Marvel's Jessica Jones Review by Henry Tran

Marvel's Jessica Jones 1.13: AKA Smile

Marvel's Jessica Jones 1.13: AKA Smile

Written By:
Jamie King, Scott Reynolds, and Melissa Rosenberg
Directed By:
Michael Rymer

The story of Jessica Jones is one of both control and agency. Jessica needed to gain agency over the course of her life, which does mean that having control over her fate was inherent in the proposition. That control was entirely taken away from her (as well as others) by Kilgrave. So it's fitting that the final episode of the season focused on Jessica acknowledging that she had to essentially get rid of Kilgrave in order to take back what was missing in her life. There had always been the question of why Kilgrave had to survive until the finale, and Jessica spent the bulk of the season grappling with that question until someone decided that the draconian measure had to be taken in order for her to get around to being at peace with him gone. 

Starting with the film The Dark Knight several years ago, superheroes started getting stories where the villain was often a dark mirror reflection of the other. The Joker famously told Batman in that film that "he doesn't want to kill him (because) what would he do without him?" Batman needed the Joker to keep him sharp and on his game. To recognize what he was fighting for and protecting. Not that Jessica never knew what she was fighting for, but there was the sense that she needed Kilgrave to keep her going. Before he terrorized most of Manhattan with his mind control powers, Jessica lived a lonely life that mostly consisted of stalking and photographing the husband of the woman she killed. When Kilgrave emerged as a threat, she finally had purpose.

It's when Kilgrave threatens the people Jessica truly loves that she makes her move to strike back at him. She knocked out Luke with a shotgun blast (now we know that a point-blank range shotgun blast merely renders him unconscious for a time), and takes him to the nearest hospital. There, while she watches as doctors and nurses struggle with a way to treat a man with unbreakable skin, she hunts Kilgrave with a clear head. The mind-controlled doctors and nurses prove to be a minor nuisance, but it's clear now that Jessica is on the offensive instead of taking precautions and playing things safe. She meets Claire Temple, the first and only direct reference to Daredevil and Jessica Jones taking place in the same universe (and practically the same neighborhood), who tends to her wounds and watches over Luke at Jessica's apartment.

At the apartment, the show takes a different, more notable tack: It slows down, becomes more contemplative, and delves into the nature of what it means to be a hero. It's not something often seen with superhero stories, many of whom want to get to fighting the bad guys as soon as possible. Jessica has said it outright from the beginning: She tried the superhero thing, it didn't work out, and now, she just wants to get by, accepting that while she is gifted, she only wants to be left to live a normal life. Claire does know a little something about that since she spent so much time with Matt Murdock, another hero who is wracked with guilt and constantly questions the virtue of what they do in their lives, and so that connection has more depth than just being fan service. These women understand each other, even as they're practically strangers who just met, and while Claire is only in the series for a brief time, she makes a substantial impact on the narrative. 

Everything that Claire and Trish talk to Jessica about in this episode, how she can protect those she loves by being a hero, thus also absolving herself of the guilt and shame of her past actions, plays into the final sequence of events. Jessica clearly has a plan, along with contigencies built into the plan, and it nearly plays out to perfection. Even with the knowledge that Kilgrave has increased or amplified his powers somehow (and I personally could have done without the unnecessarily gory, torture porn-like sequence in the loft where Kilgrave's father has his arms ripped out and ground up in the garbage disposal), Jessica proceeds with ample confidence. The shootout with the cops doesn't even faze her, and it leads to the final showdown between her and Kilgrave, with a bunch of people trying to kill each other in the way. Apparently, that was taken straight out of the comics, but it added to the epic nature of the showdown along with looking a bit goofy from an outsider's perspective. 

Nevertheless, the suspense is quite charged in the scene due to the fact that Kilgrave is no longer operating out of some twisted love for Jessica, but rather a seething hatred of her. He has tried so hard to get what he wants out of her that when she repeatedly rejects it outright, he crosses that thin line between love and hate. He decided on a whim that he'd get as much satisfaction in killing her than whatever twisted notion of loving her would get him. That misconception and mistaken belief in his own superiority (some might even call it a God complex) becomes his ultimate weakness, even moreso than the sufentanil. Jessica is able to use that misconception as part of her manipulation in order to get him close enough to her in order to snap his neck. 

All that time, Kilgrave wanted her to smile. That final smile was completely fake, but for once, that was apparent to everyone except for Kilgrave. She is able to twist around what he always wanted, a declaration of love by her own free will, so that she can ultimately kill him. With everyone safe from Kilgrave's influence, she can return to being somewhat normal. Only now, she's a hero in a lot of people's eyes. She can pretend to not care about those citizens who call up Alias Investigations for help afterwards, but the reality is that she chose to accept her heroism in that moment when she destroyed Kilgrave. She has her free will back, unencumbered by any known threats. Now she has to choose what to do with it.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Jessica’s journey back to a sense of agency ends as it should
  • Kilgrave’s own character arc comes to a surprisingly satisfying fruition
The Bad:
  • Keeping Kilgrave around this long still feels slightly contrived

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

Marvel's Jessica Jones by - 2/17/2016 6:41 AM144 views

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