outfit or persona. She’s too cool for jewels. (Knightress, maybe… though there isn’t the excuse that all the other names were taken…)
When Kilgrave first approaches Jessica and shows such delight in her powers, she has a chance to take a superhero name for herself (it would obviously please him), but instead she speaks the truth: her hero name is Jessica Jones.
Under his influence, she speaks the truth: that she does it to help people. It’s a very different scene to the equivalent moment in the Alias comics, where “Jewel” was in the midst of a full-blown superhero career when he took her. That’s not the only tonal shift. We’re used to seeing Kilgrave all dark, growly, sinister and slightly broken but here in this flashback he’s charming and practically giddy at meeting a real-life superhero.
Still creepy as hell, of course, but somehow lighter and less troubled. It’s important to remember that while Jessica, Malcolm and the others are deeply damaged “after Kilgrave,” Kilgrave is living in an “after Jessica Jones” world. He has taken some damage as well.
Not nearly enough, but I live in hope.
No doors were damaged, rendered useless, crunched or otherwise harmed in the making of this motion picture.
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.