Jessica Jones Recap: Mom Genes

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Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix
Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Marvel’s Jessica Jones

AKA Ain’t We Got Fun Season 2 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 4 stars

When Jess comes to after getting drugged, she’s in shackles. Restraints, Karl helpfully tells her, that were “designed to hold your mom.” Lest you forget Karl thinks he’s the hippest of all HIPAA violators, he delivers this information while wearing a Doors T-shirt.

Karl keeps trying to convince Jess that his mom is not a prisoner, that their love story — which, like, WHAT — is the real deal. That he designed Alisa’s life such that he is the only person in it does not seem to trouble him all that much. He defends Alisa’s murders as ill-advised protective efforts: She killed Koslov because she was afraid Karl would get exposed and put them all at risk, he says. Jess dismisses all of Karl’s views as “psycho babble blah blah bullshit.”

Alisa is not a prisoner here, Karl insists. Jess yanks at her restraints: “What does that make me?”

As Alisa methodically breaks everything in the kitchen in an attempt to make breakfast, Karl suggests Jess could talk to her and calm her down. Jessica’s reply: “Just so you know, I rarely have that effect on people.” (She gets in so many great one-liners in this episode. I also love her delivery of “better go check on mom.”) After telling Trish that she’s getting smashed at a bar somewhere and to call off the IGH hunt, Jess gets Karl to let her out of the restraints. Naturally, the second that happens, she locks him out of the room and texts the address to that good cop who believes her story. When Alisa busts in, they have this kind of hilarious mother-daughter thing of Alisa grabbing her phone and demanding to know who Jess texted.

“He’s a pervert with a God complex who made himself a powered girlfriend for kicks,” is Jessica’s appraisal of Karl, though as you can imagine, Alisa does not agree. So Karl, with Alisa’s blessing, takes the money they’ve stashed away and flees to some undisclosed location, leaving Jess and Alisa locked together in the basement to await the police.

Jess has about 17 minutes with her mom to make up for the 17 years she missed. They know the cops are on the way. Assuming they’ll arrest Alisa when they get there, she’ll be sent to the Raft, a prison for people with abilities where you have no contact with the outside world. (This makes me wonder: Do they also have a special police force for people with abilities? Seems like there should be, no?)

Nothing Alisa says can change Jessica’s mind about what a monster Karl is. You can hear it in the way she phrases exactly what his crime is: “Karl experiments on people who can’t give consent.” Jess knows from not being able to give consent. So much of her life since the accident has consisted of men doing things to her body in the absence of her consent — men who didn’t wait for her to say yes, didn’t even ask for it, or coerced it out of her. That Alisa can love someone who could violate Jess that way — it sickens her. And it is absurd that Karl is against the overmedication of children with ADHD! As Jess puts it, “Why medicate kids when you can alter their entire genetic code?”

We haven’t seen a ton of Jessica’s memories from before the accident. But clearly she remembers a happy childhood, if not an idyllic one, and those memories have kept her going as she’s had to face so much horror alone. In mere minutes, Alisa dismantles Jessica’s narrative, both by well actuallying Jess’ memories about their supposedly happy family and undoing Jessica’s sense of herself. Jess thinks the accident made her the way she is: moody and dark, someone who pushes people away. But her mom says Jess was like that before, a friendless loner who hated team sports and locked herself in her room “listening to depressing rock.” (Jess, under her breath: “Nirvana isn’t depressing.” Alisa: “Oh really? Didn’t that guy commit suicide?”)

Alisa also says she and Jess’ dad were fighting so often, they were close to divorce. He wouldn’t move for her dream job so she burned with resentment, and he resented her resentment. “We hadn’t had sex in almost a year,” she tells Jess, who immediately responds, “I so don’t need to hear that.”

“When I look at you, I don’t see my mother,” Jess says. She pauses for a long time. “But your voice makes me feel like I’m back with you in our old house. Before … everything.”

Alisa starts talking about the good moments, maybe realizing that it’s not the best strategy to rekindle relationship by telling Jess that her whole life is a lie and her childhood was a bummer. Just as she gets to this part about riding a Ferris wheel and Jess “busting out into this big, beautiful grin,” Jessica’s tiny smile collapses. (Krysten Ritter’s performance here is just ridiculously good.) Was she listening? Kind of. Really, the gears in her brain are turning as she realizes: There’s gotta be another way out of this room. How else would Alisa sneak out to do all those homicides?

By the time the cops arrive, Jess and Alisa are gone through a tunnel beneath the house. Jess doesn’t have a plan. But she isn’t ready to give up her mom just yet.

I love that their little conversations on route back to Jessica’s apartment are such mundane, irritating, parent-kid exchanges, charged with the awareness that at any moment, Alisa could slip into a rage and murder someone. Alisa chides a taxi driver for texting while driving, then flips out at him for telling her not to “get her panties in a bunch.” (“Grown goddamned women don’t wear panties, we wear UNDERWEAR.”) And it is such a mom thing for her to immediately zero in on Oscar’s painting — the one revealing, personal item in Jessica’s entire apartment.

As Jess tries to figure out what to do — “There’s no manual that tells you what to do when your mother, who has been dead for 17 years, comes back and is a mass murderer. I’m kind of winging it.” — the good cop pulls up outside. Jess talks him out of stepping into the apartment, but when she goes back inside, her mom is gone. Did she escape to see Karl again? Did she double-back to pull that taxi driver’s spinal cord out through his ear? Nah, she just went to hide on the roof, then ran into Oscar on the way back downstairs. SUCH A MOM MOVE to go straight for the new boyfriend. (Also, it’s very cute how Oscar is nervous that Jess hates the painting.) Alisa senses Jess was really upset about the thought that she’d been abandoned again, not at the fear that her mother was “out there ripping people’s heads off.”

Jess takes the couch for the night, but is undecided on a move for tomorrow. “There’s no version of this that ends well,” she says. Alisa carries her restraints to the bedroom and says, “Unless it doesn’t have to end.”

But before anybody can get settled in, their slumber party is interrupted by gunfire. Someone is shooting at Jess’ apartment through the window. It’s only a graze and Jess is fine. Alisa mentioned earlier that she can’t control her rages when things get personal so, I’m sure this will all work out great!

How’s everyone else faring this week? Jeri has a lead of her own: Inez points her to a healer connected with IGH, currently in prison. Jeri visits him and promises him freedom in exchange for his healing services; the brief preview we see suggests that this healing process deeply messes the guy up and he would prefer to literally never do it again. But that night over $200 champagne, Jeri reports to Inez that she got this guy out on time served, which would suggest he came around, or is about to do so. Jeri certainly thinks so. Earlier that day, Jeri she told Inez it was time to move out, but in this new hopeful mood, she reverses course and has sex with Inez instead.

Malcolm, morning-after snuggles rejected, tells Trish that he can tell she’s on drugs. Trish, who I swear to the Marvel gods is the dumbest dum-dum that ever dumm-dummed, admits to Malcolm that she does not even know what is in the inhaler and yet is confident that it’s not addictive. EVEN THOUGH SHE IS CLEARLY ADDICTED TO IT. Here is an incomplete list of justifications Trish makes for this “perfectly safe” mystery substance: (1) It’s the same as three shots of espresso, (2) it’s not heroin, and (3) it’s not coke.

Malcolm wants nothing to do with this, and leaves Trish to search for Jessica alone while he finds a lead for the Jeri case. (Remember how she wanted dirt on her partners?) He winds up in a street fight with some homophobes, alas. Of all the alleyways in all the world, Trish, high on combat enhancers, happens by to kick some ass and save Malcolm’s skin. She peer pressures him like somebody out of a DARE PSA to take a puff on the inhaler so he can “heal faster,” when honestly it seems like they could’ve just, I don’t know, taken him to a hospital. Malcolm caves, immediately wishes he hadn’t, and sprints away from Trish. So much for that relationship! Don’t say Jess didn’t warn them.

Jessica Jones Recap: Mom Genes