This Jessica Jones review contains spoilers.
Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 7
For the first time, Marvel’s Jessica Jones feels as taut and compelling as its first season. After the twist at the end of the previous episode revealing that Jessica’s mother Alisa is alive and shaking up with Dr. Malus (seriously?), we get a whole hour to unwind what it all means. This episode, told almost entirely in continuous flashbacks, has the same pressure-cooker feel we all know and love, a delightful amount of nostalgia for a time when people cared about the VMAs, and one shocking moment of graphic violence harkening back to the days of Kilgrave.
Some might call the mystery of IGH Jessica’s origin story, but they’re wrong – this is. Over the course of the episode, we see Jessica go from someone softer, naive even, and willing to allow herself to fall in love, to the Jessica we know.
It’s nice to see who Jessica was before. She’s sarcastic, sure, and a bit dark. But she isn’t hardened, not really. There aren’t so many layers piled on to her tough exterior. When she nags Trish about doing drugs or partying too hard, she almost seems nerdy and shy. She’s not misanthropic yet, just lonely, nervous, and a bit out of place.
Piece by piece, we watch the old Jessica build. Her boyfriend steals her iconic jacket – or rather, says he wants to get it for her and then watches her steal it for herself. I’ve gotta believe Jessica in the present tense would not be impressed by some of Stirling’s antics, nor would she be blind to his obvious bad dealings or so eager to be adorably in love, meeting the parents and all. By the time she and Trish watch a rooftop movie after a heart to heart, the look is complete, ripped knees and all.
The change in Jessica’s demeanor is certainly Stirling’s death – after all, she named her business after his imaginary one and never takes off that jacket, even in the sweltering New York City heat. She may have been changed forever by her family’s death, and by Kilgrave’s abuse, but this is the moment where she turns into the person we know. Taking that creep’s head and shoving it into the mirror, that’s the first time we see the Jessica we know.
Krysten Ritter is always so excellent in this role that I’ve hardly had a need to remark on it, but going back in time and reconstructing a character like this is difficult work and she does it seamlessly. It’s not inevitable, but it’s a natural progression given the strange course of events.
On the Alisa Jones side of things, almost all the IGH players are here. Luanne, the murdered nurse, whose neck-snap looks eerily like the one Jessica does to Kilgrave. Inez, with glass sticking out of her body where Jeri saw the scars. Kozlov, mentioned but not seen. Dr. Leslie Hansen, unwilling to take part any longer. And Dr. Karl Malus, flirtatious doctor, essentially a kidnapper, and all-around far out dude, man.
It’s nice to see where Jessica got her snarky side from. While mommy dearest is clearly no picnic when she hulks out, the IGH staff do seem to be a gaslight-y bunch, telling her to calm down after they share such cheery news as, “we had you declared dead,” “your daughter has been adopted by someone else,” and, “your son and husband are dead.”
None of the men in this episode are real winners. Stirling mooches off Jessica, takes other people’s money, and is willing to loan her out for dangerous, illegal work while he takes the profits. Dr. Groovy is essentially a kidnapper/hostage-taker, way too familiar with his patient, and a little too quick on the draw to control women by injecting them with chemicals. And then there’s the club-owning d-bag who simultaneously insults Trish for not giving him a blow job and for being willing to give him one in the first place. This has been a great episode, but I would like Malcolm and Oscar back now, please.
It’s especially hard to watch Trish struggle knowing that she’s backsliding in the present tense. Jessica tells her sister that she knows what it looks like, reminding us that so far, she’s missing it and taking Trish’s word that it’s fine. Both Trish and Jess always want better for each other than they do for themselves. Trish’s disappointment when she learns that Jess dropped out of school is palpable, and Jess is willing to both go it alone and swallow the pill of letting Dorothy back into their lives, so long as it means Trish is safe.
In the end, everyone makes sacrifices. Alisa goes back to the lab to keep her daughter safe. Trish admits she’s struggling with addiction and goes back to her mother so she can get to rehab and away from a world that would be her downfall. And Jessica…well Jessica goes on to become the kind of person who, upon hearing all of this, can’t help but shed on solitary tear and then punch her mother. But there was a moment, just before Dr. Creepy Hands got to her, that Jessica saw her mother weak and bald on the ground, that Jessica looked young and scared and hurt again, like the young woman who found her boyfriend dead in an alley.