Jessica Jones: AKA I’ve Got the Blues

“I don’t tell, and you don’t save me.”

Origin stories are tricky things. They can span entire movies or be summed up in a quick flashback. But rarely are they as private as the origin story on Jessica Jones, which takes place in the ultimate teenage-girl location: the bathroom.

Jessica breaking her hairbrush, and then breaking an entire sink, would have been hilarious if not for the sounds of Trish and her mother fighting in the background. But the simultaneity of those events is also appropriate: the second phase of Jessica’s life—the post-accident phase—is dominated by her friendship with Trish. And her origin story isn’t just a discovery of superstrength, but also the discovery of her ability to negotiate complicated emotional scenarios in an effective way (just as she does later, when she figures out that Simpson killed Clemons).

Jessica’s relationship with Trish, despite its rocky start, is one of perpetual give and take. Trish and Jessica have rescued each other time and again, which means they can speak plainly (as when Trish points out that Jessica looks as bad as a corpse) and disagree without ever running the risk of the friendship disintegrating.

That results in some novelty. A more traditional superhero show might make the lowest point one of isolation (as in Daredevil). But, happily, in Jessica Jones, her lowest point—broken ribs, sleep-deprived, without any good leads on Kilgrave—is one she gets through with her best friend. In the bathroom scene from their teenage years, Jessica and Trish bond. As a result, Jessica saves Trish from her mother. In the bathroom scene in the present day, Trish and Jessica work together to defeat Simpson, and Trish steps up when Jessica is too injured to fight.

The parallels don’t end there. Trish’s mom was physically and psychologically abusive. She beat Trish and crowded her out of her own identity. Simpson’s violence is horrifying, but so is his paranoid obsession with Jessica and his stalkeresque treatment of Trish, both of which fall into the realm of psychological abuse. Jessica says, sarcastically, that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stranger.” That’s particularly true in the case of Simpson, whose descent into drug-fueled rage was incredibly creepy even before it got incredibly violent.

All reds and no blues make Simpson a dull boy.

Jessica Jones has gotten some flak for the quality of its fight scenes. Many reviewers seem to be grading on a Daredevil curve, and I agree that the fights on JJ lack the raw grace of that show. But I think there’s a point to that. Two points, actually: One, Jessica isn’t a trained fighter. She’s superstrong, but that’s about it—most of her fighting skills amount to throwing people out of her way, and she seems to take no pleasure in doing so.

Two, I think Jessica Jones might be reminding us of the sadistic voyeurism inherent in taking pleasure in watching people cause each other pain. In Daredevil, Matt Murdock agonized over the pleasure he took, but he took it (and we enjoyed it) nonetheless. Jessica Jones, more than Daredevil, focuses on those who are the objects, rather than doers, of both psychological and physical violence. Balletic fight scenes don’t fit into that perspective very well.

Having said that, the fight between Simpson, Trish, and Jessica did a fascinating job of contrasting the fighting styles of all three characters. Enhanced with the red pills, Trish got to use her Krav Maga skills. Simpson, too, clearly knows what he’s doing. And Jessica just pushes people and objects around until she can get the fight to stop.

The stability of Jessica’s relationship with Trish contrasts with Malcolm’s moment of despair as he wonders whether or not everyone is an asshole (or a zombie assassin, as Robyn points out). And the cliffhanger, in which Luke blows up himself and his bar emphasizes that relationships may provide stability, but they also increase the number of people at risk. It’s a dour note on which to end, but perhaps things will work out by the end of the season.

AKA:

• Trish: “What about nuns?”
Jessica: “They still make those?”

• Jessica is not a puppy person. I suspect she is a cat person.

Blowing: Behind the Scenes with a Rock Flautist is totally a book that deserves to be written.

• The creepy doctor who rescued Simpson from Jessica’s apartment had some paramilitary backup. I wonder if those guys will have a hand in the overarching street-level threat that these Netflix stories are building up to?

Robyn Says…

• “Any one of them could have been brainwashed to gouge your eyes out!”

• “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you a professor of Kilgravism?”

• Malcolm: “What is it with people?”
Robyn: “At best, they’re assholes. At worst, they’re zombie assassins.”

Three out of four zombie assassins.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Josie, I loved what you said about Jessica's fighting style. I hadn't really thought about it, but it's true. It's even reminding me of the early episodes of Supergirl.

I've grown to care about Trish and her relationship with Jessica, and all of the flashbacks made me thing, OMG no, Trish is going to die and I really, *really* don't want her to die. And I thought Krysten Ritter did a terrific job showing how depressing it is to feel lousy. I did not like seeing her thrown around, especially while she was in so much pain.

I am now fond of Robyn. Didn't think that would happen.

migmit said...

Just had a thought. Maybe it's not the virus that makes Kilgrave control people? Maybe it's hereditary? From his father, who is a real villain... manipulating his son for some, well villaneous purpose?

Sigh... I'm bored. I'm going to watch some iZombie.

Marianna said...

I also appreciate the difference in combat choreography between Jessica Jones and Daredevil in that it makes sense given Matt's training and Jessica's lack of training. I haven't seen Supergirl, but it does remind me of the difference between Superman and Batman's fighting in the Justice League cartoon. Batman was a smart fighter, always as efficient as possible. Superman was accustomed to being the biggest, strongest guy in the room so he never really learned strategies other than barreling in and didn't use his other powers nearly enough (eye beams in particular). Interestingly when Supergirl was introduced she was smarter about using her other powers, likely because although she has super strength she doesn't have Superman's size. That long digression was my way of saying Jessica's character was developed in a thoughtful and thorough way, just like the characters of Justice League, which is why I like Jessica Jones as much as I do. That being said, watching Jessica fight can get a little painful, especially how long it takes her to diffuse threats of the non-superpowered variety, so i hope next season they find a way to get her some training.