If you start an episode with a serial killer sending clues via Snapchat (sorry, InstaYap), it’s really hard to end it with the brutal murder of one of your main characters. “A.K.A Camera Friendly” is an absolute tonal mess, one that ranges from unintentionally goofy to unearned in its gruesome melodramatics. The predominate emotion I felt throughout this episode was frustration—from annoyance at minor technical nitpicks to exasperation at an ending that’s more ludicrous than shocking. Maybe I’m just projecting, but it even felt like the actors couldn’t manage to put their hearts into this lackluster material.
While the previous episode framed Trish and Jessica’s embrace of publicity as cool and heroic, it ends up backfiring in this episode. The police become distracted by unmasking the mysterious vigilante woman, which slows down Costa’s efforts to get jurisdiction over Nathan’s body. (I’m not sure that entirely makes sense, but sure.) Meanwhile, Jessica realizes it probably wasn’t a good idea to let Sallinger know she pieced together his first murder. Namedropping Nathan during their big wrestling match clued Sallinger in on the fact that the cops might actually be able to dig up some hard evidence against him. That emboldens Sallinger to take risks he might otherwise not have taken.
Enter InstaYap. Sallinger sends Jessica an ominous video of customers at the Hudson Street Market, threatening that by 7pm a life will end because of her. Jessica and Trish head off on a wild goose chase towards a red herring victim, which dominates the majority of the plot of this episode. In the end, however, Sallinger’s real victim is Dorothy. Trish arrives at Dorothy’s apartment to find her mom’s body strapped to a chair and covered in blood. It’s a scene that’s deeply upsetting, yet also entirely unearned. The same goes for the cliffhanger ending, in which a revenge-driven Trish holds a knife to Sallinger’s throat as Jessica leaps in slow motion to stop her.
For “A.K.A Camera Friendly” to work, I need to feel totally in sync with Jessica’s sense of injustice and dread. A serial killer is on the loose, the police won’t stop him, he’s promised to kill again, and she and Trish have to save the day without any backup. Yet instead of empathizing with Jessica’s frustrations, I spent most of this episode feeling frustrated with her. To quote Jessica’s favorite terminology, she’s pretty goddamn annoying in this episode.
Jessica’s petulance is usually a highlight of her character, but it’s entirely miscalibrated in this episode. In previous seasons we’ve seen Jessica effectively modulate her persona to get what she needs from people, like garnering sympathy by posing as an overwhelmed assistant. Yet in “A.K.A Camera Friendly” she’s somehow entirely incapable of adjusting her demeanor even the slightest. Dorothy arranges a live TV interview so that Jessica can issue a public service announcement to Sallinger’s potential victim. Rather than focus on getting her message out with any kind of clarity, Jessica throws what amounts to a teenage tantrum as her cantankerous attitude and penchant for swearing take over.
It’s a win for Dorothy, who seems to have had a masterplan in place from the beginning. She demanded the interview be live so that Jessica’s inevitable bad behavior couldn’t be edited out, thus ensuring her message would go viral. But since Jessica wasn’t aware of that plan, her inability to keep her goddamn shit together for one goddamn second just makes her seem stupid, which is something we know she isn’t. Perhaps I’m not giving the episode enough credit for what’s meant to be an intentional critique of Jessica’s recklessness (and there’s definitely at least some of that in this episode too). But I also think we’re supposed to find Jessica’s inability to keep her cool at least a little bit roguishly charming, which I don’t at all.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about Jessica’s demeanor feels so off in this episode, as I can think of dozens of examples where she acted similarly and I was delighted by it. But context is everything. Watching Jessica brutally attack a bunch of security guards at the factory where Sallinger’s supposed victim works just doesn’t feel like the most effective way to get to the victim as quickly as possible. And if there’s one thing Jessica Jones usually is, it’s effective.
It’s all part of the tonal inconsistencies and mischaracterization that make this episode such a mess. “A.K.A Camera Friendly” can’t decide if it wants to play Jessica’s attitude for comedy or drama, so it doesn’t succeed at either. Nor does this episode succeed at making me feel Jessica’s deep sense of injustice over Sallinger evading arrest. Maybe that’s just because Sallinger isn’t all that interesting of a villain. We’re supposed to be terrified of the fact that his brains are stronger than Jessica’s brawn, but since this episode has to dumb her down to make that point, it just rings hollow. At this point, I’m kind of rooting for Trish to kill him so we can goddamn move onto something else.
- I never saw the critically reviled movie The Snowman, but I couldn’t stop thinking about its much-mocked tagline: “Mister Police. You could have saved her, I gave you all the clues.”
- It makes sense in context (and this is a much bigger problem with American TV’s obsession with heroic cops), but given the real-life state of the criminal justice system, it’s a bit unnerving to watch a show where I’m supposed to root for the police to harass and arrest a man based on zero evidence.
- Costa and his husband Russell are in the process of adopting a kid. It’s part of his plan to find a life outside of his job, and he encourages Jessica to do the same.
- Given how much we’re supposed to be invested in Malcolm and Zaya’s relationship (she’s willing to risk her job by editing his conversation with Trish out of the security footage she shows to Hogarth), I think it was a mistake for this season’s early episodes to focus so exclusively on their charged sexual chemistry. They came across more like hookup buddies than a deeply connected couple.
- Hogarth’s storyline started as such interesting character-centric drama, but it’s now become a far more one-note “war on superheroes.” I’m just not sure I buy that a powered vigilante stealing some of her case files would lead to such a massive crusade against Jessica and her ilk.
- I went on a real emotional rollercoaster from delighting at the cleverness of Jessica using another phone to record her final viewing of an InstaYap video to screaming at my TV as she and Trish proceeded to TALK THROUGH SAID RECORDING. By the time we got to the scene where Jessica rewatched the video and it didn’t include their voices, I was too broken by this episode to even care.