After the big reveal at the end of “A.K.A Hero Pants,” my first thought was that I’d love to go back and rewatch the previous two episodes to track Trish and Erik’s arcs through this new lens. Thankfully, “A.K.A Hellcat” puts in the work for me! This episode is part clip show and part magic trick reveal. It travels back to the moment Trish discovered her mom’s murdered body and fills us in on the events as they unfolded from her perspective. The first Trish-centric flashback episode primed us for this kind of thing, and “A.K.A Hellcat” takes the format even further by adding one more timeline to the mix.
My absolute favorite part of this episode is the flashback storyline to Trish’s child star days, back when Dorothy was helping her worm her way into her star vehicle It’s Patsy, which started as a more generic sitcom called That’s Our Girl. One of my problems with the bloody, chaotic ending of “A.K.A Camera Friendly” was that it didn’t give the audience the time and space to process the loss of Dorothy Walker (and of Rebecca De Mornay’s fantastic portrayal of her). The episode prioritized shock over emotional impact, and while “A.K.A I Did Something Today” and especially “A.K.A Hero Pants” were about Trish and Jessica processing Dorothy’s death, it never quite felt like I’d seen all I needed to see for Dorothy’s story to feel complete.
The childhood flashbacks give us the chance to say goodbye to Dorothy properly, and they also give De Mornay once last chance to shine in what might be her strongest Jessica Jones performance yet. We only see early hints of the physical abuse that we know will go on to become much worse, but Dorothy’s emotional abuse is already well on display. She robs Trish of a childhood by pressuring her to become their family’s sole breadwinner, and she refuses to ever let up on that sense of pressure. When Trish starts to celebrates her success at stealing the starring role during the table read, Dorothy immediately reminds her that the hundreds of people working on the show are now relying on her to do her job perfectly every day in order to feed their families.
It’s one of the best portrayals of child stardom I’ve ever seen, one that actually digs into the “stage mom” archetype rather than just writing it off as a joke. Dorothy’s treatment of her daughter is absolutely horrific, yet there’s also something wildly impressive about her knowledge of the TV industry. Her advice to ignore parentheticals, to underplay comedy, to style Trish in a way that makes her stand out during a cattle call—it’s all pretty brilliant. And when Dorothy finally tells Trish that she’s proud of her, you can feel her genuine warmth and love for her daughter. As previous episodes have drilled home, that doesn’t excuse Dorothy’s abuse, but it certainly complicates her relationship with Trish.
In the present day, Trish is trying to honor her mother’s philosophy that those who have been given natural talents have a moral imperative to share them with the world. (It’s an interesting foil for Sallinger’s beliefs, actually.) Trish uses much of the same language as her mother when she ropes Erik into helping her balance out the moral good of the universe by taking down bad guys. Sallinger has police protection around his hospital room, which means Trish can’t kill him there without being taken down herself. So she decides to do good elsewhere while she waits for him to be vulnerable again.
This episode depicts the slippery slope of vigilante justice. Erik and Trish’s initial plan is beat Officer Nussbaumer into confessing to his crimes and then release the video into the public. His death is an accident, although the fact that Erik feels the world lighten when it happens makes it easy to justify. Their problem comes when the cops start trying to pin the murder on Jessica, which is the last thing either of them want. (That Trish and Erik are both adamant about protecting Jessica is a lovely grace note in this episode.) So they justify another morally grey plan: They’ll beat up developer/arsonist Jace Montero in a way that ensures the blame for both crimes is placed on the masked vigilante, not Jessica. Once again, however, things spiral out of control.
I’m often fairly flippant in these Marvel Netflix reviews about how our heroes should just murder the villain and be done with it. I seldom find debates about whether or not superheroes should kill to be all that interesting, especially in a world where the need for cool action scenes means they can brutally beat as many henchmen as they want, so long as they wring their hands about the villain’s well-being. (Daredevil is a particularly egregious offender in that regard.) So kudos to “A.K.A Hellcat” for really making me feel the horror of Trish’s vengeful lady justice routine. I’m not sure we needed the fairly heavy handed device of Trish seeing Sallinger’s face while roughing up baddies, but watching her lose control and beat Jace Montero to death was genuinely horrific.
The Marvel Netflix world makes it easy to root for superhero vigilantes, but “A.K.A Hellcat” succeeds at complicating that narrative. Though I still think there’s an argument to be made for taking down Sallinger with lethal force, I’m certainly way less enthused than I was before at the idea of watching Trish play judge, jury, and executioner. Especially given the complete lack of control she has over her murderous impulses.
As with the previous Trish flashback episode, there are times when “A.K.A Hellcat” feels a little bit inessential, particularly when it repeats scenes we’ve already seen in previous episodes or fills in gaps we could’ve understood contextually. Still, it’s a character-centric detour that feels worth it, both as a shift for Trish and a sendoff for Dorothy.
- The incredible cover of “It’s Patsy” that plays at the end of this episode is proof that Netflix shouldn’t force viewers to opt in to watching the credits! (Also, if Marvel releases that as a single, I would totally buy it.)
- Hogarth tries to coerce Trish into helping her with Kith’s case, and Trish doesn’t seem too happy about it.
- That Erik suddenly has well-researched files on all his blackmail victims is such an odd continuity error to how he was introduced. Are we supposed to think he was lying when he told Jessica he didn’t know anything about their crimes? And how is he even able to put together so much detailed research? That seems like an awful lot of work for a guy we’re told spends most of his time gambling and drinking.
- There’s a very meta moment where Dorothy tells Trish she deserves to be more than the best friend/sidekick in someone else’s TV show.
- I know it’s been established that Sallinger is a wrestler, but it seems weird that he’s so evenly matched with Trish in their fight. What are her powers even good for if she can barely go toe-to-toe with him?
- Trish has never seemed more naïve than in her belief that an internal investigation would lead to a dirty cop getting punished. Hell, in a previous episode we saw that one of the detectives already knew about the killings and felt they were justified.