Warning: The following review contains spoilers for final four episodes of Jessica Jones—”AKA 1,000 Cuts,” “AKA I’ve Got the Blues,” “AKA Take a Bloody Number,” and “AKA Smile.” If you haven’t watched them yet, turn back and leave Hell’s Kitchen now.
Jessica Jones lived in a dark place from beginning to end, but the last four episodes pushed further into horror territory than previous installments. I can’t recall a series that has made me gasp out loud from shock as many times as this one. Just when it looked like all would be as okay as it could be in this world, Kilgrave invited Jessica to a bar and everything changed. The story raced along as the situation became more dire, and the writers effectively built up another rise and fall when it didn’t seem like there was room for it. It was a smooth rollercoaster ride in that the story was (mostly) meticulous and crafted with precision, but it was also bumpy in that the plot is about as serious business as it gets.
When I talk about Jessica Jones being hard to watch, I don’t mean it as an insult. It’s damn fine television—one of the best series I’ve seen recently, in fact. But it’s not uplifting or cheerful. Viewing Jessica Jones means digging in and absorbing some hits. It says much about the production and writing that the series drags you into its murk and grips you. I count the immersiveness as a positive.
Honestly, it’s not all gloom and doom. I gasped several times, but I also laughed out loud on more than a few occasions. The humor is woven in subtly, and Jessica’s sarcasm and bluntness provided some levity. Plus, the fights in the final four episodes? Borderline epic and a blast to watch. Jessica and Trish vs. Simpson and Jessica vs. Luke were both visually impressive battles with tremendous choreography and spot-on characterization. And let’s not forget Trish walking into the warehouse by the dock to Sleigh Bell’s”Demons”; it’s one of the best music cues ever.
Trish is a fine point to start the conversation about the last four episodes. How Trish was written surprised me at every turn, to the point where I should have had higher expectations. It’s just, well, supporting cast members and similar characters don’t always get the best treatment. Not here. Trish was smart at every turn—she didn’t buy Simpson’s bullshit, she didn’t welcome her mom back into her life, she didn’t let her friend push her away, and she wasn’t sidelined during the final battle. She held her ground in a way women characters aren’t usually allowed to do.
It was made clear Trish is an equal to Jessica. Their relationship was at the heart of the series, and it provided plenty of fodder for development on both sides. Trish’s envy of Jessica was never the overriding emotion in their friendship, but it was there—as it should have been. It was fascinating to watch Trish, a person who more or less had it all, wrestle with the one thing she couldn’t have without being resentful.
Quickly: The Simpson stuff wasn’t terribly interesting to me. Him shooting Clemons got my attention, but the IGH connections and the mysterious doctor didn’t grab me. I realize they’re planting seeds and the discovery about IGH paying for Jessica’s medical bills makes for a nice story if there’s a Season 2, but eh. Another character I would have been happy to never see again was Robyn. There’s no reason she needed a more prominent role. I don’t believe for a moment the members of the Kilgrave survivor support group would let her rally them into a lynch mob. She came across as out of place in every scene she was in.
And her rash actions led to Kilgrave’s escape. Kilgrave got away a few times on this show, but it was always believable. He was too powerful to be contained for long, and his amazing and awful sense of entitlement went to new depths as the season wrapped. His presence was constant even though the eleventh episode didn’t feature him at all. Kilgrave is the scariest villain to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and David Tennant turned a masterful performance. We saw his cruelty over and over again and experienced his disturbing illusions about how Jessica felt for him. He was a despicable human being, and when you thought you saw the worse of him, you were proven wrong.
He was unfortunately smart, too. It was clever to have him use his father’s work and the fetus Hogarth kept to strengthen his powers. He controlled Luke, too, knowing how much it would hurt Jessica. I believe Jessica one hundred percent made the right decision when she killed him. And can we talk about how little emphasis was put on the action? Her telling Trish, “I love you,” was more dramatic than Jessica snapping Kilgrave’s neck. Killing Kilgrave was not Jessica’s heroic moment—it didn’t suddenly “fix” her or erase the trauma of what Kilgrave did; she’s still not okay—it was simply something she had to do.
Jessica took one of her biggest steps in the first episode by deciding not to run away. She continued moving forward by living with Kilgrave briefly and restraining herself from killing him before Hope was released. She wanted to be a hero once, and I think she’ll get there again, but I don’t see Jessica Jones as the story of how she got there. It’s the story of how she survived.
Jessica was tough as steel and on point leading into the finale. The writers did a lot of small things to show her resourcefulness and detective skills. She acted fast and told Trish to put a bullet in her mouth to satisfy Kilgrave’s order of putting a bullet in her head. She picked up on the fact that the morgue attendant was a foodie and used it to her advantage. Her skills extended beyond her powers—and it came up in natural ways again and again.
Other notes to keep this from being a million words: I’m pleased they brought Claire Temple in to connect Jessica Jones more strongly to Daredevil. I didn’t expect her to get so much screen time since she didn’t show up until the final episode, but it worked. Malcolm’s evolution over the series was wonderful to watch, and though I haven’t commented on it much, Eka Darville balanced and mixed Malcolm’s sweet nature and burdens perfectly.
I know Jessica isn’t a role model, but I can’t help but look up to her. She’s straightforward, she doesn’t take her shit out on other people, and when she has a mission, she’s focused. She’s rough around the edges, but it doesn’t matter to her. She’s broken, but she gets by. Sometimes that’s enough. Jessica Jones as a series more than got by—it punched down walls, occasionally slapped you in the face, and made an impression.
- “You can’t improve on an asshole by making it bigger.” – Jessica
- “It’s fine by me if unbreakable skin is where you want to draw the line.” – Jessica
- “I’m not special; I just keep running into special.” – Claire
Whew. We did it. We binged, and we lived to tell the tale. How do you feel about Jessica Jones? Share your thoughts in the comments below or come talk to me on Twitter.