Jessica Jones: "AKA Crush Syndrome" - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Jessica Jones: “AKA Crush Syndrome”

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Following the gunshot conclusion of "AKA Ladies Night", Jessica Jones takes it upon herself to prove Hope Shlottman was under the control of the psychic psychopath Kilgrave.  As Jessica investigates the circumstances of the accident which severed Kilgrave's control over her she tries to find a weakness in Kilgrave's power.  Andrew and Ryan look at the second episode of Jessica Jones, "AKA Crush Syndrome".

I'm being crushedThroughout this second episode of Jessica Jones, which in almost every way was a step up from last week's, I kept wondering just what these shows would look like on a more traditional television schedule.  It seems that with these new waves of internet-only and Netflix specifically television shows the idea of what television can do isn't be challenged so much as it's being stretched out.  This means creators have a lot more room for digressions and while some are entertaining, like any scene with Foggy and Matt Murdock in Marvel's Daredevil, or wheel-spinning to the nth degree, as shown in the drug-out third season of House of Cards.

"AKA Crush Syndrome" has a bit of that going on.  You talked last week about how long Jessica's drinking was going to be the lingered on and in "AKA Crush Syndrome" it's been reeled in a bit.  But what hasn't been reeled in are those digressions which don't add anything we weren't already aware of with Jessica's character.  The entire subplot with her upstairs neighbor culminates in an awkward moment where the woman who occupies that apartment yells at Jessica about how she's horrible to the people she wants to get close to.

Setting aside that this scene doesn't do anything that wasn't already clear from "AKA Ladies Night" it also doesn't serve as a visual or performance-based showcase for anyone involved.  This isn't to say "AKA Crush Syndrome" is poorly directed, and there was a key visual shift around Jessica and Luke Cage's relationship I want to discuss, but I have to wonder what television in general and Jessica Jones over the next few weeks will look like if the 'net model allows for flabby storytelling like this.Frame me through the blockadeI had the same conversation with my wife about this episode.  To get really geeky, I called it the Quantum of Solace of episodes.  Although unlike that disliked Bond film, this episode was really entertaining.  The reason I call it that is it felt like a continuation of the first episode and not its own thing.

I think that goes with what you are saying about the way storytelling is done on streaming shows because of the binge factor.  If this was on TV, I am guessing they would have tacked it on with the first episode and make it a 2 hour pilot "movie".  I don't know if the next episode will feel any different or if we are in store for a 13 hour movie but you can really feel the different story telling options when you watch the episodes spread out like a typical show like we are doing.

I don't think we are the only ones noticing this either because the great TV writer Alan Sepinwall talked about this on his blog recently as well. I still think we will get a great stand alone episode along the lines of "Hush" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" from X-Files before all is said and done but maybe that is just wishful thinking.  I also liked the weird subplot with the upstairs neighbor because it gave us the best line of the night in "Lady, you're a very perceptive asshole".Long night long morningNewer Andrew cutout commentaryI seem to stand alone at hating that line because Amanda laughed at that moment.  For me it sort of acknowledges the subplot was there basically for the rehashed bits about Jessica and I've grown tired of self-reflexive bits like that.

But that's just one moment in an otherwise great episode.  One of the things I noticed with director S.J. Clarkson, and I hope is continued as new directors fill in, is how subtly she shifts the emotional spectrum in Jessica Jones.  The strong color coded emotions are still in play with Jessica constantly clothing herself in shades of purple or getting in the way of people who throw cloak themselves in similar purple colors so that she can constantly fight against some abstract idea of Kilgrave if the man can't be found.  In a better twist I noticed early in the episode how often the frame is blocked by either an adversary or an addiction, such as the way Clarke Peters' body is framed to keep Jessica small in the corner of the screen at the start of the episode, or how many of the shots in Luke's bar still have a purple hue even when they're through the racks of booze.

The big transition occurred when Jessica and Luke fought off the rugby club turned murder party after Jessica accidentally outs Luke's lover as a married woman.  Clarkson clears the camera of most obstruction and the barest traces of purple to be seen.  This is a moment the two of them are fighting not over the idea of their assailant, but are two people seeing each other clearly over the violence.  Cage's former lover may not be the murdering psychopath Kilgrave is, but she's still bathed in the kind of purple which follows Jessica around in the few moments we spend with her.

Ryan Commentary StampThe purple color motif is really strong in this show and I am curious if people who don't know the villain Kilgrave is also known as the Purple Man.  I find it pretty obvious but I know a lot about the history of the characters so I am more likely to pick up on it.

When talking about how she is framed in small ways and I would add semi-hunched over I find it really interesting how far the show is going to show the effects of a very violent attack that has left internal stars on our main character.  A superhero show does not typically delve deep into this area and I love that Jessica Jones is.  I just hope that it doesn't take the easy way out and make her "cured" if she overcomes Kilgrave in the end.

Finally, since you brought it up, what did you think about the bar fight?  I thought it was 180 degree shift from Marvel's Daredevil and its highly choreographed fights.  This fight was quick, messy and I dug how both Cage and Jones seemed bored in it.  I think this is the way many fights would be if only some of the combatants had super strength and unbreakable skin, it just wouldn't even seem like something that is necessary to put in much effort.

Faded purple viewNewer Andrew cutout commentaryThank you for bringing the direct comic connection back up.  The way purple is used is a nice combination of styles in how Kilgrave was shown in Daredevil: Yellow with artist Tim Sale then Michael Gaydos in the original Alias run.  It's a subtle nod, not an overt "hey congratulations people who read the comics" sort of thing, and purple works in a sort of low-grade Michael Mann sense here.  I prefer that sort of in-universe artistic approach than, say, Tony Stark finding a Captain America toy shield in Iron Man 2.

For the bar fight, it does a couple of important things that tie in to the final few minutes of "AKA Crush Syndrome".  Jessica's strength is just a matter of fact for her, much like Luke's unbreakable skin is.  There's no slo-mo, no voiceover telling us what's obvious there on the screen, and when that fact is established it becomes more about what Jessica and Luke are going to do with this knowledge.  These powers are real, but secret, and the last moment with Luke taking a belt saw to his midsection only to see it spark in failure was a superb moment for Krysten Ritter who breaks her stoic guard and looks damn worried for Luke.  When she finally reaches out to him, it's a touching moment.

The flip side of that is now that we get to see the matter of fact application of Jessica and Luke's powers we get the same for Kilgrave.  Kudos again to director Clarkson for pulling a card from Martin Scorsese's handbook from The Departed and letting Kilgrave's evil work for him while his face remains cloaked in darkness.  There's nothing fancy about the way he takes over the apartment and the way David Tennant's composure breaks with the children followed by the stream of urine coming from the closet he orders them into is chilling.  In a way his existence is a perverse reversal of the tentative connection between Jessica and Luke in how their powers are quietly bringing them together but Kilgrave's power forces that connection into a space of violation.

Ryan Commentary StampThe part with the kids was horrifying, the sadness on their face when they have to not only get into a dark closet but position themselves since it was so cramped.  The scene was awful to watch for me especially when the urine comes out from underneath the door.  Like I was talking about earlier, the emotional scars are the ones that take longer to heal.  While it might be true in the literal sense of the word, what is the worst thing about Kilgrave is how he "gets into your head".  Cage might have unbreakable skin and Jessica might be superpowered but it isn't going to stop a mental breakdown.  While they might be superheroes, their powers aren't right for this type of battle.

I know that the show will probably get more fight-driven in the future and they already hinted at that with Hellcats (?) training but right now I am loving the emotional battlefield that the show is setting up.Immaculate hair if nothing elseNewer Andrew cutout commentaryThat's the primary appeal for me so far, and I'm happy Jessica Jones seems invested in staying as far away as possible from traditional superhero fights.  I'm much more interested in Jessica and Luke's relationship on the show than I was reading Alias, and kudos to the creative staff for creating a richer story by making their relationship the positive mirror to Kilgrave's influence.

Now if we could just get rid of that blasted voiceover we'd be in business...

Ryan Commentary StampThe person that should be the happiest about how great the chemistry is between the two leads is Luke Cage actor Mike Colter because he has his show coming up soon and everyone that has watched Jessica Jones already loves him.  That will make his job so much easier when he gets his own show. I too love the relationship between the two but know that it is just going to get messy soon.  I am ready for the 3rd episode now and much like I have learned to love cheesiness in other shows, I am going to embrace the horrible voiceover and see how on the nose it can truly get.  I am hoping now by the end of the show they can somehow make a metaphor between life and superheroes.

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Next week: "AKA It's Called Whiskey"

Posted by Andrew

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