Review: Jessica Jones (Season 1, Episode 13)

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Smile guys, this isn’t just the best TV show Marvel has produced, it’s easily one of the best of the year.

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**SPOILER WARNING FOR THE ENTIRETY OF JESSICA JONES SEASON 1**

There can be no doubt after the finale. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a feisty, dry-witted, extremely guarded character with superpowers, recovering from intense trauma through self-destruction – alcohol and guilt do great things. She is a great character, played to perfection by Ritter. She is flawed. Yet the show is anything but.

One of the absolute best things about Jessica Jones is how for almost the whole of its run, Jessica has been against putting Kilgrave (David Tennant) in the ground, even if that’s arguably what he deserves, and the only way to handle him. They work through every legal aspect of dealing with him meticulously, so that when she finally grabs him by jaw and breaks his neck with one hand, it’s earned and understood. That doesn’t make it easy to see him go: Tennant’s character gets not just outright villainy to chew on (in one particularly delicious stage-bound scene in Episode 12’s climax for instance), but a deep pathos and loathing. As he struggled to increase his power with one final great push in the finale however, he was as brutal as ever. A broken child grown into a sociopath, Tennant’s charm and immensely watchable presence could have Hans Gruber-ed him; instead it’s a key element to his arc, and what makes him so enduring and terrifying.

The finale continues the theme of trauma and the various ways we deal with it, and doesn’t quite resolve it. Which is brilliant. When Jessica turns off her phone after her newfound notoriety gets her too many clients, we know it’s not because she doesn’t care about their silly problems, but that she’s been through a lot. She had to shoot the man she liked a lot, in the face with a shotgun for that matter, and he was barely able to recover. But there’s the key element that Marvel brings – they’re on the side of good. Jessica moves on from her trauma slightly, chipping away at the badness in other people’s lives as much as hers. Malcolm (Eka Darville) returns late in the game to give Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson, always welcome) a hand, another person moving on by helping other people. Even Claire herself, so deftly and likeably played by Dawson, patently refuses to look the other way and let people at risk be left that way.

However, the fact that it takes Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) more than anyone else, for Jessica Jones to not only be able to fight Kilgrave, but to go the step further, is about as (almost extremely) feminist an ending we could have expected: two women with very different lifestyle approaches, coming together out of both love and the need to destroy their (white male) controlling oppressors. Jessica Jones is an almost perfect execution of superheroes, in the antithesis of Marvel’s approach for the films – bringing the powers into a real and grounded world, with that right level of grit, where no-one is a “superhero” as we understand them. And Marvel brought it to us. It’s at this point you should trust that they can do no wrong.

Season 1 of Jessica Jones (2015) is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix.

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Third-year Spanish & History student. My opinions are my own problem, not yours. Seriously, read the book Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf. Change your world.

13 Comments

  1. avatar

    Why is Kilgrave’s race at all important here? Both Jessica and Trish are white as well, it doesn’t – there’s nothing there that requires comment or implies at a wider meaning. And is the end really some big celebratory piece of feminism? Is Jessica not saving Trish because she’s her friend, who she has known and loved since she was a child, rather than just because Trish is a fellow woman? Does that not kind of water it down to the point of ignoring their relationship and its arc through the show? Is Kilgrave evil because he’s male and Jessica is female, or because he has absolute power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? And to add to this, what about Jeri (Carrie-Anne Moss)? She is powerful in her own way, and is pretty close to being evil, and she’s a woman.

    • avatar

      Yes David Tennant has absolute power, he can get anything he wants. It’s a metaphor for White Male privilege and the way that a lot of men (not all men, ugh) abuse their privilege and/or are completely unaware of its existence. They are let off by “the system”.

      The show tricks you into ignoring the metaphor by having such brilliant characters everywhere, by offering backstory and motivation, different types of women and different types of men. Sure I believe Trish and Jessica have that relationship, and that Jessica is saving Trish because she’s her friend. But as I am also reading the white male privilege metaphor, I see it as, at its most basic, a woman saving another woman (and many other women) from a monstrous man.

      As for Hogarth (who was interestingly, a man in the comics but obviously didn’t need to be), she is the sort of woman who sees nothing wrong with “the system” of patriarchy and wants to take control of it without changing it, and use it for her own gain – think Ursula in The Little Mermaid, who wants to rule the sea in Triton’s place because it is a powerful position and she can use it for her own gain, not because she thinks he is representative of patriarchal values and doesn’t deserve that power, or that the system should be torn apart.

      Race and gender is always an interesting, and often important discussion to have, even if in some mediums it doesn’t fit – but it totally fits here.

      • avatar

        You still haven’t really explained why Kilgrave’s race is important to the show. Yes, White Male privilege may be a thing, but it doesn’t apply here, or at the very least the “White” part doesn’t. There is no racial dichotomy to be explored in the show.
        I don’t think Hogarth is really analogous to Ursula that much, and I think you’ve maybe read a bit too much into The Little Mermaid. I think that her being adapted from a male character is interesting, though, and it’s definitely the most feminist aspect of the show – equality of the sexes and all.
        As for Jessica and Trish, their relationship is the core of the show, not their femininity. If Kilgrave was holding a different woman at the end, the end would have been very, very different, because it’s Jessica and Trish’s relationship that forces Jessica’s hand. The whole show, in fact, is very personal. It’s Jessica’s relationships with the other characters that drives it. Kilgrave is monstrous not because he’s a man, but because he is personally linked to Jessica. Trish isn’t in danger because she’s a woman, but because she, too, is linked to Jessica. Trying to reduce that to a question of gender doesn’t seem right.

        • avatar

          I’m not reducing it – the mechanics of those relationships are all in place, and the show works on those relationships PERFECTLY as it explores trauma.

          Kilgrave’s race is 100% important as the metaphor, because he gets away with it all. If he didn’t have his powers, this would be a dark story of a charming man who sociopaths his way through life, treats people (especially women) like objects, and gets away with it. Him being a WHITE MAN is analagous to our society. If he was a black guy, he’d be shot before he’d ever opened his mouth. Furthermore, if Kilgrave was a black man, this would be about how white women (as all the women are white, except LC’s wife) should fear black men, and how all black men are dangerous or in poverty.

          • avatar

            “I see it as, at its most basic, a woman saving another woman” – you are reducing it.
            I agree with you about trauma – that’s the idea that the show is most deliberately exploring, trauma and mental illness (PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, Addiction, Obsession, etc,).

            How does Kilgrave ‘especially’ treat women as objects, how does he treat them as objects any more than he does men? He controls more men throughout the show (or at least similar enough amounts that it makes little difference). And how, exactly, do you arrive at the conclusion that Jessica, Trish, or any other female character would fear Kilgrave if he was black? Is it the bit where Jessica is good friends with Malcolm, and saves him? Or the bit where she sleeps with and starts to fall in love with Luke Cage, and saves him? Is it the bit where she seeks help from Claire Temple? Similarly, at what point in the show do the police start shooting any of those characters before they have a chance to speak?

  2. avatar
    Harrison Abbott on

    Did you just say if Killgrave was black the show would automatically be about how women should fear black men?

  3. avatar

    … Okay. An admittedly very clumsy way to show that (for me) Kilgrave being white is very different to how some audiences and some characters would see him if he were black.

    I didn’t mean they would fear Kilgrave because he was black, but their fear of Kilgrave’s power and actions would take a very different meaning if he was.

    When I said “I see it at its most basic” I meant AS WELL. It IS a story of a woman saving another woman. I do not live in a 2-dimensional facsimile of this world however and can tell that there are far more elements to the show than just that.

    As for the police bit: like I said, the show’s gender politics and depiction of White Male Privilege make it analysis analogous to our world. Look at the news – the U.S. police have practically made shooting black people a hobby.

    So I have a question for you: why DOESN’T Kilgrave’s race matter?

    • avatar

      Perhaps by scrutinizing the genetics of every character you are in fact continuing this divide. Why can’t the characters simply be the colours that they are without everything being read into. Isn’t the concept of equality based on everyone being viewed based on their actions and not their genetic traits? I took this as being a show based on the idea of equality, not based on the idea of hating the white man. Its a story about respecting others and their consent, not using them for your own means.

      • avatar

        And perhaps if I smell the fart, I am the one who farted.

        It’s all well and good to believe in equality, as we both do, but the media so rarely reflects our society, let alone an ideal one. I have a habit of reading race and gender in the media I consumer, especially films and TV, because they are constructed for purpose, but rarely are they made to reflect the diversity found in the mdoern world, nor do they acknowledge the actual gender and racial divides that we STILL have.

        Here’s a GREAT example of how to reflect our world and combat it, with a diverse cast and an acknowledgement of the way our world can work, whilst condemning it outright. I’m applauding it. I can do that because I looked for those issues, I looked to see how the makers chose to represent their world and our own. I’d do exactly the same for something which handled gender and race badly.

        • avatar

          “This is a character who is not defined by her gender. She is first and foremost a character. I didn’t define her any more as a woman as you would “white guy” if it was a white male lead.” – Melissa Rosenberg: Creator, Showrunner, Scriptwriter.

          “She’s just kind of who she is. Nor does she make a big deal of it. It’s just going through life. It’s very relatable and very grounded.”

          So neither the creators nor characters distinguish race or gender as important factors to a person. As you said: ‘I looked to see how the makers chose to represent their world’, so surely by extension, making distinctions of race and gender are against the basis of your critical ideals.

          • avatar

            Firstly, the “author’s opinion” is a terrible way to evaluate the text. Asking IF an author meant to do something or not completely disables the idea that they could fail or succeed, and eliminated the ability of readers to see for themselves.

            As for your actual argument: Rosenberg is saying that she wrote the characters (or at least Jessica) without writing them to established stereotypes, racial or gender roles. It’s a very normal response from writers when asked about how they write such good female characters – Joss Whedon always gives very similar answers.

            However, as much as all those characters weren’t limited by gender or race by the show’s creator in writing them, they chose to give certain characters (like Hogarth and Malcolm for instance) their specific race and sex. They ran with it. And they sketched relationships between established characters like Kilgrave and Jessica which had incredibly powerful implications. Seen through a gender or race based analysis (as opposed to Psychoanalysis) it’s hard to miss the analogies to “White Male Privilege”.

  4. avatar

    You explicitly stated that your argument was based on the authors intent. I’m not discussing Roland Barthes, I’m trying to get you to explain what your basis is for this ideology, for which you have repeatedly stepped around. Your counter argument was to confirm my point that the characters were written without bias, which doesn’t make sense considering that, again, you stated that your argument was based on intent. Using blanket analogies to explain the reasoning behind the show, whilst ignoring questions put forward to you doesn’t help anyone.

    Statements such as these:
    “the U.S. police have practically made shooting black people a hobby.”
    “if Kilgrave was a black man, this would be about how white women (as all the women are white, except LC’s wife) should fear black men, and how all black men are dangerous or in poverty.”
    “If he was a black guy, he’d be shot before he’d ever opened his mouth.”
    Are not understanding of actual problems and are in fact very belittling of these genuine issues.

    Question put forward by Matt that you did not answer:
    “And how, exactly, do you arrive at the conclusion that Jessica, Trish, or any other female character would fear Kilgrave if he was black? Is it the bit where Jessica is good friends with Malcolm, and saves him? Or the bit where she sleeps with and starts to fall in love with Luke Cage, and saves him? Is it the bit where she seeks help from Claire Temple? Similarly, at what point in the show do the police start shooting any of those characters before they have a chance to speak?”

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