Jessica Jones Recap: Head Games

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones. Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix
Marvel's Jessica Jones
Episode Title
AKA Top Shelf Perverts
Editor’s Rating

In "AKA Top Shelf Perverts," there's a poignant moment when Jessica goes looking for Luke at his bar. She learns Luke has left town, and the old man who's tending bar in his place gives Jessica an unsolicited-but-wise piece of advice: "You know what happens when you burn a bridge? You have to learn to swim. Or fly." Jessica can't fly, but as we learn this episode, she definitely knows how to swim.

Up until this point in the series, there've been several fake-out home invasions at Jessica's apartment. (Malcolm eating peanut butter; Trish's glass installer.) This time, though, the invasion is real. Kilgrave slinks through the dark, flipping through Jessica's papers and urinating in her toilet. He doesn't seem to have any real purpose for being there, aside from basking in his own creepiness. A knock at the door pulls him out of his special Jesssicaaaah time. It's offbeat neighbor Ruben, who is curious as to why Kilgrave is alone in Jessica's apartment. Kilgrave is curious why Ruben has come bearing a loaf of freshly baked banana bread. "Because I love her," he innocently says. It was nice knowing you, Ruben.

Meanwhile, Jessica drowns her sorry-I-slept-with-you-without-mentioning-I-was-forced-to-kill-your-wife sorrows at a bar, before she's thrown out for being too wasted. Jessica may be drunk, but she's also on the clock. Across the street, she spies Jeri's wife, Wendy, who's leaving her clinic for the night. Jessica follows her to the subway. (Krysten Ritter perfectly captures the look of a drunk person trying to appear sober.) On a desolate subway platform, Jessica confronts her with Jeri's divorce papers. When Wendy won't sign them, Jessica uses her super-strength to dangle her over the subway tracks. While giving a venomous speech about shame, Jessica accidently drops Wendy. "I didn't mean to do that," she says in a panic. A subway train is arriving, so Jessica jumps onto the tracks and throws Wendy to safety on the platform. As the train hurtles toward her, Jessica stares into its lights. At the last moment, she leaps out of the way.

The next morning, Malcolm finds a passed-out Jessica in the elevator and insists on sobering her up. He's fixing her food when she stumbles to the bed, still out of it. When she lies down, she feels something sticky on the sheets. She's lying on a dark pool of blood. She looks to the other side of the bed and sees Ruben's body. There's a blade in his hand, and his throat is slit open. This sobers her up quickly. Malcolm wants to call the police, but Jessica knows that they'll throw her in jail.

Then, she becomes obsessed with the idea of getting into a supermax prison, as a way of creating a "high tech mousetrap" for Kilgrave. (When he eventually comes for her, the prison's security cameras will capture footage of him.) I wasn't quite sold on her obsession with supermax. I get that Jessica is in a desperate place, but it's such an obviously illogical plan that it felt a little out of character. She asks Malcolm to grab his belongings and disappear. "I can't protect you anymore," she says. "If you don't believe me, ask Ruben."

Jessica's not the only one making plans. Trish reveals to Simpson that she managed to "talk" a high-end security firm into disclosing that Kilgrave is a client and obtained pictures of his security team. (This development requires more suspension of disbelief than Jessica's jumping.) By following the guards, Trish explains, they'll find him. Simpson still doesn't understand why he can't kill Kilgrave, though. "I want Kilgrave to live long and alone and despised until he wants to die but can't," she says. "Because that's justice and I'll fight like hell for it." Later in the episode, Simpson tracks the guards to Jessica's childhood home, where Kilgrave deals with movers outside. (Ever the sartorially-inclined psychopath, he wears a three-piece suit on moving day.) When Trish calls to get a status update, Simpson lies, saying he hasn't found Kilgrave yet. Looks like someone's going rogue.

Jessica, still hellbent on her prison plan, tracks Jeri down to ask her what she'd have to do to land in supermax quickly. Jeri explains that supermax is for "top shelf perverts." When Jessica heads to a child's talent agency, I thought the episode was headed for a really a dark turn, but it turns out she's visiting her adoptive mother, Dorothy (Rebecca Demornay), who runs the agency. Jessica wants to ensure that Dorothy will stay away from Trish, who suffered her mother's abuse as a child. The last item on Jessica's pre-prison to-do list? Climb to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, and look out at the Manhattan skyline. "I hate goodbyes," she says. "But this goodbye deserves a last lingering look."

Malcolm doesn't want Jessica to say goodbye, so he decides to get rid of Ruben's body. He needs help, so he calls Trish over to the apartment. Though he tries to prepare her for a disturbing scene, Trish screams when she sees Ruben's body. (As much as Trish embraces the idea of being a hero, she's still naïve to the gritty reality of heroism.) Later, Jessica comes home to find Trish there, but Ruben's body is gone. Malcolm has dragged the body to a harbor, where he dumps it in the water. Jessica arrives and wants to retrieve the body. Malcolm tells her that her plan isn't going to work, since the coroner will know Ruben's neck wounds were self-inflicted. She dives in anyway.

In the next shot, Jessica is seen dripping wet and walking, in slow-motion, through a police station. She carries a plastic bag in her hand, and, for a second, I was wondering why she was bringing the cops take out.  She walks toward Detective Oscar Clemons (The Wire's Clarke Peters), opens the bag and drops Ruben's decapitated head on his desk. "I've done something terrible," she says. Later, in an interrogation room, Jessica demands to go to supermax. Jeri shows up and requests that Jessica be committed, so Jessica declines her legal help. Alone with Clemons, she begs to be imprisoned in supermax, but another officer enters the interrogation and releases her. Jessica leaves in a huff, thinking her release is Jeri's doing.  

Oh, if it only that were true. Inside the police station, Jessica sees a roomful of officers frozen and pointing their guns at each other. This must be Kilgrave's doing. He pops up from behind a desk like the world's worst birthday surprise. "You'd have to know that I'd come for you," he teases. Jessica asks why Kilgrave is torturing her. Genuinely perplexed by her question, he responds, "I love you." When pressed further, he explains that he's the only one who "matches" and "challenges" Jessica. A cell phone rings, interrupting his declaration of "love," and Kilgrave veers from love-sick puppy to raving lunatic, then back to love-sick puppy within a matter of moments. David Tennant brings so many levels to Kilgrave that it's difficult to ever pin him down, which is what makes him such a terrifying and satisfying villain.

Jessica doesn't understand Kilgrave's twisted feelings. He explains that he didn't realize how unsatisfying it was to get everything he wanted until Jessica broke free of his control and left him to die. "You were the first thing — excuse me, person — that I ever wanted that walked away from me," he says. It was the first time he ever felt "yearning." He wants her to choose him, the way he chose her, so he's not going to control her mind. But he will protect himself by controlling others' minds. He orders an officer to erase all the footage of them at the station. He then tells the room of officers, guns still drawn, that 30 seconds after he leaves, they'll all realize this has been a prank and they'll let Jessica go. On his way out, he mentions that he left Jessica a present at her apartment and that, "when you're ready, I'll see you at home." As the officers break out into genuine laughter, a distraught Jessica standing among them, we gain a new appreciation for the awful kind of psychological torture that Kilgrave and his mind control can bring.

When Jessica returns to her apartment, she discovers his "present." It's her teenage diary. She quickly takes a cab to her family home. Kilgrave steps out to greet her, which doesn't escape the notice of Simpson, who's still staking out the house. Jessica walks inside, and Kilgrave's delight is palpable. Everything's coming up Kilgrave!

Other Thoughts:

  • The child actors' waiting room scene gave me the creeps.
  • I like that the Jessica's story is set in New York and not a fictional metropolis. It makes everything feel more heavy and grounded.
  • The over-the-top scenes with Ruben's sister seem way off to me. The rest of the show has a much different tone. She reminds me of the locals from Stars Hollow — wacky for the sake of wackiness.