It’s easy to forget at times that Jessica Jones is a show about superpowers, because of the heavy genre focus on crime investigation/noir, not to mention the lack of spandex. But one of the big questions that runs through various superhero narratives (and Marvel comics/cinematic works in particular) is that of superhero law and order.
How do you police people with powers? What new laws do you need to deal with them? How do you incarcerate them without removing their human rights?
Do they even get human rights?
We see this play out practice in these episodes where it’s previously been theoretical: Alisa is incarcerated, and she’s a prison fatality waiting to happen. But is she going to be the killer or victim?
Season 2, Episode 10: “AKA Pork Chop”
Written by Aida Mashaka Croal
Directed by Neasa Hardiman
The first red flag comes when Jessica and Jeri Hogarth visit Alisa in prison and she is not allowed privacy with her lawyer — attorney client privilege is not a legal right that people with superpowers get, apparently.
So there’s an ethical slippery slope right from the start.
Alisa’s choice is presented as simple: she cuts a deal to give up Dr Karl’s location and she gets to stay in this conveniently located prison, along with such special concessions as visiting rights with her daughter, some control over her environment (her preferred chains, bed and other methods for keeping her fury at bay) and even her wig.
If that deal is rejected, she’ll be sent to the Raft for the rest of her life.
Alisa isn’t willing to give up Karl, and is scathing of Jessica trusting her so quickly after things went bad between them.
ALISA: I almost put your face through the floor. Where’s your sense of self-preservation?
Trish crashes and burns at her TV audition, and hears a rumour about the killer being caught… by someone who can only be Jessica.
Back at Alias Investigations, Jess finally comes clean to Trish and Malcolm about what’s been going on with her mother.
JESSICA: The moral of my shitty story is if your dead parent comes back to life, stick them back in the ground.
Malcolm is angry at being kept in the dark yet again, and he’s not happy with Trish either… he doesn’t blame her for the inhaler stunt because he’s taking responsibility for his own actions, but it’s clear that they’re not healthy for each other right now.
After assuring both Jessica and Malcolm that she’s clean and fine and sober because the inhaler is empty… Trish’s world has narrowed to investigating what exactly was in said inhaler. (Cough, couldn’t be that she wants to replace the contents… right?)
Apparently whatever was in there was super toxic and she’s lucky her major organs didn’t dissolve while using it. You’d think that would put her off, but Trish Walker doesn’t go down that easy.
Jessica goes to Jeri and finds her all cozy with Inez and Shane, raving about how Dr Karl should be able to escape the law because he’s a potential saviour of the world. Look at the miracle he created in Shane!
Shane, who couldn’t stand the thought of using his powers again, is awfully zen now that he has healed Jeri and doesn’t bat an eyelid when she suggests he’s gonna heal lots more people now.
Jessica is instantly suspicious, but she has her own stuff to do. She visits Dr Karl, on a quest to get him out of the country so that her mother will start make healthier choices for herself instead of worrying about him.
She learns the alarming fact that Karl doesn’t have the faintest idea who Shane Rybeck is… which means he wasn’t one of the IGH test subjects.
Trish makes an ill-advised visit to Alisa in prison, to grill her about Karl. The two of them fight over Jessica.
ALISA: She is my daughter and she will always choose me over you.
Even in the height of addiction frenzy, Trish is a reasonably good investigator, and figures out that Jess is helping Karl at her mother’s request. She tries to convince Jessica that she has to stop trying to help Alisa, but that goes down probably about as well as when Jessica first tried to make Trish admit that Dorothy was abusing her.
JESSICA: She’s my mother. She is mine to deal with. You do not get a say.
Alisa has her own issues to deal with in jail. One guard in particular, Dale, has been torturing her, forcing her to eat meat after she admits she’s a vegetarian and exerting his power over her when she’s restrained and… about as helpless as a rage monster can be.
There are many different kinds of monsters in this show.
Jessica spends some comforting time with Oscar — how did Jessica end up in the healthiest romantic relationship this season? It doesn’t hurt that he’s also making the fake ID for Karl’s escape.
Jess tries to tell Jeri she has been tricked by Inez… Shane has to be a con man, Inez (with her history as a nurse) knowing that you can’t prove whether someone has ALS or not.
Jeri refuses to listen, but returns home to find it ransacked, and Inez (who clearly did all this to get her boyfriend out of prison) long gone. Racked with grief that her miracle cure was a lie, Jeri collapses in misery.
Trish returns to Malcolm with her sad eyes after fighting with Jess and they hook up again because he’s weak and they’re both pretty. She plays on his desire to be taken seriously as a PI by getting him to help her find Dr Karl… but then she cold-cocks Malcolm with the world’s tiniest gun (head trauma can be fatal, Trish, WTF!) and hides him in the trunk of the car.
Jess follows up her suspicions about Dale, the guard hurting her mother. After finding out he was fired from a previous position after too many prison suicides on his watch, she follows him home and finds evidence that he took trophies from said “suicides.” So, serial killer then.
He attacks her with mace and she fights him, losing her cool and accidentally taking it too far.
Yep, Jess got this far in life without accidentally bludgeoning an asshole to death… until now. Whoops.
Heads all round.
Season 2, Episode 11: “AKA Three Lives and Counting”
Written by Jack Kenny & Lisa Randolph
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Jessica is overwhelmed with horror at what she did to prison guard Dale, and finds a familiar voice amid her swirling thoughts: Kilgrave, who appears to her in a series of beautifully crafted hallucinations, applauding sarcastically as she methodically alters the crime scene and throws Dale off a building to make his death look like a suicide.
Alisa, meanwhile, is surprised to get a reasonable, friendly guard, and immediately suspects that Jessica had something to do with Dale not turning up to work. A discreet phone conversation confirms this.
Mama’s proud of you, Jessica. When both the psychopaths in your life think you’re making good choices, including the dead one, it might be time to make some changes.
After Dr Karl goes missing, Alisa is instantly certain that Trish Walker is the main suspect, which Jessica doesn’t countenance… or does she? Her inner Kilgrave is less dismissive.
KILGRAVE: Never trust a junkie, especially a self-righteous one.
Realising someone accessed her laptop, Jessica breaks into Malcolm’s flat, finding Trish’s sunglasses in his bed. Kilgrave feeds on her paranoia about Malcolm, Trish, her mother and her own murderous instincts.
JESS: I’m trading banter with a delusion.
It’s been seeded all season that Malcolm’s addictive tendencies have been channelled into anonymous sex, with his string of flings as well as his lack of restraint with Trish. This becomes relevant now, as Jessica makes a bunch of calls to his recent one night stands, begging them to use the proximity alerts from the “Teaser” app so she can triangulate his location.
Trish and Karl have been busy, driving around the city on a quest, and Malcolm finally rescues himself from the trunk of Trish’s car in a parking garage… only to have Trish pull a gun on him.
Jess finds them but not in time to stop Trish and Karl escaping… and she is furious at Malcolm for letting all this happen without realising Trish was following her addiction rather than a case.
JESSICA: You worked for me, your dick works for Trish.
Kilgrave is becoming more and more intrusive in Jessica’s thoughts, to the point that she loses touch with reality more than once, even attacking people in the street.
She and Malcolm follow a lead to where Trish and Dr Karl were “shopping” recently — a cat shelter, where they bought some supremely dodgy ingredients.
Jessica realises to her horror that Trish isn’t looking to refill her inhaler… she wants something more permanent from Dr Karl. She wants to become another Jessica Jones.
Fate worse than death, as far as Jess is concerned.
In the abandoned IGH lab, Trish submits to Dr Karl’s Frankenstein-like procedure, justifying it to herself all the way.
TRISH: Do you know what it’s like to feel powerless?
KARL: Everyone does.
TRISH: Not everyone has an abusive mother and a super powered sister.
Trish Walker wants to save the world personally… and even the Kilgrave inside Jessica’s head thinks that’s not a bad idea.
KILGRAVE: She’ll look better than you in tights… She can be the hero, you can be the villain.
Jessica bursts into the lab to stop the experiment, breaking down a window to get to Trish, who is coughing up black blood and covered in puncture marks. Whipped into a frenzy by her many Kilgrave delusions, Jessica is about ready to beat Dr Karl to death, but pulls back at the last second.
As Jessica carries a badly damaged Trish to safety, Dr Karl decides he can’t live with the fact that his work does more harm than good, and blows up all his work, including the entire IGH building and himself.
Jessica gets Trish to hospital and is unforgiving to Malcolm, who is feeling pretty betrayed himself. They ragequit each other.
In a rare, introspective moment of calm, Jessica tells Kilgrave that she is not him, and not her mother. She’s come to terms with herself, and isn’t going to let her recent failures push her over the edge into full time monster.
JESSICA: I can control myself, which means I’m more powerful than you ever were.
Kilgrave is banished… for now. But this season’s monster is about to find out that the man she loves is dead… and as Kilgrave predicted, she could well take out the eastern seaboard in retaliation.
Jessica thinks she’s enough to keep her mother stable. Apparently not.
Comics & Continuity
He’s baaack. The devastating charisma of David Tennant Being Evil returns for one night only. The use of him in this episode is powerful and resonant, with all the lovely Purple Man imagery without actually colouring him in purple.
(Though you know, he could pull it off.)
I think what’s most disturbing about the character is that he plays him with the same accent and many similar vocal quirks and trills as he used when playing the Doctor. That’s not okay, David Tennant. Stick with Scottish for another decade or so.
(My thirteen-year-old wandered in during this episode and was creeped out by Kilgrave within 30 seconds. Good job, that actor.)
The hallucination scenes are gorgeously directed and I love the multiple Kilgraves, definitely making the guest actor work overtime in this one.
I’m so mad at Trish but also I really want Hellcat and I’m loving how complex and consistent her character has been. We have a bazillion shows out there with ethically, morally dubious men as their apparently sympathetic heroes. I kind of love that this show is so focused on broken, angry women making bad choices that require redemption arcs.
We’re gonna need another season for all these redemption arcs. And more whiskey.
Jess and Malcolm break each other’s trust and internet security. Dr Karl breaks IGH. Alisa breaks the prison wide open like an egg.
But Jessica does not let Kilgrave break her. Let’s take that as a win.
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. Check out her Kickstarter to bring an award winning fantasy trilogy back into print!