Jessica Jones: AKA I Want Your Cray Cray

"Call me a bitch again. Compare me to a dog. An animal that you can kick and collar. Say it."

Flashback episodes can be dangerous. Done right, they can provide context and fill in plot holes. Done badly, they can make a show or the characters appear inconsistent. This episode did a little of both.

I thought Jessica and Alisa’s storylines paralleled each other nicely: both of them ended up in the arms of some very charming yet deeply amoral men. Somehow, between a petty criminal and a bona fide mad scientist, the scientist came off better. So did Alisa’s storyline.

Alisa had so much of her identity ripped away from her. Seeing her horrifically flayed reflection was reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, although she reacted with a violent outburst rather than crazed laughter. It’s a little hard to blame her: she lost her husband, her young son, and even though Jessica survived, Alisa lost her too. It was somehow harder to watch Alisa find out about the fate of her family then it was to see her ruined exterior. Even without the side effects of Malus’ treatments, I doubt she would have come out of that experience without serious anger issues. Who wouldn’t? And the entire time, Janet McTeer did a wonderful job of making Alisa sympathetic without really softening her. Even when she isn’t throwing people into glass, she’s grumpy and irritable. Sound like anyone we know?

However, I’m still not sure how well we know Alisa. Who was she before the experiments and Dr Karl? Who was she before the temper tantrums and super-strength? I can’t help but feel it would’ve helped to get just a little of what she was like before the crash, in day-to-day life.

Dr. Karl Malus, with his gentle voice and patient manner, was difficult to read. He conducted illegal experiments that traumatised the subjects, but he wasn’t interested in creating super soldiers or other traditional villain goals. He just wanted to save lives, and his seeming sincerity makes him kind of fascinating. As noble as his intentions might have been, he’s still an emotionally manipulative liar. He owned up to his part in what he did to Alisa, but also positioned himself as the only person she can trust. Yet, Jessica and Alisa would have been dead without him. And Alisa is far too dangerous and unpredictable to let wander free.

Stirling Adams was less fascinating, and to be honest, he kind of aggravated me. Why have we never heard about this person who had such a huge impact on Jessica before? He feels like a recent invention, and I dislike the idea that a character as strong and layered as Jessica can attribute so much to the actions of one con man. The fact that she still named her agency after his idiotic club dream means she clearly still thinks a lot of him. I can buy that college-aged Jessica would fall for his schtick, but modern-day, cynical Jessica? She would put him through the wall. Like Karl, Stirling was a manipulator, albeit with more selfish desires. It was despicable watching him use Jessica, turning her into his own personal muscle and tricking her into reconnecting with Trish just so he could get money. I was actually a little pleased that Alisa so rightfully bashed his head in, especially when he just tried to pimp Jessica’s abilities out to some lowlifes. Oscar might be boring, but at least he’s fundamentally decent.


Krysten Ritter is always marvellous in this show; she carries it like a title character should, and she was particularly exceptional in this episode. She kept the younger Jessica believably different yet recognisable. She retained her usual snark, but there was something more open and exposed about her. I could practically see her softer emotions hardening over the course of the episode, while still retaining her basic decency as a human being. She also has great chemistry with Janet McTeer; I loved their little bonding moment, separated by a bathroom door.

I’m not sure how much I’m liking Trish’s subplot, both in this episode and in general. It did make a strange kind of sense to see her attempt a career as a sex-appeal starlet, with Dorothy hanging around in the sidelines like a coiled snake. I also liked the resolution, with Jessica beating up the drug-dealing club owner. It was also a good demonstration of the difference between Jessica and Alisa, who would have killed the club owner without a second thought. At the same time, the whole thing felt a little too paint-by-numbers, possibly because it seemed like she never actually left that club. Still, even if her storyline didn’t run in as smooth a parallel to Jessica and Alisa, there was still a big commonality: she was alone, surrounded by untrustworthy people. At least Jessica and Trish found each other as sisters again.

Bits & Bobs

- Jessica said Trish should go back to Dorothy. That seems….odd. Does Dorothy really care enough to put Trish into rehab? Wasn’t she the monster who pimped a teenage Trish out to Max just a few episodes ago?

- The make-up on Janet McTeer was impressive.

- Was the use of ‘cray-cray’ anachronistic? When did that phrase come into existence?

- Jessica’s middle name is Campbell. I like it.

- Aw, Stirling, is your mother trying to get you a job with your successful brother’s business? What a horrible monster, no wonder you turned to petty crime.

- Malus and Kozlov didn’t exactly get along, it seems.

- Karl is a damn ninja with those syringes, huh?

Quotes

Karl: You don't know me yet. But I am actually trustworthy.
There is no easier way for the audience to distrust a character than for that character to claim openly that they are trustworthy. I was reminded of Carter Burke telling Ripley that he’s a good guy.

Karl: Comfortable?
Alisa: Yeah. Wish we had one of these in the family den.

Alisa: Is there any way you could forgive me?
Jessica: No.

I can’t say I cared for the Stirling development, but Alisa’s storyline and strong performances across the board sold me.

Three out of four stolen leather jackets.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

You put your finger on it, Jonny. What was Alisa like before the accident, before she was turned into this sad rage monster? Dr. Malus and his hippie ponytail and gentle manner (and ninja needles) is still a cipher, too. And I wonder how young Jessica would have reacted when Stirling told her to go bail him out by working as a leg breaker. That romance would have been over PDQ.

I'm also not happy with what is happening with Trish.

This probably means nothing, but Alisa and Alias? anagram.

Excellent review, Jonny.

Jonny said...

Thank you, Billie!

I hadn't noticed the anagram, but it's certainly interesting. And I can't help but wonder if I would trust Dr Karl more if he were played by someone else. Callum Keith Rennie is a brilliant actor and his portrayal is spot-on, but I can't quite shake the image of Leoben Conoy.

Patryk said...

I kinda wanted the episode to end on Kilgrave fiding Jessica, but that would just be pure fanservice and completelty tangential to the story.