Tuesday, November 24, 2015
The Explosive Jessica Jones Twist Comes In "AKA Top Shelf Perverts!"
The Good: Great character development, Wonderful acting, Awesome plot development, Good reversals.
The Bad: Moments that lack clarity/minutia, Works better in context than on its own
The Basics: "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" rockets Jessica Jones in a new direction and moves the series close to its perfect peak!
One of the aspects of the first season of Jessica Jones that I quickly came to love was the idea that the protagonist, while possessing incredible powers of strength and resiliency (and the ability to fall in a guided way which others might call flying), is essentially human. The first season of Jessica Jones is largely a game of cat and mouse between the private investigator Jessica Jones and her former abuser, the mind-controlling Kilgrave. What I came to like quickly about Jessica Jones's humanity was that it led her to be wrong an awful number of times throughout the season, especially in the early hunt for Kilgrave.
Kilgrave is a man in control and a man who has planned for a number of contingencies as far as his interactions with Jessica Jones are concerned. When the show focused on Kilgrave, it went into interesting and compelling places, not just dark or dreary ones. Indeed, in the episode that diverges from Jessica's hunt for Kilgrave to resolve the ticking time bomb of Jones's backstory with Luke Cage, "AKA You're A Winner!" (reviewed here!), arguably the most watchable aspect was Kilgrave getting money and then going through the effort of buying a house completely legitimately. There's a "what the hell is he up to?!" quality to Kilgrave being very frustrated by his inability to use his pusher powers when convincing the owner of the house he wants to sell it to him for twice the market value. "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" picks up the Kilgrave thread in a powerful way and leaps the main plot forward in a pretty significant jump.
It also continues the trend of illustrating just how horribly wrong Jessica Jones can be in her methods of trying to find and entrap Kilgrave. And just how far ahead Kilgrave is of her in his thinking!
Opening with Kilgrave going through the Alias Investigations offices, Ruben arrives to bring Jessica Jones banana bread. Jones, at the same time, is out drunk, waiting for Wendy to get off her shift at the clinic. Jones tries to get Wendy to sign the divorce papers while on the subway platform, accidentally going too far with threatening Jeri's soon-to-be-ex-wife. Returning home, Malcolm and Jessica Jones discover Ruben's body on her bed, his neck slashed by his own hand. Frustrated by how far ahead Kilgrave is in his machinations, Jessica Jones vows to end Kilgrave and his influence.
Jones hatches a plan to get put in Supermax Prison, believing that such a controlled environment will entrap Kilgrave and get the irrefutable evidence of Kilgrave's powers on seven layers of security. With hours before Detective Clemons comes on duty, Jessica Jones uses the day to tie up all the loose ends she can. While Jessica pursues her plan, Trish and Simpson hatch their own plan. Walker has managed to find Kilgrave's new security firm while Jones approaches Hogarth about helping her get locked up in Supermax. While Malcolm tries to dispose of Ruben's body, Jessica says goodbye to all she knows and then has to recover the body to bait her trap. But Jones's attempt to get incarcerated is thwarted by Kilgrave's own plans and the revelation of his goals in returning to Jessica Jones's life!
"AKA Top Shelf Perverts" has moments of incredible depth on all fronts. David Tennant's performance might be impressive all the way through, but director Simon Cellan Jones captures a look from Tenant at the very end of the first scene that cannot possibly be appreciated for its magnitude and depth on the first viewing. The twist of Kilgrave's character that comes in the final act is only able to land because of Tennant's incredible performance abilities. Tennant is given the chance to illustrate more range in "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" than he was in the entirety of his stint on Doctor Who!
Jessica Jones begins "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" totally lost. Rejected by Luke Cage after she told him the truth of her part in his wife's death, she is struggling to meet any of her obligations or find any sense of normalcy. Jones is out of control and even half in the bag, she recognizes that hurting Wendy was an unintended consequence of her attempt to tie up the loose end of paying off the favor she owes Jeri. After Ruben's death, she becomes incredibly focused and the whole "what would you do if you only had one day left" concept plays out well for Jessica's character through the episode.
While Jessica builds her own plan, Trish and Will debate over the methods of dealing with Kilgrave. Simpson takes a very hardline stance that Kilgrave needs to be executed, while Trish argues that killing is what separates heroes and villains. Walker wants Kilgrave alive so he can be used to exonerate Jones and Hope Shlottman. Between her backstory getting fleshed out by Jones's visit to Walker's mother and the hardline devotion she has to proving Jones right and safe, Trish's character gets quite a bit deeper throughout "AKA Top Shelf Perverts."
There is something delightful about watching the melodrama between Wendy, Pam and Jeri unfold. "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" has another confrontation between the three and Wendy is a powerful woman in Jessica Jones. Hurt and being replaced by the younger, blonder model, Wendy reacts with strength and a sense of control that is not realistic for her situation. It does, however, make for an impressive character!
In fact, in considering "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" there were only two things that did not work as well as the rest of the incredibly well-constructed and well-presented episode. The first is a moment of performance by actress Colby Minifie. When Robyn calls Jessica Jones a "sexual predator" to Malcolm, Minifie is smiling in her eyes. For those watching and able to catch such cues, it's a very minor glitch in the episode. Somewhat more serious is how Wil Traval presents the character of Will Simpson. Simpson finds Kilgrave's house in the suburbs and when Trish calls, his responses are not clear. Traval plays the moment like Simpson is under Kilgrave's control, which is not the case.
"AKA Top Shelf Perverts" marks the return of Detective Clemons to the narrative and actor Clarke Peters and Krysten Ritter play off one another exceptionally well. Eka Darville illustrates his performance depth in "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" by contrast to his prior performances. In "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" Darville presents Malcolm with a clarity and devotion that makes him interesting to watch. Darville has real range and it is in this episode where he truly shows his chops.
This episode also marks the on-screen appearance of Trish's mother and the horrible nature of the character provides a scene almost as unsettling as the graphic appearance of Ruben's corpse. Anyone who was raised by narcissists is likely to be able to relate and be appropriately horrified by Dorothy Walker.
"AKA Top Shelf Perverts" is so close to perfection that it is virtually impossible to see it for what it is. The episode is so truly great because the revelation by Kilgrave is so unexpected that it shocks the audience and turns the entire series on its head. But as a self-contained episode, "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" has little moments that absolutely rely upon the larger narrative to make sense or have impact. Given that only one other episode in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before this ever hit this high water mark, it's hard to complain at all. "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" absolutely knocks Jessica Jones out of the park of obscurity and into something truly vital.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Jessica Jones - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
For other works with Robin Weigert, please visit my reviews of:
Synecdoche, New York
Lost - Season 3
For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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