Jessica Jones Unlocks More Tragic Backstory

Cynical? Disaffected? It’s amazing Jessica Jones can even get out of bed in the morning. (Though to be fair, mostly she falls out of bed.)

(Contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Episodes 2.6 and 2.7; please try to avoid spoilers beyond this point in the comments.)

Episode Title 2.6 AKA Facetime

Written by Raelle Tucker
Directed by Jet Wilkinson

JESSICA: Fish were hurt, people were terrorised.

Sopping wet, Jessica flees from the scene of the damaged aquarium, pausing only to rescue her phone with the bag of rice method.

She spots an update on Trish’s love life via a gossip magazine which is… an impressive turnaround in reporting. Don’t print magazines have at least a weekly schedule? Apparently Marvel’s New York has print magazines that update at the same rate as websites.

What did Jessica learn from her aquarium adventure? Mostly that her former doctor and her fake scientist attempted killer (please name this character) are romantically involved with each other.

JESSICA: So the creep and the maniac have found happiness together.

Depressed by this turn of events, she goes to visit Oscar for a jam jar full of whiskey and a highly artistic sexual encounter involving splashy purple paint. She awakes to find him “watching her sleep”—or, more to the point, sketching her while she sleeps, which Jessica clearly has complicated feelings about.

Trish, meanwhile, continues to indulge in her new addiction. Vibrating with surreal alertness, she wins the crown of Most Subtle Vigilante ever by stalking likely troublemakers on a bus and staring at them until she hears someone in trouble… and removes said troublemaker from the bus with her super-strong boot.

No one’s gonna give you a medal for this behaviour, Trish. I’m amazed they let you stay on the bus.

Speaking of a lack of subtlety, Malcolm greatly enjoys Jessica’s grouchy “walk of shame” the next morning, and uses his superb new detective skills to figure out that all those paint splatters mean that she’s banging the super.

You will go far, young padawan.

Once again, Jessica’s long distance photography skills tie in closely to her detective work. After previously spotting a high quality wig by zooming in, now she spies a ring on the hand of Dr Has A Better Haircut Now.

It’s Malcolm who solves this particular Scooby Doo riddle, recognising it as an alumni ring from the same college he dropped out of in his addict days. Jessica is highly unsympathetic to his attempts to avoid facing his past trauma.

Facing past trauma is her Tuesday.

At the college, Malcolm approaches his ex-girlfriend and reminisces about all that he lost to his addiction. He seems genuinely pleased that Nish is willing to forgive him… but it was all an excuse to steal her campus security pass and track a lead.

Oh, Malcolm. You’ve been spending too much time with Jessica.

JESSICA: Fine by me, I could repress feelings all day.

Trish is barely holding herself together, but Jessica puts this down to the breakup effect. She’s not ignoring the danger signs… Trish is just very good at putting her worries at rest, clearly cashing in on ten years of trustworthy behaviour while she’s been sober.

The two of them crash a country club golf course to confront one of Dr Karl’s financial backers, identified from Malcolm’s sleuthing. Trish volunteers to cause a distraction the best way she knows—throwing an entitled celebrity brat tantrum at the security team while Jessica sneaks past.

Trish’s “It’s Patsy” act goes too far as she hits withdrawal from her new drug of choice and ends up vomiting on the stairs, staggering away in search of her next hit.

Jeri Hogarth has lost patience with her new roommate/witness, who isn’t giving her nearly enough juicy information in exchange for clean clothes and board.

Inez overhears Jeri bitching on the phone (good way to get your TV stolen, Jeri) and promptly steals a handbag, filling it up with jewellry and pills… until she recognises one of the prescriptions. She confronts Jeri about having ALS, and gives her a genuine lead: one of the patients alongside Jessica in that hospital was a boy with the super ability to heal others… he’s the reason Inez survived being attacked by That Lady.

Malcolm and Trish’s storylines have been dragging them together: when he returns her lost inhaler to her apartment, Trish (who has been faking sick for Jessica’s benefit) claims allergies and secretly takes another hit in the bathroom.

Either to distract Malcolm from her fake allergies, or just because it is the Inhaler of Impulse Decisions, Trish takes advantage of his crush on her to get some hot rebound sex.

I find the two sex scenes in this episode fascinating in their use of the “female gaze”—in a show that has made a point of hiring female directors this season. Both Jessica’s scene with Oscar and Trish’s with Malcolm are shot beautifully, with artful angles and thoughtful positioning, so that the male body is exposed far more than the female.

It’s anti-HBO sex, with breasts concealed beneath flexing back muscles, and masculine curves presented for the viewer to admire. The female characters are clearly in the scene to enjoy themselves, rather than to be observed. Nice to see a contrast to the boring, over-used toolkit of female exposure.

Back to Jessica and the plot! After getting brownie points for remembering that Oscar has a kid this episode, and actually checking where that kid is before inviting herself over for acrylics and chill, she loses several moral points by going after the college student son of Dr Karl’s backer, threatening him for information. At least she feels guilty about it.

JESSICA: The line keeps moving, and I keep stepping over it. How far is too far? And will there ever be a way back?

Huge reveal as Jessica arrives at the safehouse of Dr Karl and his violent conspirator, who finally—as Jessica is awash in a sea of scent and visual memory—turns out to have a name.

Her name is “Mom.”

Comics & Continuity

If you thought Oscar’s beautiful painting style was familiar, it’s the work of David Mack, who produced most of the iconic covers (and some other collage-based internal art) for the original run of Alias. While artist Michael Gaydos is credited as Jessica’s co-creator along with writer Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack’s extraordinary work added powerfully to the character’s early run, and he has also provided covers (much closer in style to the painting shown in this episode) for the current run of Jessica Jones, a comic released after the first season of the show aired… depicting Jessica as physically more like Krysten Ritter than her original model.

Mack was also involved in the design of the distinctive opening credits of the show, which feature a similar aesthetic to his Alias/Jessica Jones artwork.

Trish’s recent behaviour may be infuriating (and it is), but her character arc is thematically tight through this season. Her greatest desire has always been to have superpowers like Jessica, which ties in to her longing for independence (when she says she wants to be like Jessica, her sister’s ability to not give a crap what people think of her must loom large too). Trish’s greatest fear is being subsumed/made small by her relationships to others, especially given her track record of terrible choices in sexual partners. She broke up with Griffin because she wanted to be him, not be with him; Jessica, who knows her best, agrees that Griffin’s world would have taken Trish over.

While Trish defines herself against every one important to her—Jessica, her mother, Griffin—her downfall this season is taking the place Will Simpson, a man so determined to become a hero (and specifically Trish’s hero) that he transformed himself into an uncontrollable weapon… and was destroyed.

Uh oh. That doesn’t bode well for Trish.

Door Report/Damage Report

The glass is still being swept up from the aquarium that was destroyed in the previous episode. Most of the damage this time happens to phones, and ethics. Pretty sure Trish is taking a few years off her life with every puff of that inhaler, too.

 

Episode Title 2.7 AKA I Want Your Cray-Cray

Written by Hilly Hicks Jr
Directed by Jennifer Getzinger

It’s the backstory episode! We get to see early 2000’s Patsy singing her hit single “Hey Hey I Want Your Cray-Cray” which is a spiritual experience akin to Robin Sparkles singing “Let’s Go To The Mall” in How I Met Your Mother.

JESSICA: Hearing it at 200 decibels doesn’t improve the song.

Previously, we see Alisa Jones (AKA Mom) recovering from her horrific accident with the “help” of Dr Karl, Dr Leslie, Nurse Inez and Nurse LuAnn.

When she first awakens, Alisa’s whole head is covered in scars and she ends up attacking her carers and going on a rampage through the building—which is why teen Jessica, herself recovering from the accident and her treatments, remembers being savaged by a ‘meat-faced’ monster.

Five years later, Alisa is awoken again, with reduced scarring, to learn that she has super strength, and her husband and son are dead. After becoming suspicious and impatient that the continuing treatments are more about science and less about getting her well enough to see her daughter, she rampages again, hurting Inez and killing LuAnn, and escapes from the building…

Trish “Patsy” Walker is at the height of her teen stardom, with the release of the aforementioned hit single. She’s also at the height of her addiction, chugging champagne and party drugs like there’s no tomorrow.

Jessica, disaffected student, is failing to convince her sister to put on the brakes. Going to college while Trish enjoys her record deal has created a rift between them that’s widening, and bourbon only barely helps.

WAITER: Champagne?

JESSICA: I don’t do bubbly.

On the night of Trish’s Cray-Cray launch, she and Jessica have a terrible fight and Trish accuses her of mooching off her money, despite clearly having insisted on covering Jess’s tuition and rent. Jessica, stung by the accusation, breaks an ATM to prove that she doesn’t need Trish’s money.

Sadly this move attracts the worst kind of boy.

Jessica drops out of college and falls in with Stirling, a snarky bartender with a dream to open his own club, called Alias. (Yeah, it’s clear Stirling isn’t going to survive the flashback episode) The two of them shack up together in a bohemian squatter’s paradise, living off Jessica’s stolen everything.

Stirling starts to look more and more like what we refer to in Australia as a dropkick. When he pushes Jessica to reunite with Trish—back at that same nightclub (has someone told Trish and Jessica that there is more than one in New York, or is this literally the only place that will serve alcohol to minors?)—it’s purely so he can chat up the pop star about investing in his future club. Turns out he already has investors going back at least a year… a skeevy gang who now want their money back.

The only work he’s actually done towards starting a club is printing business cards. So, yeah. Loser.

Jessica scares away Stirling’s terrible gang/friends, but they come sniffing back when they realise she has powers.

After meeting Stirling at a dive bar, Jessica chats to a woman who passes her a tampon in the Ladies, not realising this is actually her mother who has escaped the hospital, and is now trying to make a human connection with her.

Alisa overhears Stirling being roughed up by the gang outside. Being Bad Friends, they demand that he agree to let Jessica work for them, using her superpowers for presumably Morally Dubious Business Ventures.

Stirling doesn’t even hesitate to agree and asks for a cut of the proceeds.

Alisa is so furious that when she gets him alone, she ends up beating his brains out against the wall. She returns calmly to the hospital, telling Dr Karl she clearly shouldn’t be anywhere near her daughter.

A devastated Jessica (who assumes she is at least partly responsible for Stirling’s death, having made the gang angry) rekindles her friendship with Trish, suggesting that she return to her mother and rehab so that at least one person Jessica loves can stay alive.

You guys, I’m really worried that this show is being foreboding about Trish.

Back in the present day, Alisa finishes telling her story to a horrified Jessica who now knows not only that the person recently attacking her and murdering people is her not-dead mother, but that this same not-dead mother was responsible for the death of her boyfriend.

A boyfriend, mind you, who died before Jessica could realise for herself how terrible he was, and is so deeply embedded in her tragic backstory that she named her detective agency after his imaginary club.

So yeah. Jessica punches Alisa, and Dr Karl calls on his own superpower, which is expertly stabbing superwomen in the neck with syringes. Jessica goes down.

Comics & Continuity

I love that we hear Jess’s theme tune for the first time when she and Stirling steal her beloved leather jacket. The entire episode is about her meet-cute with her jacket… and indeed it could be argued that it is the jacket’s theme tune, not Jessica’s.

Me. I’m arguing that.

It’s confirmed in this episode that Jessica’s romantic “type” can be summed up as “male person who provides whiskey.”

We learn Jess’s full name: Jessica Campbell Jones. In the original comics, Campbell was the name of Jessica’s birth family who died in the accident, and the perfectly nice Jones couple were the ones who adopted her afterwards. Neither of her mothers were murderers or had superpowers, that we know of.

According to Wikipedia, Alisa is named after Brian Michael Bendis’ wife; surely the more obvious reason is because it’s a typo of Alias? I guess it can be both.

Damage Report

Alisa smashed up a glass cabinet very dramatically with poor old nurse Inez. As we saw with the piano, she has her daughter’s talent for destructive behaviour… in fact, she has poorer impulse control.

I’ll say that again. Alisa is not only stronger than Jessica, her impulse control is less good.

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 Girl Reporter, a YA superhero novella published by The Book Smugglers. You can find TansyRR on Twitter & Instagram, and sign up for her Author Newsletter.

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