Photo: David Giesbrecht (Netflix)

“It’s better to let things go before they drag you under,” Jessica explains while praising the way octopuses will simply ditch their injured arms and swim away when they’re attacked. So much of this season has been about characters investigating the past in order to find answers about the present. But there’s also a danger of letting the past drag you down. Or drown you, as the case may be.

“AKA The Octopus” is an episode about characters trying not to fall back into old patterns. After a pointed comment from Hogarth, Jessica makes an active attempt to be less alienating. She even decides to voluntarily tell the police (almost) everything she knows, both because it will help her get out of police custody and because she’s genuinely trying not to become The Killer. Elsewhere, Trish briefly falls back into old patterns with her mother before realizing how much her old life doesn’t suit her anymore—although that realization comes with its own problems too. Malcolm, meanwhile, takes the Alias Investigations break-in as a chance at a fresh start. He spruces up the place, buys Jessica a new laptop, and even gives her a bar that isn’t located inside a desk drawer. Jessica can’t quite bring herself to say thank you, but she does offer him a job promotion. That’s our emotionally stunted girl!

The Killer doesn’t need to reckon with her past, however, because, like an octopus, she simply shakes it off before it can drag her down. This time around, Jessica was there to take the fall for her murder of Pryce Chang’s associate. The first time, however, it was janitor David Kawecki who wound up doing her time for the murder of IGH nurse Luanne. Perhaps even worse, The Killer isn’t even good at these frame jobs. She’s sloppy and she acts out of emotion. It’s a trait she shares with Jessica, which only gives our superpowered PI extra motivation to take her down.

With a little help from Oscar and his forgery skills, Jessica is able to pose as a therapist and sneak into David Kawecki’s psych hospital. What follows is an all-too familiar interrogation scene in which Jessica pushes Dave—who has the I.Q. of a 10-year-old—to his emotional breaking point before making an empathetic connection with him. It’s a rote, overly familiar scene with some bizarre staging (why does Dave sit in a cage in the middle of the room?) that exists simply to extend Jessica’s investigation by another episode. She does get another piece of the puzzle though—someone named Dr. Karl who spends his lunch hour at the aquarium. Only it turns out Jessica has a personal connection to Dr. Karl too. Seeing him in the aquarium causes her to flashback to treatment she received from him under IGH’s care. Even more unsettling: Dr. Karl appears to be in a romantic relationship with The Killer.

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“AKA The Octopus” is a strange mix of conventional comic book storytelling and unexpected subversions. Jessica’s visit with David plays out largely as expected. But our glimpse into The Killer’s personal life is nothing like we might have guessed. She seems to be living a comfortable suburban lifestyle, one in which she’s as likely to practice the piano as she is to smash it up. The scene in which The Killer’s frazzled new mom neighbor stops by for a visit is one of the most unsettling moments of the season because it’s so unclear where it’s going. But though it’s an interesting scene in isolation, it also feels relatively detached from everything else going on in this episode.

Elsewhere, Trish’s story gets a surprising amount of focus as Griffin’s proposal forces her to come to the realization she doesn’t want to be with him, she wants to be him (but not in a creepy way). What’s interesting about Trish’s decision is that it’s motivated less by anything Griffin does than it is by the lie Dorothy uses to lure her to the proposal. If Dorothy hadn’t made up a story about a job opportunity at cable news network ZCN, perhaps Trish wouldn’t have felt the crushing disappointment that made her realize she doesn’t actually want to be with Griffin. Perhaps if she’d been lured there under different pretenses, she might even have happily accepted Griffin’s proposal.

I can’t imagine this is the last we’ll see of Griffin, given how much focus he’s gotten this season. Curiously, however, we don’t even see the Trish/Griffin breakup itself, we just see the fallout between Trish and Dorothy afterwards. It’s one of the episode’s best scenes because it demonstrates Dorothy’s toxic behavior without feeling the need to underline it too much. Dorothy belittles, insults, and guilt trips her daughter before accusing her of trading sexual favors for a story. When Trish snaps and slaps her, Dorothy coldly leaves the room and Trish instantly shifts from anger to desperation. It’s a great acting moment from Rachael Taylor, one that makes it entirely understandable why Trish returns to Simpson’s inhaler in order to give herself a sense of control.

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Yet the Trish stuff is also relatively detached from everything else in this episode. That means “AKA The Octopus” feels more like a collection of scenes (some good, some not) rather than a fully coherent story. The idea of characters trying to turn over a new leaf is a compelling one around which to build an episode. But “AKA The Octopus” is too scattered and too concerned with plot mechanics to fully explore that idea as deeply as it could. To its credit, I certainly didn’t expect this episode to end with an aquarium tank bursting. But I also have to wonder to what end that image is being deployed. I guess we’ll just have to push that “Next Episode” button and find out.


Stray observations

  • Griffin Watch: Griffin’s shady behavior from the previous episodes can be handwaved away as part of the planning for his surprise proposal. Or can it?!? I still can’t figure out if Jessica Jones is leaning into or subverting tropes when it comes to Griffin. But I do like that he included Jessica in his proposal.
  • Hogarth befriends and houses Inez, both as a favor to Jessica and as a way to learn more about IGH.
  • I don’t know if it’s intentional, but so far all of the characters who have expressed some kind of bias against “power people” are people of color: Oscar, Pryce, and now Detective Sunday. As I’ve mentioned before, the X-Men-style superhero prejudice storyline definitely isn’t an element of this season that’s working for me.
  • On the other hand, I did really like the scene in which Jessica bonds with Officer Costa, who was at the police station the day Kilgrave took it hostage.
  • One of my favorite ever Krysten Ritter acting moments is when she pretends everything is fine so as not to ruin Trish’s surprise engagement party.

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