Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jessica Jones 1x08 "AKA WWJD?" (Sympathy for the Devil) [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

Original Airdate: November 20, 2015

In 1968, The Rolling Stones released "Sympathy for the Devil." In it, the devil is given a voice to tell things from his point of view. He points out that everything gets blamed on him, but that people are part of the problem, too. It is proof of the adage that villains never believe that they are the problem. They see problems and find solutions, yet they do what others cannot. They question whether or not this makes them truly bad or merely a symptom of a greater picture.

The song questions whether or not the devil is really the evil that people see in their hearts or is a reflection of an evil that was already there.

"AKA WWJD" is all about Kilgrave. There is no question that Kilgrave is evil. He is a rapist, a psychopath, a murderer, a sadist, and has no moral bone to his body. This is not in question. The show, however, does make an effort to show things from his point of view, to garner a little sympathy for the devil that is and the man behind the swagger and supernatural ability.

The episode begins as the last one left off, with Jessica arriving at her old house. She looks around, where Kilgrave has meticulously recreated the house as it was in her youth. He brings her home because she once said that her happiest memories were there. This is part of his ongoing dedication to woo her into loving him instead of compelling it with his ability. He is absolutely convinced that giving her a choice will mean that she chooses him.

Kilgrave takes away her coping method. The streets she lived on have now been infiltrated, like so many things, by him. She cannot repeat their names without picturing him there, in her space, in her memories, as part of the narrative. It is another invasion that torments but does not break. Jessica can’t break, because she has too much to do and too many people to look after.

The moment Jessica confronts Kilgrave about his rape of her was something that had coming since the beginning. They were words that needed to be said. They mattered so much. And true, to his nature and true to any rapist’s nature, he deflected, shifted, tried to assign guilt to her. Jessica chose to kill Luke’s wife when Kilgrave only said to "take care of it." Jessica was given the best food, dresses, drinks, and hotels. She was treated like a princess, according to him. It made the rape not a rape, merely a return of favors. This is how so many rapists treat their victims.

“They were asking for it.” “They were treated fairly. I gave them things.” “They were sluts anyway.” “They didn’t know they wanted it, but they did.” 

The list goes on. Kilgrave even goes on to blame his childhood and his parents for the way he is now. Here, and only here, is a little sympathy for the devil garnered. He is not forgiven, but the horrors that were inflicted on him — the way he reacts to seeing them again, with pain he promptly hides behind indifference (sitting down to watch a sports game that is often an encouraged way of coping with emotions for the modern American male), and the clear torture he is lived through as a child — cannot be ignored.

For a flash, we — and Jessica — see things from his point of view. She realizes that he is still a ten-year-old boy, trapped behind the facets of growing up in a lab without anyone to tell him right from wrong. He was a rat, not a human, and his parents didn’t just experiment on him, they created a monster.

Jessica takes it upon herself to show Kilgrave what saving someone feels like, hoping — with that heart of gold that she tries so desperately to hide — that she can make him see the light. She wants to show him a different way, only to realize that he will need constant supervision, constant watching, and constant guiding. Kilgrave’s determined to woo her, which gives her the power to control him right back.

That is where Trish comes in. Jessica goes to her, finally trusting her with the truth, and lays out the choice in front of her. She can stay in her childhood home that is haunted with the memories of her family’s death, and her role in accidentally causing it, or she can do something different. Jessica asks the question, “What would Trish do?” She knows the answer. Trish would do everything in her power to make sure that Kilgrave is watched. She would sacrifice herself so that others would be safe. That is how Trish operates. Jessica wants to be like her friend. It was Trish who first guided her towards being a hero, and it is Trish who is in her head reminding Jessica that she is a good person, worthy of being saved as well as being the savior.

In the end, though, Jessica realizes that she is not Trish. She is Jessica — damaged, dark, sassy, incredibly smart Jessica. She is messy, and makes mistakes, and shotguns more liquor than I could ever manage without dying, but she is also a fighter. Her strength isn’t just physical. It is in her determination to keep moving when her feet feel like they have been superglued to the earth. And she does. She does things her way. She kidnaps Kilgrave, dodges Officer Whatever, and flies off into the night. I do mean that literally.

Jessica is back, still potentially making mistakes, but not as a prisoner, not as someone determined to continually punish herself for the deaths she has on her hands. She is no longer a prisoner, and I feel she has every intention of making Kilgrave hers.

Officer Whatever is now mostly dead. I don’t know if he will Princess Bride his way out of the explosion, but I’m sure it’ll have consequences. The entire episode felt like it was building toward consequences, and those will start to come to a head as the season builds to its final episodes.

Sympathy for the devil may have been felt, made Kilgrave seem human around the psychopathic behavior, but he is still the devil. He is still evil. And, now, Jessica understands him just a little bit better. It is another tool in her arsenal that I hope she makes the most of before the series closes out its first season.

Stray Thoughts:
  • The scene where Jessica confronted Kilgrave about the rape of her was truly powerful. It was shot with space between them — two opponents on a battlefield, waiting to see who shoots first. Jessica was emotional and fierce; Kilgrave was distant and his words echoed so many men that it’s simply bone chilling. Bravo to everyone involved.
  • We see Jessica’s family for the first time via flashback. The flashbacks added depth to Jessica’s guilt, explained so much, and broke my heart. Also, I’ve had that fight about Gameboys with my brother. He broke his so we had to share. Relatable.
  • "I choose that you won’t touch me ever. I promise I won’t touch you until I get your genuine consent." That makes me angry for rape victims everywhere. Still giving her a little bit of freedom as he promise to let her choose.
  • “I worked hard on this,” was said with a bit of menace and deeply manipulative. Kilgrave expected a thank you, and the line was delivered perfectly.
  • “A little appreciation wouldn’t hurt you, huh?”
  • Jessica is forced to relive her terror and her rape in the one place that made her feel safe. Her happiness is being tainted with her trauma. Kilgrave’s taken her coping method from her.
  • “I’ll be having a liquid dinner.” Can’t say that I blame her.
  • Officer Whatever put a bomb in the basement because he’s Mr. Man with a Plan. I kept thinking throughout this episode that any other time he would be the hero of the show. He’s Captain America in any other universe, but because he’s in Jessica’s world, he just comes across as a giant douche. Is this intentional? I need to know.
  • Kilgrave may not know how to talk to people in the way regular people do, but he is definitely great at manipulation and pushing all the buttons of guilt. He winnows and tries to make Jessica doubt everything by twisting the narrative.
  • “Make it right.” This is Jessica’s mantra, and it has been what has carried her through the show so far. She keeps trying to make it right, but she keeps failing. This is what makes her human.
  • “I’m going to have to ask you to say that in cash.” I love Wendy more and more.
  • Jessica putting all the cream on her plate at breakfast is my hero.
  • “Do your actions ever haunt you?” Jessica is genuinely confused by this. All she knows is hauntings. Ghosts follow her everywhere.
  • “You can’t harness his power for good. He’s a psychopath.” Trish speaks words of wisdom, per usual.


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