This weekend, A.V. Club contributor Caroline Siede is watching all of the first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. After she’s finished with an episode, she’ll post a quick response. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting five reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. Weigh in on this episode in the comments below or discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page.
“AKA WWJD?” (season one, episode eight)
Before diving into “AKA WWJD?” I decided to take a little binge-watching break. I slammed some iced coffee, listened to an interview with J.K. Rowling, and chatted with you guys in the comments. Lo and behold, I feel like a brand new woman! Remember to take care of yourselves out there too, fellow bingers.
My break was well timed because there’s a definite shift in this episode of Jessica Jones. The show forgoes its usual gritty New York setting to spend some time in the sunny suburbs, where Jessica and Kilgrave are enacting the world’s most fucked up version of Beauty & The Beast. But unlike in that fairy tale, Jessica is no demure country girl and Kilgrave is a monster masquerading as a prince, not the other way around.
This episode treads a fine line between making Kilgrave’s deranged personality understandable without trying to justify his actions. Sure it’s tragic that his parents turned him into their own private lab rat when he was a kid, but, as Jessica points out, plenty of people suffer through hardship and don’t go on to become murderers and rapists. But while Kilgrave’s an easy character to hate in the abstract, his charming enthusiasm makes him a hard one to hate in the moment. That’s a powerful commentary on the way abusers operate.
Krysten Ritter and David Tennant are both on the top of their game in this episode, which is mostly a two-hander with a few welcome cameos from Trish and few unwelcome ones from Simpson and Hogarth. Kilgrave and Jessica really feel like two people who’ve spent a lot of time together and that familiarity adds a streak of dark comedy to “AKA WWJD?”. I particularly enjoyed this breakfast exchange:
Kilgrave: “I’m waiting to see which Jessica I’m going to get.”
Jessica: “When I was a kid we used to eat breakfast out here.
Kilgrave: “Okay. ‘Trying to make an effort Jessica.’ ”
Jessica: “More like trying to make a shit situation tolerable.”
Kilgrave: “I’ll take that.”
As in “AKA Top Shelf Perverts,” Kilgrave is totally self-centered in his worldview. In no uncertain terms, Jessica tells him that what he did to her was both mental and physical rape. In return, Kilgrave can only make excuses: He spent money on her so he deserved her body; he wasn’t trying to violate her; how is he supposed to know when it’s rape? Though his excuses ostensibly have to do with his mind control powers, they echo the words real-life men use to defend rape as well.
The question of whether Kilgrave can be redeemed weighs heavily on Jessica, who realizes that because he’s unwilling to hurt her, she can force him to live the life of a hero—albeit with the help of her constant moral guidance. (As Kilgrave excitedly announces he genuinely thought getting a hostage-taker to kill himself was the right thing to do.)
Jessica’s guilt has been a major theme this season and in “AKA WWJD?” we learn she blames herself not only for the deaths of Reva, Ruben, and Hope’s parents, but also for causing the car accident that killed her parents and hitherto unknown little brother (this show is very stingy with exposition). Though Jessica briefly considers selflessly becoming Kilgrave’s conscience, she ultimately decides that drugging and kidnapping him is a better way to go. Personally, I couldn’t agree more.
Stand out moment: As he points out, Kilgrave using his powers to shame Jessica’s catty neighbor is incredibly satisfying, but also very disturbing. (But not as disturbing as when he forces her to blow herself up.)
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: Zilch
Excitement to start next episode: 9/10
Doctor Who side bar: I can’t figure out how much this show is intentionally playing up David Tennant’s connection to his most famous role. Kilgrave is very Doctor-ish at times (far more so than any of Tennant’s other post-Who work). During this episode he takes on a young woman as his moral guide (i.e. companion) and he also forces his servants not to blink (although, sadly, doesn’t say the words, “Don’t blink. Don’t even blink”).
Hamilton lyric that sums up my binge-watching mental state: “Man, the man is non-stop.”