Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jessica Jones 1x01 "AKA Ladies Night" (A Woman Removed, A Hero By Choice) [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

"AKA Ladies Night"
Original Airdate: November 20, 2015

In the quiet moments there bleeds a very real pain that no amount of booze or sex can drive out. Jessica Jones dwells in a grey area in between the concerns of normal society and the darkness that breeds in the hearts of the people of New York City. And though she has seen the darkness, has lived it, she is not part of it. She is a woman removed –– by choice, by circumstance, and by the supernatural powers that make her unnaturally strong.

Jessica Jones premieres as a steady, strong entry into the Marvel universe and it is exactly what the franchise was missing.

Evocative of 1930s film noir, the framing and the style of pilot episode, “AKA Ladies Night,” is nothing short of realistic. There is a grittiness to the episode that even Daredevil did not have. While that series sought to promote a larger-than-life agenda, Jessica Jones is a quiet tribute to the everyday believability of a broken woman strong enough to rebuild and slowly create something new out of the ashes of a life marked by tragedy. The style of filming of the pilot reflects that realism and uniqueness. The framing of Jessica is never entirely centered, and long shots reflect Jessica’s tendency to feel like an outsider looking in. Long shots of action, sex, and interactions, as well as tilted angles, almost like a film camera capturing a candid moment, create a voyeuristic glimpse into the people around her, even as the quiet contemplation of the character is appreciated through moments that are allowed to sit and breathe in darkened tones that reflected Jessica’s sarcastic and unaffected world view.

Jessica has seen the worst of humanity. She is a watcher; she stands in the shadows and she observes. She has no intention of being a superhero; she honestly doesn’t see people as worthy of being saved. Flying off buildings or beating up the bad guys is not her thing. Those ideals are for other people –– stupider people, she might argue. Jessica does her work for a paycheck –– in order to afford rent and booze –– and does not allow herself to get involved because that means caring. Distancing herself from any kind of intimacy is a layer of her trauma that is played with subtlety and the perfect amount of truth. The pilot wonderfully moves through the beats of Jessica’s PTSD, building upon the idea that she is broken in ways that have manifested throughout her dealings with others and through a traumatic past, but it also shows that there is a light, fractured and dim and eager to poke out around the darkness that has been forced upon her. She has everything within her to be more, but she needs a push –– she needs something to pull her away from the meaningless work of finding cheating spouses and serving subpoenas.

The catalyst for Jessica’s step from disenfranchised P.I. to potential hero is the same man who sent her on a collision course with trauma and pain. Kilgrave is seen throughout the pilot in violent flashbacks that reiterate Jessica’s present day PTSD. Without stepping onscreen once in the present, he maintains an air of creepiness that no other villain in recent superhero television can match. Presumed to be dead by Jessica and others, he returns to the city and claims another victim in the same way he once claimed Jessica.

Hope, a young girl, has gone missing. Her parents come to the city looking for her and Jessica is the P.I. they reach out to. With her typical intelligence and poise, Jessica manages to track Hope down and, with dawning horror, makes the connection between Kilgrave and the case she is working, sending Jessica into a tailspin. The scene turns to chaos and frantic energy as she runs away from the source of her discovery and puts space between herself and the restaurant. Her first reaction is gut-clenching fear and self-preservation. She wants to run.

Being a hero is all about choice. A tragic experience can make either a villain or a hero. Neither are born. They are forged out of the steel of daily living. A person is presented with the option to take their trauma and either do go or take their revenge out on the world. Jessica is faced with this moment after she realizes that Kilgrave is back from the dead. Two scenes in the pilot mark the moment Jessica decides to embrace her heroism. The first is when, after she has gotten the money to leave town, she decides to go to the hotel to rescue Hope. The second is at the very end of the episode when she returns back to Hope after it is clear that Kilgrave is still controlling the young girl.

The first scene in the hotel is beautifully horrific. From the moment the fire alarm is pulled and the flashing lights go off, the stage for the creepiness is set. The off-kilter camera angles, the long shots, coupled with Jessica’s calm yet transparent fear and the building music, grow the horror organically. Kilgrave is in every moment, even if he doesn’t appear in the scene beyond a flashback. Pulling Hope out of the bed was also a great realistic moment. It shows Jessica’s determination and willingness not to play by the rules if it results in saving the girl. There’s a brutality to the fight that results between them that maintains a surrealism in Hope’s absolute determination to stay in the bed, despite knowing it’s not good, and Jessica’s calm resolution to pull her out of the room no matter the cost.

After Hope has proven that Kilgrave still has a hold on her via a pistol in an elevator, Jessica flees the building. For the second time since realizing Kilgrave was nearby, she entertains the notion of running. Movement and fear keeps her safe; it keeps her out of Kilgrave’s control. A taxi is there waiting, but, she stops. In that pause, in that moment of clarity, she realizes that she truly is not the type of woman to walk away. She understands herself in a heartbeat. She cares. She fights. She walks back in to what might as well be a burning building.

This is the moment a hero is born.

Another fun scene was soft reveal of her superhuman strength. It wasn’t fancy or one of those dramatic hero shots that you see in so many shows. I don’t know how else to describe the moment beyond saying it was feminine; the entire subtlety of picking up the car and holding it in place felt entirely womanly. The strength was to be expected; it was something so ordinary that it didn’t need grand music or in-your-face moments. That expected, understated strength is the reality of being a woman in the modern world. Strength is in every day; it breathes in the heartbeat of every woman. “She’s strong –– get over it,” was the feel of the entire scene and it was played with equal parts deadpan humor, sarcastic fierceness, and irritation on Jessica’s part.

Jessica Jones was perfect from start to finish in the pilot. The seeds they planted for the rest of the series, the villain they established in Kilgrave, the humorous moments that were played with sarcasm and subtly, of Jessica’s conflicting choices and growth, and the building tension and supernatural horror were done expertly and helped create an interesting start to what I am sure will be a great series.

Stray thoughts:

  • Krysten Ritter is perfection and she brings real life to Jessica Jones. 
  • “Then there’s the matter of your bill.” 
  • No toilet paper post-pee –– Jessica Jones get me on a personal level. 
  • That dude smelling a shoe: “Ew!” is right. 
  • I feel all sorts of important things at that phone charger situation. 
  • Dude is sad and brooding at a window and baby girl feels him to her soul. That is the moment Jessica decided she was going to have him in a serious way. 
  • “You turn that thing on, I’ll pull your underwear through your eye.” 
  • Jessica’s expression at the douche guy in the douche car was honestly my expression. 
  • The scene where she picks up the car is made even better by her conversation with Sir Douche. (I’m sure the guy had a name, but Sir Douche fits better.) 
  • Kilgrave is seriously creepy. Yuck for the licking. 
  • I love that Jessica tries to help Hope by teaching her methods of coping. 
  • The PTSD was portrayed consistently and with care. 
  • Are all lawyers cheaters, or just the ones on TV? 
  • I think I’m probably going to fall in love with Trish. Is that a problem? (Editor's Note: Nah)

1 comment:

  1. I've watched all the episode (no spoiler here), I must say that Jessica Jones, after Daredevil, it’s the best show about superhero.
    Marvel is to be congratulated in partnership with Netflix, she wanted to do the a darker and adult show and was able to deliver it.

    I can say that I had great expectations about this pilot, all were overcoming, seems to be watching a 13 hours movie.
    Since the pilot we can see that Kilgrave will be a sociopath.
    and the opening is sensational.