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 Sin Bin” (season one, episode nine)
This is the last episode I’m reviewing today (the final four will go up tomorrow), and this break could not come soon enough. This show is so thematically rich I’m simultaneously at a loss as to how to sum it up and overwhelmed by how much I want to say. It turns out binge-reviewing isn’t quite as easy as binge-watching.
Admittedly I’m kind of stalling here because I don’t quite know what to make of “AKA Sin Bin.” It’s always hard to be objective in criticism, but it’s even harder when I don’t really have time or distance (hey, Kilgrave’s weaknesses!) to analyze this episode.
Put another way: I think “AKA Sin Bin” is either the best or worst episode of Jessica Jones and I can’t decide which. It’s definitely tense, well acted, and full of exciting twists and turns. But it also feels like it’s plopped in from a more heightened superhero series not the realistic, slow burning one I’ve been watching.
We open on a “how the turn tables” moment as Kilgrave is now Jessica’s prisoner for once. (Add Kilgrave to the long list of villains who wind up in glass prisons.) It initially plays out like a feminist revenge fantasy with Jessica determined to manipulate and/or beat Kilgrave into using his powers on camera, which is the key to proving Hope is innocent. But Kilgrave’s smart enough to know what she’s doing (plus she basically tells him what she’s doing), so he plays the innocent victim. Jessica explains to Trish, “He didn’t have to tell me to do a goddamn thing and he had all the control.”
The show continues the exploration of Kilgrave’s past it started in “AKA WWJD?”, somewhat to the detriment of Jessica, who gets a little sidelined at the end of this episode. She tracks down Kilgrave’s parents, who complicate his childhood sob story: They did experiment on him but it was to save him from a degenerative neurological disease. And they only abandoned him after years of living under his iron rule. (I’m assuming The Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life” is basically Kilgrave’s origin story.)
As ever, Tennant turns in a fantastic performance in the scene where Kilgrave confronts his parents. Kilgrave even makes a solid argument that expecting a child to never say the wrong thing out of emotion is nearly impossible, especially when his parents didn’t seem to explain his powers to him. Rather than tie Kilgrave’s villainy to one life-changing moment, Jessica Jones argues that the whole family handled things poorly, which is a far more interesting and realistic explanation.
Then the end of “AKA Sin Bin” pretty much devolves into torture porn thanks to an inconvenient electrical malfunction (or was that planned?) that prevents Jessica from knocking out Kilgrave. He forces his mother to kill herself, almost does the same to his dad and Trish, and makes poor Lester from The Wire (a.k.a. Clarke Peters as Detective Clemons) break his hand to escape a pair of handcuffs.
Perhaps I’m just Jessica Jones-ed out at the moment, but this episode felt too contrived to me, especially the fact that Kilgrave’s parents were conveniently staying nearby even though their biggest goal is to run away from their deranged son. However, I have to admit it was a very gripping hour of TV. Also gripping: Jessica Jones, who doesn’t let go of Kilgrave’s arm when instructed too. Now that she knows she’s free of his influence, maybe she can finally make it goddamn right, Jones.
Stand out moment: Every time Jessica calls Kilgrave “Kevin,” which was almost as satisfying as Harry Potter calling Voldemort “Riddle.”
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: Will Simpson looks to be some kind of super soldier, which almost certainly has a comic book connection if not an MCU one (perhaps he’s a former colleague of Emil Blonsky?).
Doctor Who side bar: I really wish David Tennant had knocked on that glass cage four times instead of five.
Excitement to start next episode: 7/10
Hamilton lyric that sums up my mental state: “Just stay alive, that would be enough.”