I had to take a little break after Episode 9, “AKA Sin Bin.” Not because I was tired or needed a break, but because it was so disappointing. It put a bit of fear in me that Jessica Jones would start to fall apart in the home stretch. It wouldn’t be unheard of. Daredevil really started to meander as it started to wrap up, and I was concerned that Jessica Jones would do the same. Maybe thirteen episodes is just a little too many for these Marvel Netflix shows? Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a strong episode with a lot of tension, suspense, startling revelations, and betrayals. But so much of the action depends on characters doing dumb things because the plot demands it. I’ve also noticed over the past run of episodes that the direction has become more perfunctory, less expressive. There are nice shots here and there, but really no director has stepped up and brought their “A Game” like S.J. Clarkson did in the first two episodes. Or maybe they have and Clarkson is just that much better than everybody else taking part. Not that the direction has been bad; it’s just been traditional – not calling attention to itself, but simply telling the story. This is one of the things that really made the first season of True Detective (with director Cary Joji Fukunaga), both seasons (so far) of The Knick (with director Steven Soderbergh), and the first half of Season One of UK series Utopia (with director Marc Munden) so special; that individual vision behind the camera. It allows for more consistency, more experimentation and visual distinction, while also helping to smooth over other potential shortcomings, like weak dialogue or bad plotting. Both of which were on full display in “AKA Sin Bin.” The majority of the episode is spent with Kilgrave (David Tennant) in a hermetically sealed box, video camera trained on him, as Jessica (Krysten Ritter) attempts to coerce a confession from him – or at least a demonstration of his powers – so she can free Hope (Erin Moriarty) from prison. It’s all a bit shite, really. It’s a bad plan that at least plays on the idea that Jessica’s morals are shady, but ultimately it’s just a bad plan. There’s no way of getting a demonstration of his powers without someone going into the box with him, and the idea of shocking everybody in the box into unconsciousness is a little much. There’s also no real chance that the plan can work in any way that would ever be allowed in court. So we have to assume that this episode’s writers, Jamie King & Dana Baratta, either know this and are doing the best they can with the corner they’ve been plotted into, or they don’t and it’s just a bad move on the part of everyone involved with the making of the show. I’m going to assume the former, given what we’ve seen so far, quality-wise. But we’ll get back to the plan in a minute. The rest of the episode is spent attempting to establish Officer Simpson (Wil Traval) as something other than just a cop with a military background. Which means the first real implication that he’s going to become some variation of Nuke from the Daredevil comics. I suppose they see it as a necessary evil to have someone superpowered (or at least with heightened abilities) on the scene to provide more complications and give the superhero purists a more traditional villain to deal with along the way. He also serves as an example of hypermasculinity that is going to have to eventually be beaten into submission. There’s a lot of submission and dominance in this show, isn’t there? One the real strengths of Jessica Jones so far is the fact that it tries its best to avoid traditional comic book conflicts and sticks to its noir roots. And when it has to incorporate super powers or comic book tropes, the writers are intent on subverting them or mocking them outright. We really don’t need some sort of cut-rate super soldier program intruding on this story. But maybe there’s a reason for it. Maybe there will be subversion and mocking later (or there are future plans to adapt elements of Frank Miller’s “Born Again” storyline from Daredevil). For now, though, it just doesn’t feel like a good fit here – it feels more like a Marvel mandate to expand the TV Universe and allow for some more traditional Marvel hijinks later on in the Netflix group of shows. So yeah, Simpson has a special doctor who gives him special pills – Reds to keep him up, Blues to bring him down, and Whites to maintain balance in between. And of course, he starts popping Reds like candy as soon as the doctor is gone. Because that’s what a super-secret doctor would do in a super-secret program: leave bottles of pills with a guy who just begged to be let back into the program after getting himself blown up in a poorly-planned independent raid. Sigh. The most interesting twist in the episode, however comes when Jessica realizes that Kilgrave’s parents are still alive and decides to use her sleuthing skills to track them down. Luckily for everyone involved, it’s super-easy to do! And then, luckily enough, they happen to be in town! And luckily enough, mom is attending the Kilgrave Support Group meetings! Because apparently they put fliers up around town or something? Is there a hashtag? #mindraped maybe? It’s all a bit ridiculous, but it puts the parents into play as a variable that may make Kilgrave do something stupid on video. Which brings us back to the hermetically sealed box and the stupid plan. In what is at least an interesting element of the plan, Jessica contacts Detective Clemmons (Clarke Peters) and when he arrives – after he notes how fucked up and illegal this entire situation is – she handcuffs him to a pole and forces him to be a witness. Being an older black man in a Marvel Netflix series, however, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for him to get out of this alive. I still miss you Ben. Sniff. In what is perhaps the most stupid element of this entire episode, Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) is included in the team, and for some reason, she thinks that Kilgrave would love to force her wife to sign their divorce papers in exchange for getting him out of the box. !!! I don’t even know what to say about that. Anyway, since Jessica going into the box and beating the shit out of Kilgrave didn’t motivate him to demonstrate his powers, Jessica decides putting his parents into the box will be just the motivation he’ll need to snap, and then she can electrocute them all unconscious and get the old folks out alive. Guess what happens next. Exactly what you think in going to happen. He takes control, the failsafe doesn’t work and they all watch Kilgrave make his mother stab himself to death with the scissors she snuck in to kill him with. They were never going to be parents of the year anyway, but this pretty much wins them the award for worst parenting ever (sorry Man of Steel‘s Ma and Pa Kent, you lose!). The final moments of the episode are really what the entire stupid set-up was all about. Trish freaks out and pulls the pistol Simpson gave her, unloading into the glass of the box, finally shattering it and putting a bullet into Kilgrave’s shoulder. But since it didn’t kill him he orders her to put a bullet in her skull and without hesitation she tries, but is out of ammo. Lucky that. Kilgrave orders Clemmons to come with him and he mangles his own hand to get out of the handcuffs and follow. Jessica is distracted for a moment or two, trying to stop Kilgrave’s father from cutting his own heart out while Kilgrave makes his escape – but not before she has a chance to grab him and resist his order to let her go. He still escapes thanks to Clemmons’s interference, but now Jessica knows she’s immune to Kilgrave’s mind-control. The game has changed. And that’s pretty freaking awesome. It also explains a lot of what’s been going on with Kilgrave’s plans and interactions with Jessica over the course of the series. Episode 10, “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” gets us back on track almost immediately as we open with Kilgrave’s escape – and subsequent kidnapping of Hobarth – which is frenetically shot on hand-held camera before cutting back to Jessica and begins circling her as she bursts out of the building in pursuit. Maybe it’s just me, but this is the first time in a while when the direction actually made me sit up and take notice. Is it a coincidence that it’s the first time a woman has directed the show since the opening pair of episodes? Rosemary Rodriguez has a solid resume, but nothing jumps out at me as amazing, but as the episode moves on, there are more than one stylish changes of pace that help make this episode stand out from the rest. Script-wise, Barratta is back, joined by Micah Schraft and we’ve immediately got an uptick in believable dialogue, pacing, and plotting. All of the characters are given something to do (Trish has been woefully underused over the past few episodes and does a good job here keeping Daddy Kilgrave on task using Jessica’s blood to help find a cure for Kilgrave – his powers stem from a virus apparently), and the meandering (and quite possibly poorly conceived in the first place) divorce drama of the Hogarth’s comes to a head; quite literally. The Hogarth storyline spawns a number of emotionally devastating reveals, particularly about Hogarth’s role in aiding Hope abort Kilgrave’s child and her own harvesting of the fetus in an attempt to replicate his powers. The fact that she brings Kilgrave to her estranged wife when she was commanded to take him to a doctor she trusted raises an interesting plot-tick, that unfortunately doesn’t get the chance to breathe and develop. But it’s a fair trade, as it is sacrificed to keep the action moving. When the unanticipated arrival of Pam (Susie Abromeit) causes Kilgrave to panic and run thinking Jessica has found them, he leaves behind a bloody mess, ordering Wendy (Robin Weigert) to kill Jeri with 1,000 cuts (a verbal cue she used earlier to describe her experience being married to Jeri). It’s a horrifying sequence, filmed again with the handheld and shifting to dramatic angles to really help build up the sense of chaos and impending death. Luckily for Jeri, Pam gets in and bashes Wendy in the head, knocking her into the corner of her glass coffee table, killing her in a particularly brutal way. And the camera lingering on Wendy’s bleeding head, mounted on the corner of the table, eyes wide and staring, is one of the most gruesome moments in the series so far. Another stylish moment, although not a particularly original one, wraps up the short interaction between Clemons and Simpson, who arrives at the safehouse hopped up on Reds and searching for Kilgrave. Clemons doesn’t come out on the good end of this scene, and it’s really disappointing, as Clarke Peters makes everything he’s in better. The shot of Simpson stalking down the corridor, leaving the lab in flames behind him is beautiful, but I’d trade it for having Clemons alive. And was that an American flag on his lighter? Nice nod to Nuke’s American flag face tattoo/paint. In more emotionally devastating news, Robyn (Colby Minifie) has enlisted Malcolm (Eka Darville) to help her put up flyers searching for missing twin, Rubin, despite the fact that Malcolm knows exactly where Rubin is. In the river, where he dumped the corpse. Robyn has become another interesting and strong-willed woman on a show filled with them. Her love for her brother is definitely on the crazy side without getting creepy and sexual; she’s really trying to take care of him in her own demented way. And when Jessica is callous enough to toss a handful of flyers in the garbage, she’s perceptive enough to know that something is probably up. So she follows Malcolm to another survivors’ meeting just in time to hear him crack and admit his part in covering up Rubin’s murder. She then provides a passionate, if simplistic, argument against the whole self-help group’s existence, spurred on by some members’ feelings that they’re starting to see themselves as guilty instead of as victims. To be honest, the group doesn’t really seem to be working all that well, particularly given the fact that none of the participants were in life or death situations, and only one member’s life was really ruined. This isn’t meant to undercut the impact of their emotional and psychological violation, but being forced to smile, play cello until your fingers bleed, or give away your nice jacket are traumas that shouldn’t be that difficult to put behind you. The mind-rape of being under control and forced to like it is the thing they can’t deal with, and passively talking it out amongst themselves seems to be a dead-end. I thought it might turn into a way of finding redemption along the way – an alternative to self-abuse and violence – but it seems Jessica Jones is about subverting that idea as well. Although, under Robyn’s sway (control?) they all end up back under Kilgrave’s control (sway?), so maybe they did just need to give the therapy a chance. The ways people influence and coerce others in this show are legion. But how would they come under Kilgrave’s control again? Because he shows up at Jessica’s office with a deal to offer: Hope’s freedom for his dad. Yeah, he set up her release by commanding the D.A. and a judge to make it all legal and shit. With the reveal that Jessica is immune to his powers, we finally see why he hasn’t even been trying to control her. Sure, he might actually still want her to choose him – in fact, he really seems honest about that – but it’s also been a way of manipulating her into placing herself under his control voluntarily. Now that she knows, he has to resort to putting contingencies into place, like a potential mass suicide in Jessica’s neighborhood if he dies. Since killing him isn’t really an option (at least not for 12 hours or so), Jessica does what we’ve been waiting for her do all along, and punches him in his pointy British face (I know Tennant is Scottish, so don’t start complaining), ties him up and duct tapes his mouth shut. If it wasn’t for the intrusion of Robyn and the self-help group, the show could end now. Instead, Jessica is knocked out and Kilgrave is freed, leaving Jessica to meet up with the villain and discover that the Kilgrave Survivors might not be survivors much longer as he forces them to line up on a table with nooses around their necks, ready to hang themselves if Jessica makes the wrong move. Did I mention that Kilgrave’s dad was making an antidote to his powers thanks to the addition of Jessica’s blood to the mix? I did? Okay, yeah, that doesn’t quite work, and before the exchange of Dad for Hope can actually happen, Hope takes matters into her own hands, attempting to stab Kilgrave with a broken wine glass. When he tells her she can’t kill him, she agrees, acknowledging that Jessica can before STABBING HERSELF IN THE FUCKING NECK. Kilgrave runs with daddy in tow, the survivors all step off the table, and Hope lies bleeding out on the floor. Jessica does what a hero does and saves the survivors before trying to save Hope, letting Kilgrave escape yet again. But there’s nothing to be done for Hope. And her deathbed request that Jessica kill Kilgrave is grimly accepted. This was one of the most emotionally grueling episodes of the series so far and things are looking extremely bleak as we move into the final three episodes. I know we’re going to have a “happy” ending. There’s no way Marvel wouldn’t. But it looks like it’s going to be darkest before the dawn, and Jessica Jones has already demonstrated that “happy” in Hell’s Kitchen is a relative measurement. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Shawn EH December 2, 2015 I’m still wondering why it took her so long to figure out he couldn’t control her anymore, since he knew it since the bus accident. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.