Marvel’s Jessica Jones is available to view now on Netflix, and as with Daredevil we’ll be providing (mostly) daily episode-by-episode coverage for those who want to follow it with us. Each instalment of these viewing notes will look at how the show’s plot, characters and story relate to the comic source material, providing background information and pointers for those who want to know more.
Please note that while we might occasionally reveal the way plots developed in the comics, we are trying to be sensitive to any surprises the TV show may have in store. These notes are written immediately after the episode is watched, so any speculation about the way the story may go is purely that!
All we ask is that if you’ve seen future episodes that confirm, contradict or otherwise twist things we talk about in this piece, please respect people who don’t have the luxury of binge-watching and please don’t put spoilers for future episodes anywhere in the comments. You can, however, swap spoilers in our ‘What Did You Think? post. Thanks.
Kilgrave escapes with Hogarth, having made a deal with her to secure a divorce. Wendy patches him up and he orders her to kill Hogarth, but Pam interrupts and kills Wendy. A pilled-up Simpson shoots Detective Clemons and burns down the safehouse, destroying Jessica’s evidence. Kilgrave turns up in Jessica’s apartment and she beats then captures him. Malcolm confides in Jessica’s support group that Reuben is dead, and Robyn overhears, leads the mob to Jessica’s office to lynch her and accidentally frees Kilgrave in the process. Kilgrave’s father and Trish work on a vaccine but Kilgrave releases then kidnaps Hope. Kilgrave offers to trade Hope and the lives of the support group for his father, but the deal goes bad and Hope kills herself so that she can’t be used as a pawn against Kilgrave. She asks Jessica to kill him for her.
Well, I’ll say this about this episode. It was a huge antidote to the plotless wheel-spinning of the last couple. This is more the balance of plot and character action that I hope for, where stories develop in tandem with character details, rather than with one at the expense of the other.
The problem is that the speed of the story comes at the expense of any real logic or reason. Following up Reuben’s death is welcome in the sense that they seemed to drop it a bit too easily, but while I found myself feeling sympathy for Robyn when she was looking for Reuben, it completely evaporated when she decided to raise a mob and go attack Jessica. Again, I’m forced to ask: what happened to this noir-influenced detective story? The subtlety that characterised the first few episodes has been replaced by outright lunacy. Why would a mob of people agree to attack the only woman who believed their stories and put their support group together? Has their exposure to Kilgrave left them particularly suggestable or something?
Furthermore, as if to drive home the futility of everything that’s been going on over the last few episodes, Hope gets sprung from jail by Kilgrave – so that’s another win that’s been denied the heroes of this story. And then before the episode is out, she kills herself so that Jessica will agree to kill Kilgrave. As developments go, it’s not one I find either satisfying or coherent. You can make a case that it’s realistic that a desperate Hope would rather die than remain under Kilgrave’s thrall a second time – but if character realism was the main driver for this story we wouldn’t be here at this point.
Basically, the driving force behind the story right now appears to be a sense of escalating melodrama, which works for some shows but I’m not sure it’s at home in the detective genre Jessica Jones professes to be taking place in. The plot of detective stories should run like a sort of clockwork where the main character eventually gets far enough ahead of what’s going on to successfully solve the case. By comparison, this show feels like it’s reached the point where stuff happens for no reason other than to provoke Jessica into very specific courses of action.
I admit that genre rules might not be everyone’s primary concern, but I like to see them used and subverted, rather than set up then ignored. Buffy was such a great show because it had an understanding of genre, and it effortlessly melded and twisted them so that it could be almost anything it wanted. Jessica Jones is a lot more casual. A few episodes ago it discarded its genre as inconvenient in favour of shapeless, protean plotting. You may be fine with that. I’m struggling with it.
My analysis of Hope’s death doesn’t lead me to any good conclusions. At the end of episode one, we’re explicitly shown what’s at stake for this series, and that’s Jessica’s heroism. She makes the choice to help Hope rather than run from the situation. But now Hope is dead, and Jessica’s redemptive arc has essentially died with her. She’ll never be a hero, not least because her current plan is essentially “find Kilgrave and murder him”.
From this point on it doesn’t really matter what happens: in narrative terms, Jessica’s arc is already lost. She failed. She can’t become the hero she was trying to be because she wasn’t good enough to save the person who needed her. A bold storytelling choice, perhaps, but it’s also incredibly bleak.
For me, everything else – the support group, the divorce, the stuff with Simpson – was B-plot to Jessica’s shot at heroic redemption. Now that’s gone, I don’t know what to think.
Incidentally, nothing in this episode was really from the comics. The only major point I’d note is that Kilgrave’s powers are based on pheromones which induce a hypnotic/suggestive state rather than a virus. And as strong as his powers were, you didn’t need a vaccine to reject his commands. Notably, Doctor Doom had enough willpower to simply shrug them off! Shame there’s no Doom in the MCU, really.