Marvel’s Jessica Jones
The second episode of Marvel’s Jessica Jones has a marked obsession with anatomy. Body parts and their functions, after all, are a way to connect us as human. Like Shakespeare wrote, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” In Jessica Jones, the Bard’s question becomes “Can you live without a kidney?” or “Can you put a power saw to your stomach and not flinch?”
“AKA Crush Syndrome” picks up soon after the end of the first episode, when Hope murdered her parents. Jessica is inside a police interrogation room. A detective wants to know if she helped plan the murder. She scoffs at his line of questioning until he pulls out photographs of Bar Man, who we’ll learn is named Luke. She insists Luke has nothing to do with Hope or the murder. The police don’t believe her, and later question Luke about the photos. When Jessica arrives at the bar, he rightfully wants her and her 300mm camera lens out his life. She tells him that the photos were related to a case: Luke is sleeping with a woman named Gina, whose cuckolded husband hired Jessica. Luke is not pleased to learn that Gina is married.
Jessica can’t dwell on his disappointment for long because she’s got a mystery to solve: how did her mind-controlling ex-captor, Kilgrave, cheat death after a horrific bus accident? She begins her investigation at the closest hospital to the crime scene. Using her superhero strength to break into a nurses’ locker room, she steals neon-pink scrubs and an I.D. badge. (When I daydream about superpowers, I’ve never put “the ability to effortlessly open a locked door” on my list, but admittedly, it comes in quite handy on this show.) Though doors are no problem, computerized hospital records are another matter. Jessica plays dumb, and another nurse helps her access the records of every patient brought to the hospital by ambulance on the day of the accident. There’s no sign of Kilgrave in the records — and only one death listed. It’s the woman from the photo in Luke’s medicine cabinet.
So, Jessica’s obsession with Luke relates to her guilt about the bus accident. She’s also feeling guilty about Hope, who was institutionalized after she murdered her parents. Hope blames Jessica for the shooting — she should’ve made sure Kilgrave was dead — and now, she says, her 12-year-old brother doesn’t have a family. The best way Jessica can help defeat Kilgrave, according to Hope? “You should kill yourself.” Despite that venom, Jessica tries to convince Jeri Hogarth to take Hope’s case. Hogarth, however, doesn’t want any “loser” cases. Any “mind control” defense is a guaranteed loser, unless Jessica can prove it exists.
Good thing she’s a private investigator! Jessica does a bit more digging and discovers that Jack Denton, one of the ambulance drivers at the scene of the bus accident, went A.W.O.L. afterwards. She tracks Jack down to his mother’s home, where she learns he had a stroke; he’s wheelchair-bound and can’t talk. Jack was found in an alley after his disappearance, having generously “donated” his kidneys to someone. His mother explains that a mysterious donor paid for Jack’s dialysis machine. When she leaves the room, Jack desperately tries to write a note to Jessica. “K-i-l —,” he starts. Jessica assumes he wants her to kill Kilgrave. Instead, he finishes the note: “Kill me.” Jessica tearfully declines. Jack is yet another victim of her failure.
He’s not the only victim of Jessica’s missteps, though. Gina, the woman photographed with Luke, arrives at Jessica’s apartment. Luke told Gina that husband hired her, so Gina confessed the affair — except her husband didn’t actually hire Jessica. Now that he knows, he and his rugby teammates are heading to the bar to rough up Luke. Jessica rushes over just as the fight begins. Luckily, Luke can handle himself with ease. He swats the guys away like flies and, at one point, even rolls his eyes with exasperation. He can’t even with this fight. Finally, Gina’s husband tries to stab Luke with a piece of glass. Tries. He jams it into Luke’s neck, but it doesn’t cut his skin. Like Jessica, Luke is different.
The next morning, Jessica gets a call about the dialysis machine: it was leased by a man named Dr. Kurata. Jessica finds him giving a sad lecture at a community college. She sits down in the back to listen. Dr. Kurata starts to fumble his words, and then — suddenly — he runs out of the lecture hall. Jessica chases him down to the college’s basement, stunned by his behavior. Why is he running from her? They’ve never even met. Dr. Kurata explains that he recognized Jessica from Kilgrave’s photographs. He’s terrified of Kilgrave. After the bus accident, he forced Dr. Kurata to transplant Jack’s kidney into his body. Dr. Kurata also falsified the death certificate. Jessica convinces Dr. Kurata to make up for his misdeeds by agreeing to be a “mind control” witness for Hope. His story convinces Jeri to take on the case. Another bonus? He inadvertently reveals one of Kilgrave’s weaknesses: anesthesia.
With this new information, Jessica seems confident about her future. She even wants to install a new “Alias Investigation” glass panel into her apartment door. (It was a present from Trish, who we learn is her best friend and former roommate.) Jessica calls Trish to thank her for the gift. Trish is happy to hear from her, until blood starts to drip from her nose. She hangs up, then heads back to what she was doing — Krav Maga training.
So Trish bleeds, but Luke doesn’t. Luke shows up at Jessica’s apartment and wants to talk about the fight. Jessica plays dumb; Luke wants to get real. “I saw you, and you saw me.” And then he pulls out a saw! I can’t decide if this is a great transition or a terrible one. He lifts up his shirt and pushes the power saw against his torso. The blades doesn’t even cut his skin. “I’m unbreakable,” he says. (He’s alive, damn it!)
At end of the episode, we finally get a glimpse of Kilgrave in the flesh. (He’s played by Doctor Who’s David Tennant). Using mind control, he forces his way into a family’s apartment. He orders the children to hide in the closet. A little girl tells him she has to use the bathroom. He tells her to hide anyway. As Kilgrave sits down to eat the family’s lamb dinner, a small puddle of urine leaks out from under the closet door. Yikes.
- I’m glad Jessica Jones explored the Kilgrave mystery this episode, rather than a case-of-the-week story. He’s more fun to unpack than some random guy trying to evade court papers.
- I’ll have nightmares about cockroaches in bathroom sinks for weeks now. Thanks, Netflix.
- The “wacky” twin neighbors aren’t doing much for me. Are they just supposed to be a slice-of-New-York subplot? Or is there something bigger there? On the bright side, they did introduce me to my new favorite phrase: “I don’t give a bag of dicks.”
- I like how Carrie-Anne Moss’s character, Jeri, looks to play a larger role in two major storylines: Hope’s case and Kilgrave’s mind control.