Jessica Jones: "AKA WWJD?" - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
2Feb/160

Jessica Jones: “AKA WWJD?”

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Jessica's ready to take a chance with Kilgrave.  He's sequestered in her childhood home with a full security detail and unwilling servants.  She's making up her plan as she's going along - but does she know what to do with Kilgrave if she's successful?  Andrew and Ryan look at the eighth episode of Jessica Jones, "AKA WWJD?"

Unplanned terrorIn Jessica Jones' "AKA WWJD?" we see Kilgrave and Jessica play house and the results are as weird and wonderful as I hoped for.  Jessica had the offer to stay at her family home with Kilgrave and she takes him up for reasons that aren’t clear to us (and maybe to her) until the end of the episode.  Kilgrave is under the impression that he is in love with her and maybe he truly thinks he is so he tries to be good for her which is even more somehow more sinister than when he is doing whatever he wants.

While she is with him at the house (redecorated with all of her keepsakes from her tragic childhood) he is on his “best behavior” which includes threatening the hired help and torturing the neighbor, who deserved it.  Like I talked about last week, the buildup to get David Tennant in the episodes more was a long build up but it was worth it because having Kilgrave unleashed these last two episodes have been great. I think I could have watched 10 episodes of Kilgrave and Jessica having meals together with flashbacks on how he found the perfect sofa for the living room.  What did you think?Some magical eveningBroadly - Tenant and Krysten Ritter were both excellent in an episode where the only weirdness I felt was from how restrained it was compared to last week.  There was a certain formality to "AKA WWJD?" that I didn't like.  The first half (what is it with Jessica Jones episodes and their subpar first halves?) was everything I expected the confrontation between Jessica and Kilgrave to be.  Part of that is the problem, nothing about either Jessica nor Kilgrave's behavior surprised me, and them going through the motions as "loving host" and "disgruntled guest" was as forced for the characters living it as it was for me watching it.

Some of this comes from the sub-par direction from Simon Cellan Jones who kept the images and tension so taut last week.  The flashbacks from Jessica's memory integrated to present day were so straightforward that there wasn't anything stylistically to set them apart from the present day shenanigans.  None of the other subplots we've come to tolerate came off better with Jeri and Wendy's divorce continuing to suck the life out of the momentum of each episode.

I also couldn't remember if this was the first time the Jessica Jones writers have bothered to name Wendy because I always remembered her as "Jeri's ex".  But this kinda highlights just how bad Jessica Jones is when it's not focused on Jessica or Kilgrave.  Off in Trish's subplot of erratic quality Simpson disappears, but he doesn't, but he's on Jessica's side, but kinda screwing with things, and were it not for some perfect pitch black comedy concluding his involvement in "AKA WWJD?" his involvement would have been as much a waste as Jeri's.  The mid-point turn brings things back into focus, but man was it rough for me getting there.Literal fuckin' divisionRyan Commentary StampI have gotten to the point with the show where I just tune out when the divorce subplot pops up again and it gives me a better viewing experience.  There is NOTHING that the show can do to make this slog worth it.  I was joking with my wife what kind of reveal they could do to make it worth it and I realized even if she turns out to be the Skrull queen herself, it still wouldn’t justify the time spent.

I knew where this episode was going but I still enjoyed the journey.  After last episode's reveal of the house I was interested to see what it would be like and it was everything I hoped.  I spent a lot of time thinking about things with the house and how far he went.  Did he get the moms recipes back and would he try to fix all her favorite dishes?  Did Kilgrave sleep in the parents room or did he sleep somewhere else?  The end where Jessica kidnaps Kilgrave once again actually surprised me too because I sort of wanted to see another few minutes where Kilgrave pretended to be a hero.

I was also surprised because the show set up Jessica’s martyrdom so I assumed she would give up her happiness for a while to keep him in check.  So when she stabbed him in the neck I slapped myself in the head for following for it. I couldn’t believe I was so stupid for falling for it, yet I wasn’t as stupid as Simpson.  I ask you Andrew, who is dumb enough to peer into a bag  your mind controlling nemesis sends you personally?

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryHere I was about to praise some of the writing and you had to bring up that last shocker because damn is it hard for me to reason my way through the explosion.  We've had Simpson being cautious and a step or so ahead of Kilgrave for once and despite his super awesome special forces military squad (or whatever) training he not-so-cautiously accepts the bag from the annoying neighbor.  Looking at it on the show's terms we already know Kilgrave causes collateral damage around Jessica because of his obsession with her.  Simpson's character changes so much from episode to episode it's not like this twist reveals much about his ability to stray from a plan because it's likely to change next week.

What did work and for me was the turning point of the episode was the introduction of the annoying neighbor (may she rest in peace).  That was one of the moments which pushed the perverse '50s-styled "father knows best" psychosexual relationship Kilgrave wants so badly to a ghoulish cartoon extreme.  The ending put me in an interesting emotional space because the neighbor is so casually hurtful to Jessica the moment where Kilgrave forces the neighbor to spill her guts is somewhat satisfying.  It shows the selfish wish Jessica is still fighting against in somewhat desiring Kilgrave's power and sets up the field trip where, just in case you needed another reminder, Kilgrave is evil.

Those bits incorporated dark humor which worked well.  But too many other parts fell completely flat.  Jessica's dream sequence where she sees her bleeding family reminds us yet again she carries around a bit of guilt over what happens to those around her.  In a way it's so straightforward it almost circles back around to being weird because it's so plain.  Kilgrave's back story was something which could have used some of last week's style and is a storytelling decision I'm not too sure about.  We've got enough people in society willing to blame mental illness or upbringing instead of examining the structural misogyny Jessica Jones examines so blatantly (as if we needed more hints, Kilgrave flat-out looks like a monitor leering stalker in the daytime with his pale skin in the sunlight).  The wires and blocks of Kid-Grave looked like something cobbled together for a hasty science project - not the scientific investigation at the traumatic heart of yet another Marvel multi-million dollar storytelling machine.

Maybe the cheap look will matter in the long run, like Kilgrave forcing others to create a sympathetic story for Jessica in the hopes of appealing to her.  But it just looked cheap, felt like a dodge for really digging into Kilgrave's obsession with Jessica, and could have used some of the over-the-top visuals or humor from better episodes.

DuuuuummmmmmmmbRyan Commentary StampI like the nickname Kid-Grave, I think we should trademark it ASAP.  I didn’t care much for the tragic back story either because the episode didn’t need it and neither did his character.  It was mainly used to garner a bit of sympathy for the character so you think Jessica could join him for a while.  One of the things I love about  The Dark Knight’s interpretation of the Joker was they didn’t need to give him a back story and I would have loved the same to have been true for Kilgrave.  As you were saying, the wires and mad scientist vibe of the back story was the most comic book moments of the show so far.  I finally wanted to go back to what you were saying with Simpson and how his character changes each episode and scene

We both know what Simpson is probably going to become because we were both fans of the Daredevil comic but the show is ruining the character to shape him to what they need in their story line.  Is there anyway you see the show redeeming the character or is the potential and the good work the actor did in that first introduction to him all for naught?

Newer Andrew cutout commentaryShort answer, no.

Long answer, the only thing that keeps Simpson's subplot from being the worst thing about Jessica Jones is the existence of Jeri's subplot.

I'm glad you brought up Daredevil because Jessica Jones' predecessor did not suffer from the kind of all over the map characterization which brings this show down.  Daredevil's visuals and tone were relatively consistent to episode to episode barring one rough turn into the mystical with "Stick".  But in Jessica Jones we've gone from kitchen sink fight scenes to poorly edited pseudo-'80s confrontations, a dark neon city to boring night on the town, and whatever Simpson is this week which is sure to be different next week.

The core is so strong they didn't need all this extraneous stuff in Jessica Jones, especially when Daredevil was wise to primarily focus on Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk.  I thought the gradual paring down of the side characters would result in a greater focus on Jessica's struggle.  I was wrong, and I hope next week finds Jessica Jones on stronger footing.

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Next week, "AKA Sin Bin".

Posted by Andrew

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