Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the middle five episodes of Jessica Jones–“AKA The Sandwich Saved Me,” “AKA You’re a Winner!,” “AKA Top Shelf Perverts,” “AKA WWJD?,” and “AKA Sin Bin.” If you haven’t watched them yet, turn back and leave Hell’s Kitchen now.
Jessica Jones got more intense since the first four episodes. It doesn’t seem possible. The tension in the middle of the season built up in meaty layers and dove head first into unsettling territory. Like, giant stone sitting in your gut unsettling. This series has already dealt with abuse, brutal murder, assault, and PTSD, but it went further and didn’t do so for shock value. Jessica Jones isn’t a series that hides from ugliness; it faces it, eyes open and fists up.
If you binged the series all at once, allow me to quickly summarize what occurred in this middle swath, because damn it was action-packed. Jessica, Trish, and Simpson attempted to capture Kilgrave by tracking Malcolm and failed. After recovering, Kilgrave purchased Jessica’s childhood home and decorated it to look like it used to. He killed Ruben, professed his love for Jessica, and Jessica moved in with him in order to learn more about him and to try to elicit a confession. Her tactic sort of worked, but ultimately, she ended up tricking him and dragging him off to the hermetically sealed cage Simpson prepared. Jessica brought his parents for a visit, and things went terribly awry.
Even though a ton happened, the pacing in the series isn’t rushed. You have time to absorb Jessica’s successes and failures. The pressure stacks up, then it’s released. Pacing has to be hard to manage when you’re creating a series meant to be binged, but they nailed it.
The creep factor was amped up with Kilgrave. We learned so much about him, and it only served to make him more ghastly. One little point that captured his cruelty for me was when he ordered the magazine stand man to throw hot coffee onto his own face. It wasn’t necessary; Kilgrave could have resolved the situation in other ways. It was a clue about how he naturally thinks violently. Besides his unbelievably awful actions, we saw his resilience too. This is man who always gets his way. He didn’t let setbacks stop him, and since he’s on the loose again, I’m sure he won’t do anything as mundane as running away and hiding. He knows how powerful he is.
David Tennant’s performance as Kilgrave is impeccable. Kilgrave doesn’t necessarily believe he’s evil—he just is, if that makes sense—and Tennant brings the element to the forefront. He delivered the most terrible of lines casually and latched onto Kilgrave’s spoiled child personality. The “I want cake” line comes to mind as an example. When he faced his parents in his cell in a masterful scene that brought so many pieces together, it was like peak Kilgrave. He had a controlled tantrum that ended in a river of blood.
Kilgrave’s screwed up definitions of right and wrong were shown to us again and again. He thought he was showing love to Jessica by being creepy as hell. His instinct wasn’t to turn the man holding his family hostage over but to kill him. He didn’t own up to or understand his part in killing others, insisting he’d never killed anyone. And he was offended by the idea of Jessica saying he raped her. I’m impressed with the series for addressing that particularly distressing aspect of Kilgrave’s actions head-on.
Similarly, they didn’t shy away from Hope wanting to getting rid of Kilgrave’s baby. Erin Moriarty has performed all her scenes so well and leaned into Hope’s miserable situation with a hardened edge. She makes the hell Hope is going through palpable. And it is hell. Hope paid someone to beat her up in hopes of causing a miscarriage for pity’s sake. Rape. Abortion. Jessica Jones went there without flinching.
Underlying everything happening was Jessica’s desire to be a hero and to take down Kilgrave. I don’t believe she thinks capturing Kilgrave and freeing Hope will be enough to put her to demons to rest, but it can’t hurt, right? She went to extremes, to say the least, and came up with what could be the worst plan in history. I shouldn’t be shocked by any twist in this series, but I was floored by her ripping off Ruben’s head to take it into the station. Jessica’s single-mindedness is a trait to be studied.
When her goal of getting into supermax failed because of Kilgrave, she took a different approach by willingly moving in with him. We’ve seen what Kilgrave’s influence did to her. He broke her right when she started to use her powers. She was embracing them. It was painful to know about her mental state and to watch her rein it in to interact with Kilgrave. She gave just enough to make him comfortable around her. I can’t imagine the level of strength it took.
And that’s the thing about Jessica. It’s never only about her physical strength. She has that in spades. It’s there, it’s reliable, it’s a constant. But inside? She’s a hot mess and occasionally a piece of shit. It’s hard to disagree with her and Luke on that point (man, she treated him terribly). Jessica doesn’t make any apologies about who she is. She knows she has problems. She knows why some of those problems exist. Seeing what happened with her family gave Jessica more baggage and depth. Trish seemed to know how to best deal with her friend and adopted sister, but even she wasn’t always effective. Jessica has walls as thick as Trish’s reinforced door. She’s a survivor and part of getting to know her is realizing she’s probably never going to be okay.
In short: Jessica is a fascinating, supremely flawed character and Krysten Ritter is magnetic in the role.
A character that became more interesting in this middle section was Jeri Hogarth. We witnessed more of her being callous and also glimpsed some of her ambition. They haven’t explored her whys and hows as much as I would like, but they’ve painted enough of a portrait to make you seriously worry when she’s left alone with Kilgrave. I mean, she asked for the remains of Hope’s dead fetus. Frak. That’s disturbing. And predictably, she ended up nearly freeing Kilgrave. I’m hoping the incident with his parents made realize how dangerous his powers are, but who knows. She’s on Kilgrave’s radar now. I don’t think the two have seen the last of each other.
- “Last night was fun, but that doesn’t mean I want your opinion.” – Trish
- “I can’t do that thing where I make you feel better. I don’t know how.” – Jessica
- “Assholes try. I just do.” – Kilgrave
- “The real world is not about happy endings. It’s about taking the life you have and fighting like hell to keep it.” – Jeri
How do you feel about Jessica Jones? How would you rank it in comparison do Daredevil? Share all the thoughts with me in the comments or come talk to me on Twitter.