Jessica Jones Recap With Spoilers: AKA Top Shelf Perverts

24 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

In Marvel’s Jessica Jones, women get stuff done while men just talk about women.

Chances are you were either binge-listening to Adele’s new album or binge-watching Jessica Jones this past weekend—or maybe even both! This episode of “Jessica Jones,” which picks up seconds after the previous one, feels like a corrective for every little imperfection in the first two.

In Netflix’s much-anticipated noir series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Ritter plays the hard-drinking, trash-talking, no-bullshit private-eye protagonist.We should be grateful that CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani has no control over the content of original Netflix shows because if James Bond’s kissing could bother him, then will send him scampering for his scissors. While it could be years before we get another hit record from the British singer, the boss of Netflix’s new superhero drama is teasing a second season—but we might have to wait longer than expected to see it. It has the distinction of being Marvel’s first property starring a female superhero, but it’s also a great show by any metric, balancing superheroics with an honest look at how people — and women most of all — cope with trauma. It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe property, meaning Jessica technically occupies the same New York as Iron Man, Daredevil, and other costumed crusaders, but the show is quite light on superpowers—Jessica is very strong and can jump pretty high, and that’s about it.

For example: Jones doesn’t treat Hope Schlottman, the latest victim of Jones’s arch-nemesis Kilgrave, like a client that she also happens to care personally about. The second show in the Defenders series after Daredevil, takes the noir genre to the next level, playing out a deliciously dark plot that seems to be lifted from the deepest crevices of Quentin Tarantino’s mind. The characters are all extremely well fleshed out, share varying degrees of moral ambiguity and none of them would be called a hero in the real sense. But there’s something else that Jessica Jones, and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, is doing that’s a little less pronounced but just as thoughtful and effective.

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a hard-on-her-luck ex-superhero who has a marked disdain for heroics and is trying to make a living as a private investigator, who is more in the Sam Spade mould than Sherlock Holmes. The Bechdel Test, conceived in a comic strip by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, is an exam that evaluates the presence of women in pieces of art like movies and television shows. Her best friend is popular radio host Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), while Jeri Hogarth (gender reversed from the comic book’s male character, played by a magnificent Carrie-Anne Moss) is a lawyer with few moral scruples. But there have been plenty of other instances in recent years in which we’ve watched women suffer through the violence of the experience — from Joan on Mad Men to Anna on Downton Abbey to Mellie on Scandal.

Its purpose is to assess whether a given work passes a baseline level of sexism, by screening for one simple criterion: Two named women must talk to each other about something other than a man. On the eve of Jessica Jones’s release, she sounded amped and eager, especially when it comes to the show’s unprecedented focus on female characters (though she cautioned against reading it strictly in terms of identity politics). Jessica just wants to get on with her life but she’s visited by an enemy from the past, Kilgrave (David Tennant) who is by far the darkest villain to emerge from Marvel. She becomes re-invested in her super-heroic calling after Cage says that he doesn’t stick his neck out for other people because that always winds up causing problems later on.

The only super-powered (they call it gifted) characters are Jessica (super-strength, quasi-flight and durability), Luke Cage (unbreakable skin and super-strength) and Kilgrave (mind control), but every character has a notable presence. I got a call, you know, “Netflix wants to see you for this show, it’s Marvel, it’s a superhero show.” And I like to audition, so I was like, “Okay, I’ll go, but I’m never gonna get that.” My manager was like, “No, no—it’s not your typical superhero show. Just before the series starts, Jessica has been controlled for some time by Kilgrave, where she was made to commit crimes against her will and was also sexually assaulted. Now he’s back in her life and is hell-bent on having her back in her life, by any means necessary, which would include killing anyone who gets in his path. Sure, she chooses to help her neighbor Malcolm whenever it’s convenient, like when a biker assaults and then lectures Malcolm in the most cartoonishly obnoxious way (“I’m on my bike because I care about the planet!”).

Talking about rape is necessary if we want to get better at understanding it, but rape on TV is more often than not treated as plot device to advance the story. And she has considerable power, and it looks like her super-strength would allow her to easily destroy characters which co-exist in the universe like Daredevil or even Luke Cage.

I’d certainly love it to be before but there are things that play into that—time, availability.” It, at least, seems as though there’s plenty of time to fit the boozy brawler before The Defenders. This quietly effective sequence reminds us that the heroic measures Jones takes to stop Kilgrave are costly even if they’re not as over-the-top as the comparatively high stakes of the show’s pilot. Carrie-Ann Moss finally gets over the Trinity hangover from The Matrix Trilogy with this marvellous performance as the lawyer shark, who will do anything to get her way.

A fair argument can be made for how the scene affirms how rape is ever-present in Game of Thrones’ reality, and to pretend otherwise for the sake of a main character would be disingenuous. Compare Jones’s small, but moving altercation with Malcolm with the dramatic scene that caps “AKA Ladies’ Night.” When Hope kills her parents, Jones feels guilty for not having done enough to take care of her client. Should Marvel and Netflix move as swiftly on Jessica Jones as they did with “the man with no fear,” production could get underway for, perhaps, a late 2016/early 2017 release. A similarly heavy guilt weighs on Jones here when she pushes Malcolm into harm’s way, and uses him to sneak away unnoticed, though this time it doesn’t take a double homicide to make Jones feel responsible for her actions. If Jessica Jones is the strongest female superhero – literally and figuratively – then Kilgrave is the most depraved of super-villain of them all.

Another interaction we see between two prominent male characters occurs in episode seven (“AKA Top Shelf Perverts”), when Jessica’s neighbor Ruben (Kieran Mulcare) meets Kilgrave for the first and only time. So I went in and auditioned, got more information from the casting director, and then that went well, and I had a meeting with [showrunner] Melissa [Rosenberg] and [Marvel TV chief] Jeph [Loeb] and learned that she’s not in a superhero costume. Unlike other Marvel villains who want to change/enslave the world like Ultron, Loki or Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave uses his powers only for his own benefits.

Multiple television characters, especially in the last year, have undergone this plot point and acquired a new tragic dimension, but the act itself and the fallout is never truly examined. In episode 4, “AKA 99 Friends,” Simpson and Jessica’s neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville) share a brief scene in which Simpson believes Malcolm is staring at Jessica. This sequence is shot in extreme close-ups at first, then in relatively long takes that emphasize Krysten Ritter’s heavy breathing and Mike Colter’s imposing physical presence. He is the everyman stalker, come to life like the boy who follows a girl home, the guy who keeps blank-calling a girl who doesn’t want to talk to him, the dude who keeps on checking out the profile of the girl he thinks he’s in love with o the abusive husband who can’t understand why his wife wants to leave him. The action scenes in “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” are similarly exciting because they allow viewers to watch characters making decisions without constantly second-guessing themselves.

Jones and best friend Trish Walker brawl their way through a handful of tense, involving scenes that aren’t especially well-choreographed, but do effectively make viewers feel the impact of body blows without being gratuitously brutal. The gauntlet of Kilgrave victims that Jones has to fight her way through is similarly wearying, but also imaginative enough to keep you wondering how Jones will escape her next opponent. The layered, character-driven drama makes this the best of the initial bunch of episodes, and the visceral, earthy pleasures also make it the most memorable. She pointed out at one point, “You don’t hear anyone ever saying, ‘white male superhero.’ You just say ‘superhero.’ But for a girl, for some reason, it’s ‘female superhero.’“ That really resonated with me and how she approached the character, and the kind of integrity that she has.

Hogarth’s estranged wife, Wendy (Robin Weigert), is a well-respected doctor who does charitable work, Patsy Walker’s mother Dorothy (Rebecca De Mornay) is a maniacal showbiz manager, and Hope Shlottman is a troubled scholar athlete — attributes that women characters rarely have onscreen, let alone all in one show. The television I watch—I’m into psychological thrillers, I’m really into Damages and Bloodline and character-driven pieces, and that’s what this is. For as much as rape has played a part in television this year — from Thrones to Orange is the New Black to Outlander, we haven’t been made to think too hard about its nature as a horrible act.

The subversion is that the confrontation happens between two women, with a man cowering on the sidelines: That’s echoed in the show’s ninth episode, “AKA Sin Bin,” when Kilgrave’s parents confront him and try to stop him from doing even more evil. His dad is afraid, cowering in the corner, while his mother faces the monster Kilgrave has become head on: Jessica Jones also underscores these choices in its aesthetics. But Kilgrave is a victim, too; his powers were forced on him by his parents, and we eventually find out that he has no idea how to live life without making people do his bidding. Kilgrave looks back fondly on their time together, and talks about doing the things she wanted to do, like staying in five-star hotels and eating at the best places. At this point we’ve spent enough time with Jessica to know this is factually and emotionally true, but Kilgrave can only lamely respond that he didn’t mean it that way — that he loves her, that he’s a product of his own terrible past, and can never be sure if those around him are acting of their own free will.

But when schools are creating consent classes because the topic is so poorly understood, the problem becomes all the more horrifying, not in spite of but because of its mundanity. That was one of my favorite scenes when reading the pilot, because this is before her past comes back to haunt her, so this is is how Jessica Jones, sassy as fuck, gets what she wants. I made a joke that most of my paycheck went to my acting teacher, but I think there’s truth to every joke. [Laughs.] I worked with my acting coach one-on-one for hours and hours, every single day for two months, before even setting foot on set or putting on Jessica Jones’s clothes. It’s not like you can rely on, Oh, the camera’s gonna push in on you and the music’s gonna swell and you have a memory and the audience is along with you. For me, the heavy lifting came in building Jessica’s backstory, all the stuff that happened to her, her trauma, who she is before we even meet her onscreen.

The [characters’] friendship, that’s all Melissa Rosenberg creating that complex, amazing friendship that both Rachael and I really responded to because we were so stoked that it was so honest and complicated and real. It’s groundbreaking in so many ways because of the female point of view, all of the women that we’re employing in front of the camera and behind the camera.

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