Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jessica Jones 1x03 "AKA It’s Called Whiskey" (A Target On Your Back) [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

"AKA It's Called Whiskey"
Original Airdate: November 20, 2015

What’s better than whiskey, you ask? Luke Cage, of course! Jessica and Luke start of the episode where the last one left off –– discovering that they are both special and that their abilities happen to mesh. Then they have a competition to see who is stronger, which leads to them boning against a wall. As you do.

This episode’s theme can be summed up in a piece of dialogue spoken by Luke Cage as he and Jessica are out for some post-coital food:
“Being a hero puts a target on your back.” 
Jessica doesn’t want this target. She’s been there, done that. She’s tried to be hero and ended up a prisoner of Kilgrave. She knows the true meaning of the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with the best intentions,” without it being a cliché. She’s fought to do some good in the world, to make a difference, and it ended with misery, with PTSD, with alcoholism, and with a murder that she cannot forget.

This episode shows Luke and Jessica in the lusty honeymoon stage of their relationship. Only Jessica is keeping a rather profound, rather serious secret from him. The picture of a woman in Luke’s medicine cabinet is shown once more. As uncertain as his reason for keeping the picture there of all places, it is clear by episode’s end why Jessica was stalking him in the pilot and why she looks conflicted every time they are together.

A flashback reveals that Jessica is the one who murdered Cage’s wife. She was coerced into it by Kilgrave for an as of yet unknown reason, which adds layers and complications to the burgeoning relationship she has with Luke. There are two scenes that resonated emotionally about the night everything went sideways for Jessica.

The first is when Jessica is testing out Luke’s opinions on the idea of someone like Kilgrave existing. He is adamantly against the idea, not believing it to be real, but she is desperate for him to believe in the possibility. It’s played quietly, but you can feel her burning for that belief above all things. The reason is that she is also desperate to tell him the truth about his wife, and about her. Jessica's guilt and her experiences are eating away at her. She knows that sleeping with the man of the woman she killed is wrong and that she needs to stop, but he’s an addiction for her –– even as she tries to keep her distance. Luke understands as he has the same barriers up. He has his demons the same way she has hers, as seemingly impenetrable as Luke’s skin. This is why, when Jessica breaks it off between them, he doesn’t put up a fight. It’s better to let go and prevent more pain than to face the reality of the emotions.

The second scene is the actual moment where Jessica kills Rachel, Luke’s wife. The emotion of that scene is complex. She’s ordered by Kilgrave to do something that she would never do. She is told to end a life for nothing more than Kilgrave’s vicious need. She does, and immediately a part of the old her sparks to life. She moves without a command; she hears without obeying. It is the first time in months that she’s been free of the voice in her head that belongs to her tormentor. There is a buzz, a whine, as her focus remains fixed on the woman whose life she just ended instead of the man trying to call her attention back to him. For that moment she is free –– burdened, distraught, and shocked beyond belief, but free.

Then, her freedom is extended as a bus hits Kilgrave and his hold on her finally releases. His voice flutters away and the trauma and the pain hits her. She is free. She is a swirling mixture of anger, sorrow, guilt, and hope, and it is a turning point that carries the series forward and reveals the gritty, hardened person that is the new Jessica. It was played and shot excellently and with tribute to Jessica’s ongoing PTSD, her guilt, and the literal blood on her hands.

In contrast to Jessica’s determination to avoid the target on her back, via testifying in court about Kilgrave to help Hope and to fly under the radar as she tries to secure the drug she needs to knock him out, Trish actively seeks out the target. She is determined not to rely on Jessica, or anyone, ever again. She wants to master her own body and protect herself. “No one touches me anymore unless I want them to,” is her mantra. A hint of a backstory with an abusive mother is briefly played, but Trish brushes past it and shows Jessica with a well-executed throw that she is not the victim any longer. It is a moment of both confidence and arrogance. Her training makes her bold without her considering the consequences in a way that Jessica has to after what she’s experienced. She has skill but she does not have experience. She is innocent and the arrogance sees Trish calling out Kilgrave before she is truly ready to face him. The result is an attack in her home, in the place she feels most secure. She nearly dies in the fight, her new skills not enough to save her from a man emboldened by a sociopath’s command to kill.

The only reason she doesn’t is because of Jessica’s exceptionally good timing.

This attack, done by a cop you knew was evil when he threatened Trish’s reputation, leads Jessica to a seriously gorgeous apartment and to Kilgrave, after a bit of quick thinking and coldness on Jessica’s part. (She puts Trish to sleep and allows the cop to believe she’s dead, then plants a phone on him.) And there Kilgrave is –– watching sports as he calmly tells the cop to kill himself.

The following is a scene straight from directorial and writer heaven. Jessica rescues the cop by hitting him in the head –– a lot. Then, she chases after Kilgrave, only to encounter the family he was using try to kill her. This shot through the apartment and down the stairs is gorgeous. The entire sequence is unexpected, the angles and cuts of the scene set up the suspense and carry with it the space and the sense that there could be someone out to kill her around every corner, and the music that slowly builds increases the dread. The fact that normal people are attacking her is also something you see very rarely in superhero shows. It’s always men in dark clothes. These people are real, and feral, and it adds to the horror of a man who can control anyone at any time.

The fight ends with Jessica finding Kilgrave’s serial killer wall. Instead of the people he’s killed, though, there is only one face –– hers. He’s been tracking her for a while. His focus has been singular. He wants her the way most people want a work of art or a car.

And now she understands that she has not been without that target after all. It has been there on her back all along.

Stray Thoughts
  • Jessica has no time for shirts. Why have super strength if you can’t rip off a shirt in one go? Meanwhile, the creepy neighbor with a creepy crush on Jessica sees her and Luke boning. I want to punch him. 
  • Jessica not coming clean about Kilgrave and Luke’s wife will not end well. I’m sure of it. 
  • “Good and bad –– most people have both, just depends on what wins that day.” I love this quote. 
  • Alcoholism is consistent and not just a plot point for the pilot that never gets seen again. Yay for consistency. 
  • The search for Sufentinal is underway. Jessica is ruthless when it comes to getting that magic anesthesia. She contemplates knocking out a pregnant woman, uses Hogarth’s wife’s impending divorce against her, and, finally, uses poor drugged up Malcolm as a distraction. It shows how much Kilgrave is under her skin. 
  • FYI, Sufentinal is hard to type. 
  • Hogarth and Jessica exchanging jabs reveals their contempt but necessity in each other’s lives. Hogarth’s using of Trish to get the mind control theory out there is so mean and terribly awesome. Dragon lady lawyer strikes again. 
  • “Graduated from alcoholism?” –– Trish to Jessica. Best friends don’t mince words. 
  • “Can you back off? You’re scaring me a little.” “I’ll make sandwiches.” This was the best moment. 
  • The doors in the hospital opened without her pushing the button. She officially has super powers. 
  • Pilates
  • I love how the show allows Jessica to sleep like a real person –– messy and hair in the face. 
  • Hope describing the control of Kilgrave is played beautifully by Krysten Ritter. Her reactions as she listened to her experience through the lens of another is perfection. 
  • Trish’s blue shoes are amazing. 
  • Jessica strangles a ginger. 
  • I would hate to have to wash all that glass in that apartment. 
  • Are those kids from the previous episode still in the closet? What’s going on there? I have so many questions. 


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