[Review] Jessica Jones Episode 1×08: “WWJD?”

written by Jamus

I’ll get right to it on this one. This episode was fantastic, and it’s my current favorite in the entire series up until this point. Get yourselves in here if you want my full breakdown on the goings-on, but I definitely recommend giving this one a watch before you do. Enjoy your latest Saturday as we have a look at Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Episode 8.

Spoilers, not so much. Read at your own risk as always.

When we last left our heroine, she had reluctantly made her way back to her childhood home on Birch Street and Higgins Drive, now under the legal ownership of Kilgrave. I’ve experienced odd homecomings before, but this one would definitely beat them all out. Kilgrave has successfully restored the house to its original décor and state from when Jessica was left an orphan and whisked away by the Walker family, right down to the posters in her old bedroom which scream “I loved Nirvana and the Chili Peppers in the mid-’90s like I was supposed to!” The whole situation just oozes with awkwardness between the eerie familiarity and the staff of indentured servants…not to mention the prospect of sharing a house with your worst enemy who truly wants you to be comfortable here. Props to Kilgrave for having some lovely one-liners in this episode. “I’m not delusional. I’m just…optimistic!”

Later, at dinner, some of the façade begins to slip away as Kilgrave reveals the truth behind at least two of his new house servants. While it’s true that a good amount of the hired men are here based on the promise of money, some of the others are woefully enslaved by his powers – as seen by the sudden applications of razor-sharp blades to their own necks if Jessica decides to misbehave. Despite this, I was detecting restraint in Kilgrave’s threats this time around. There’s some genuine desire to create something peaceful here, but he’s still having no trouble ordering innocent people to do terrible things to themselves.

Retreating back to her room after her hasty liquid dinner (much to Kilgrave’s obvious disappointment), Jessica discovers that Will has managed to infiltrate the house…somehow. Kilgrave really needs to pick up security if this guy just continues to waltz right in and…apparently plant a bomb in the basement of the house. (There’s a neat little scene where all the muffled banging about and noises from upstairs summoned this sort of “don’t let my parents find out you snuck in through the window, tee hee!” vibe here.) Will really has this terrible habit of busting out unknown skills at just the right moment, I swear. Again, we have the classic “get away, I’ll handle this by myself” mentality from Jessica. I initially questioned Jessica foiling Will’s plan, but I detected the telegraphing: a nod to the audience to say “don’t worry, I’ve got a plan, so just play along like a good boy”.

But then the episode hits the brakes and makes a sharp left turn. We find ourselves at a hearing for Jeri’s divorce proceedings, with an equally-irrated Wendy on the opposite end of the table. For all of the intrigue and tension that we’d experienced in the episode up until this point, this was something right out of a bad soap opera. “Let’s suddenly jar the viewer out of the interesting part of the episode and talk about a divorce between two other characters!” Naturally, this automatically makes it into my “3 Little Meh” list further down the road, so I’m just going to say that I’m glad this didn’t last that long.

There’s a brief meeting between Will and Trish later that same evening, where you can quickly detect the “I’m not really saying what I should” dross spouting out of Will’s mouth. It helps underline that Jessica’s dismissal was all part of a greater plan, not to mention the taking of Will’s cellphone to continue her operation of trying to record a confession out of Kilgrave with regards to Hope’s parents (remember them? Feels like years ago, now). Glad to see I was wrong about that aspect of the plan, but the conversation between these two is just…stilted. This scene was either written to have Will come off as being painfully obvious, or just badly written. Haven’t decided on that yet, but moving on!

We finally come back to the house the next morning, and here’s where things get a little more interesting. I’ve noticed in these last interactions that Kilgrave can be a very blunt and honest person when he chooses to be – at least when he’s around Jessica. For all of the poison baked into the man’s heart, he is trying very hard to make this “relationship” work out. This is also seen with a sudden visit by one of Jessica’s old neighbours; an elderly lady by the name of Elizabeth who is eager to share knowledge of the Jones family’s dirty laundry from years past. Kilgrave initially welcomes the input from the nosy neighbour, but the sudden flip into controlling her is made clear as he elicts confessions out of the old woman; i.e. sharing the bad news about Jessica’s family “makes her feel important”. Kilgrave even goes so far as to allow Jessica the chance to seek retribution on Elizabeth – a good slap across the face, if she wished it. I can’t tell yet if this is simply favoritism for Jessica’s plight, or just for his own amusement, but it’s refreshing to see him use his control on someone that deserved to be taken down a peg!

Irritated by her accusations of rape and exploitation, Kilgrave takes a big step and reveals something: the truth behind the little yellow flash drive he had her recover all those months ago. He plays her a file that was kept on the drive – a recording of a round of tests performed on Kilgrave (then known simply as “Kevin”) at the age of ten, including a painful drawing of fluids from his body while he was still conscious, and all performed by his own parents. The fascination with these files being that this is the only true proof of Kilgrave being who he says he is, and the horrors to which he was subjected. I have to say, it helps explain why Kilgrave harbours a seething hatred for people. I say “explain,” but would not quite “justify.” Let’s be straight, the guy is still a jerk who ruins the lives of whomever he pleases – and here’s the proof that Jessica needs to potentially clear Hope’s name and avenge the hundreds whom Kilgrave has effected. It then occurs to Jessica that Kilgrave is who he is because “nobody showed him how to be good,” and inspiration strikes.

Conveniently, there’s a nasty hostage situation in a nearby home involving a man, his family, and a shotgun leveled at their heads. At first, I had figured Kilgrave was controlling the man’s intentions for the sake of boredom, but if that had been the case, I’m not sure he would have played along. Jessica takes him along to the house, and together they are able to easily defuse the situation in a matter of moments. Kilgrave makes short work of the would-be killer, while Jessica acts as his guiding conscience. It’s an impressive duo, but we’re presented with Jessica’s dilemma. That team-up and the concept of “harnessing Kilgrave for good” could be an incredible tool, but it would need someone to essentially act as his jailor. Someone would have to be his guide to ensure he doesn’t fly off the handle or callously murder the criminals who have vexed him or made the job a little more tedious.

It’s right about here that I really started to dig what the episode was trying to present with its viewer. Is this team-up worth the pain and struggle for the sheer amount of good that could be accomplished? Maybe the show would allow this partnership to run for a little while until something terrible broke it apart, or Jessica lost control even for all the effort she might have tried to invest in the fragile alliance. Would the end justify the means? I seem to remember Jeri talking about that exact same concept a few episodes ago, in fact.

For all the speculation I could have done on that, it’s just then that the idea gets kicked in the head. During dinner that same night, Jessica returns home with take-out Chinese food, and another dosage of the MacGuffin Drug which she delivers right into Kilgrave’s neck. For all of the wasted potential here, I can’t stay angry with the development because it’s a sort of redeeming moment for Jessica Jones – she wouldn’t dare side with the monster when she still has to make things right! Naturally, this is Will’s cue to dash into the house and assist with Jessica’s escape, along with Kilgrave and the yellow flash drive in tow.

The episode then ends with yet another odd twist in the pipe: Jessica, finally unleashing that fabled “jump” ability she has been keeping up her sleeve (I swear I heard a Super Mario “boiiing” when she took to the air), leaves Will and his two assistants scratching their heads like chimps in the driveway. It’s just then that the random neighbour Elizabeth saunters up to Will, offering a lovely “gift from Kilgrave” – none other than the still-active bomb he’d planted in the basement less than a day ago. The device goes off, incinerating Elizabeth and leaving Will on the pavement in a bloody heap.

Whew. Wrapping this development up with some bigs and littles before I sign off for the week. Here goes.

The 3 Big Good Things

  • We discovered more layers to the enigma that is Kilgrave. I wouldn’t say that his rage and pettiness is truly justified, but it certainly helps explain a great deal. There’s some interesting role-reversal here, because perhaps for once he’s the naïve one in the picture, thinking his plan will work itself out.
  • The team-up between Kilgrave and Jessica was fascinating. I’d wondered if the show would have allowed this to ride for a while longer before letting it come to a screeching halt out of some tragedy or something that just spiralled out of control. Ah well, I suppose it was not meant to be.
  • The episode brought about a compelling question of superhero morality: this idea of who exactly has the right idea in dealing with these criminals and miscreants. Is Jessica displaying wisdom in letting these unstable individuals live and be processed by an unreliable system, or should Kilgrave be the one to simply rid the world of someone that cannot be redeemed? I feel like I’ve heard this before from other folks who dressed in black and might have worn a cape or something, but whatever – the discussion still stands.

The 3 Little Bad Things

  • I know the Jeri-Wendy divorce is still a valid side plot…thing…right now, but it was nowhere near as interesting as the bulk of the episode. Didn’t seem necessary in the slightest this time around, sorry. It’s a certain way to make me lose interest in a heartbeat.
  • Lots of awkwardness in the early minutes of this one with the “homecoming”. Maybe I’m just not a fan of those situations, so I’ll let that go.
  • The conversation between Trish and Will just telegraphed “Jessica has a plan, it’s okay.” So why wouldn’t Will have explained a few things to someone whom he trusts in the first place? Fear out of being heard, maybe, but the conversation was just flat and bland.

You can call this episode clichéd for its superhero morality and the resistance to siding with the bad guy for the sake of good, but I bloody well liked this one. Once again we have some decent fuel for the next episodes, and we’re not meandering about with filler. Get back to us next week for Episodes 9 and 10.

Jessica Jones is available now on Netflix.

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