Sunday, December 13, 2015

Jessica Jones 1x05 "The Sandwich Saved Me" (New Beginning) [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

"AKA The Sandwich Saved Me"
Original Airdate: November 20, 2015

For those with trauma, the past can often be broken down to "life before the event" and "life after the event." In "AKA The Sandwich Saved Me," we get to see Jessica before she was found by Kilgrave via flashbacks, her decision to do good in New York and become a hero, and the day that Kilgrave walked into her life.

The Jessica before Kilgrave is not wildly different from the woman who is slowly working her way back to being a superhero. Past Jessica is an outsider looking in. She can’t keep a job, she drinks, she finds the mediocrity of a desk job mind-numbing and dull, and she hates where her life is headed. She is whip-smart, and geared towards extortion and blackmail from the start. It’s nice to see that the foundation of misanthropy is rooted in the girl instead of the trauma. It shows that she’s not as lost as her surly demeanor might suggest. She’s hurting and refraining from making connections that mean something more, but she is still the same goodhearted, loyal jerk who seeks to save the city.

On a parallel course –– and linked to Jessica before she knows it –– is Malcolm. The episode reveals that Kilgrave hooked him on drugs and made Malcolm dependent on him for his next score. In turn, Malcolm follows Jessica and takes pictures. Kilgrave gets his fix at the same time Malcolm gets his. They are co-dependent, with the weight heavily in Kilgrave’s corner. Jessica follows Malcolm, sees the extent of their co-dependency, and is able to break down their routine. She’s aware that routine is a weakness she can exploit.

This was also the moment Jessica sees Kilgrave for the first time up close. She saw his face for the first time since the night he “died.” The thing of her waking nightmares was sitting only feet in front of her. He was real, and tangible, and no longer in the shadows. Her trauma was in her face the moment she made the connection. She immediately turned away and repeated the street names to herself to calm the panic rising within her. She knew that she needed to be calm in order to take charge of the situation and take advantage of what she learned. And she does. She copes her way through Kilgrave’s abduction and the planning with Officer Whatever and Trish, as well as from the consequent fallout from the disastrous attempt to kidnap Kilgrave. She finds a way to keep moving. She finds a way to endure, because she must. Not fighting is no longer an option for her.

Malcolm is the most important aspect of the episode for Jessica, both past and present. Jessica knows that saving Malcolm is not nearly as important as getting close to Kilgrave. She doesn’t take Malcolm to the doctor when he’s passed out in the elevator and clearly in need of a doctor, simply because she needs him for the plan she concocted with Officer Whatever. She is making the hard choice again. It might not be the right choice, or even the good choice, but Kilgrave has her spinning still. She’s desperate to capture him for Hope’s sake and her own and is doing some heavy justifying of the means. She’s compartmentalizing a lot, but Malcolm also leads her to one of her best moments of the series so far.

Malcolm and Jessica have a talk in Jessica’s bathroom after her abduction of Kilgrave goes sideways. It is a perfect scene that is rarely seen in superhero shows. It’s not a rousing speech that tells the affected person to get over their pain and be stronger. Jessica can’t do this for him because she doesn’t believe it. She knows that trauma is not that easy. Instead, she begs; she pleads. She asks Malcolm to save her, because she desperately needs him to be okay. She needs him to survive. The guilt is eating away at her, so she gives him a choice. She doesn’t try to live his life for him, allowing him the chance to make up his mind by giving him the drugs and asking him to help her. In the end, he chooses to be a hero. He picks to save Jessica, because he’s good, because he is a mirror of Jessica, because he wants so much better than what he is in the present.

Everyone brought their A game to the episode but Eka Darville turned in a powerful performance that made Malcolm believable, troubled, weak, sad, and ultimately human. Everything about his confession and the fallout from the drugs was moving and heartbreaking, and I may have cheered when he didn’t take the drugs. Darville is a powerhouse and perfectly cast.

The close of the flashback shows Jessica meeting Kilgrave for the first time after saving a man from some muggers. It is the moment that everything shifted and lives converged. It is the meeting between before Kilgrave and after Kilgrave. It is Jessica’s new beginning. And Malcolm was there to see it –– he was the man she saved. The moment links the three of them together, the abuser with the abused, and it was wonderfully visual and visceral. Malcolm is bleeding on the street, an outward manifestation of the pain that is to come to both him and Jessica in the following months. Jessica may have been trying to become a superhero by beating up the bad guys, but it was on that day, the day she met Malcolm, that she became a superhero because she survived.

The end scene is the one that resonated with me the most, however. The writers did something unusual and exposed the creepiness of many men when Kilgrave manipulates Jessica into sending him a picture. This entire scene is a reality for millions of women around the world. Kilgrave does not use his ability to suppress people’s thoughts to get Jessica to do what he wants. He can’t. Instead, he threatens her, he insincerely begs her to understand, rolls his eyes when she doesn’t understand his actions, and showcases his disappointment in her inability to see his point of view in a calm, neutral tone that is more suited to someone forgetting to do the dishes than understanding his complete evil. This is a powerful moment, because men do this to women all the time. They guilt them. They manipulate. They use their niceness against them to get what they want. This is normal. This is someone’s every day. Kilgrave is a villain, and the writers are showing that he is in the world, in more homes than we want to imagine. He is not someone that can only be found in superhero shows, or so out of left field that we can’t picture him walking in the world. He’s someone’s villain somewhere around the world. He threatens someone Jessica cares about to keep her in line, to, again, feed his addiction. He’s forcing her to comply without laying a hand on her. He’s maintaining power through threats. She agrees to his demands, but only because she has hope for Malcolm and, potentially, wants to keep the line of communication open so that she can find Kilgrave again. Jessica gives a little of herself to him, and this is often a compromise women with children in abusive relationships make all the time.

All the thanks in the world for the showrunners and writers for putting these traits into the villain of the series and revealing how wrong this behavior really is.

Also of note is the return of Hope. She has been throwing up, is pale, and seemingly bullied. She needs money from Jessica, then at the close of the episode we see her getting beaten up in mostly the stomach area. My guess is that her past with Kilgrave is coming back to haunt her as well. Consequences are the lifeblood of the series, and hers will mirror what could have been Jessica were circumstances different.

This episode was beautifully written and acted, and it revealed the ways in which life often comes full circle and beats us down along the way. It is equal parts heart wrenching and hopeful. It suggests that the beauty of the human condition is in the forward march after tragedy bends us into new shapes. The themes that the writers wove into the narrative also hints at the fact that maybe, just maybe, Malcolm, Jessica, and Trish can save each other. In the end, they will be all they have against Kilgrave.

Stray Thoughts
  • Can we talk about the dedication involved in making a rubber band ball of that size?
  • Jessica knocks over the filing cabinet. It’s like the writers have worked for crappy bosses before and have done some serious daydreaming. I know I have.
  • “I’m uniquely unqualified for anything else.” It’s like she gets me.
  • The pull focus when Jessica sees Kilgrave is lovely.
  • Kilgrave makes a man throw a cup of coffee into his own face. Not only is the coffee wasted, but Kilgrave is super mean.
  • Creepy neighbor is still creepy.
  • Seriously, what is Officer Whatever’s accent supposed to be?
  • Officer Whatever is being super helpful on the assassinating thing. Because he served in Nam. Or whatever.
  • “Hey, last night was fun, but that doesn’t mean I want your opinion.” Misogyny, man, it breathes.
  • “I’ll just grab some pants.” “Good call.” I don’t like Officer Whatever, but this was a funny moment.
  • Creepy neighbor asks her out over Malcolm’s unconscious body.
  • When Officer Whatever was asking all the questions about Jessica, I wanted to smack his face. I was hoping Trish would do it for me.
  • Trish took Jess in after her parents died. Looovvveee. (#LadiesSupportingLadies)
  • About the outfit Trish wants Jessica to wear: “If I wear that thing, you’re going to have to call me camel toe.” Also my first thought.
  • I seriously hate fight scenes that don’t end. People get punched in the face. They go down. This is the law of physics.
  • Officer Whatever is super willing to torture.
  • “I helped someone. I made a difference.” No matter how far from the past she gets, Jessica still feels this at her core.
  • “You have a choice now.” and “If you give up, I lose.” Jessica is growing into the hero that she didn’t know she could be.
  • Bloody tooth is gross tooth.


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