Saturday, November 21, 2015
Prayers Answered By Psychopaths: Jessica Jones Develops Through "AKA Crush Syndrome!"
The Good: Decent performances, Awesome trail of clues, Good character development and establishment
The Bad: Very much a part of a larger story as opposed to an effective stand-alone episode (some of the characters have little time to appear, much less develop!).
The Basics: "AKA Crush Syndrome" marks the revelation of Luke Cage and Kilgrave into Jessica Jones's world.
The burden on any new show's second episode is to maintain or grow the audience from the "peek in" that the pilot bought the series. It is a chance for shows with rockier pilot episodes to prove the producers identified and corrected the kinks from the pilot and a chance to build on whatever momentum the pilot episode built. The second episode of a series is also key for allowing genuine character development in a way that would feel rushed in a pilot episode. In the case of Jessica Jones, it is hard not to see the importance of "AKA Crush Syndrome," the first season's second episode.
"AKA Crush Syndrome" picks up after "AKA Ladies Night" (reviewed here!) and it is absolutely impossible to discuss the second episode without spoiling the big reversal at the end of the premiere episode. That is because at the end of the first episode, there is an event that absolutely defines the entire first season. "AKA Ladies Night" had private investigator Jessica Jones slowly working her way through clues on a missing person's case to reveal to her that the missing young woman, Hope Shlottman, was the victim of the same mind-controlling pusher as she once was. At the episode's climax, Shlottman murdered her own parents on a planted suggestion from Kilgrave and Jessica Jones made the conscious decision not to run away from the problem.
Opening with Jessica Jones at the Hell's Kitchen police precinct, where Jones is being interrogated by Detective Clemons about the murder of Hope Shlottman's parents, Jones is mortified to discover that the police tossed the Alias Investigations offices. At the end of the interrogation, Jessica Jones immediately runs to Luke Cage's bar to apologize for the police visiting his bar based on pictures they found at her offices. Mystified at how Kilgrave survived the bus accident, Jessica Jones visits Hope in prison to get information on his current mindset and location. It is there that Jessica decides to take up Hope's cause and exonerate her.
After attempting to enlist Jeri Hogarth to take Hope's case, Trish finds Jessica Jones and makes sure she is all right. Jessica opens an old file pertaining to a bus crash that killed Reva Connors, an accident that she knows was not exactly what was reported in the newspapers. The death of Reva Connors is what put Cage on Jones's radar and it appears that the bus accident that supposedly killed Kilgrave had loose ends that went unreported. Investigating the crash, Jones hopes to understand how Kilgrave survived after she separated from him and visiting the hospital leads Jessica Jones to an ambulance driver who drove a second ambulance away from the crash. Jones is horrified to discover that the driver who recovered Kilgrave's body is near death; he's a young man who had a stroke after donating both of his kidneys! When Gina approaches Jessica Jones about how Jones spied on her and Cage, Jones is lured into a fight that exposes her powers to Cage!
Jessica Jones starts as a mystery and "AKA Crush Syndrome" is absolutely loaded with clues. Jessica follows clues through the whole episode; from the site of the accident to the nearest hospital to the records that show there was no John Doe admitted the night of the bus accident. That chain of evidence leads Jessica to the second ambulance and the driver who was forced by Kilgrave to donate both his kidneys to the ailing pusher.
Luke Cage is well-defined in "AKA Crush Syndrome" as a man with a strong moral core. The surprise he exhibits when Jessica Jones tells him his current lover is married horrifies him. Unfortunately, for a guy who is very careful about protecting his own secrets, he is sloppy when it comes to protecting Jessica Jones. At the other end of the spectrum is Hope Shlottman. Shlottman is broken and angry by Kilgrave and when she looks right at Jessica Jones and advises the private investigator to kill herself, it is enough to send shivers up one's spine.
"AKA Crush Syndrome" is also good for defining the characters of Jeri and Trish. Hogarth is having an affair with her assistant, Pam, and Pam has to push Jeri into actually dealing with her wife. Hogarth also clearly defines her desire to win cases and her moral ambiguity when she suggests that she has uses for Kilgrave if Jessica Jones can prove he exists. Trish is clearly defined in "AKA Crush Syndrome" as Jessica Jones's best friend, a distinction noticeably lacking from the first episode. She is characterized as helpful and relentless, which is a good match for Jessica Jones. She also has a clear love for Jones and mother issues.
On the character development front, "AKA Crush Syndrome" is essential for developing Jessica Jones and creating the overall arc for her over the course of the first season. In meeting with Jack Denton, the ambulance driver, Jessica has her first clear moment of compassion. He begs her to kill him and she states that that is something she simply cannot do. That is borne out in the fight where Jones has Cage's back and it becomes an important turning point at the climax of the season. While some might enjoy that the fight exposes Luke Cage's super powers and reinforces Jessica Jones's incredible strength, the real importance of the scene comes in how both Cage and Jones show restraint and do not use their powers at lethal levels.
Jessica Jones is also developed in "AKA Crush Syndrome" as a woman who is persistent and intelligence and Krysten Ritter plays the aspects of Jones with incredible balance. The scene where Jones confronts Doctor Kurata helps Ritter define Jones amazingly well. The dialogue is exposition-heavy, but Ritter plays it perfectly as a woman whose mental wheels are turning rapidly and putting together the pieces of the story she is being told. That's a surprisingly tough thing for an actor to embody well, but Ritter pulls it off amazingly well.
Carrie-Anne Moss steals the two scenes she is in as Jeri Hogarth. Moss easily takes on the role of a lawyer in that she can deliver lines with cool professionalism and intelligence and in "AKA Crush Syndrome" she illustrates well why she was cast for the role that is not yet overly significant. Moss has wonderful presence even for such a bit role in this episode.
In his very brief appearance in the "AKA Crush Syndrome," David Tennant breaks out as Kilgrave. For the first time, his abilities, after being talked about, are very clearly seen. The magic of his cameo is that even in his brief scene, he establishes Kilgrave as having the same powers, but not the same delivery, as the antagonist from The X-Files's "Pusher" (reviewed here!). Tennant makes a powerful entrance and, in real Marvel villain fashion is not even fully revealed in his first appearance.
Ultimately, "AKA Crush Syndrome" is an excellent building episode, causing a decent rising action and sense of character development for three of the four essential characters in Jessica Jones.
[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 Krysten Ritter, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Listen Up Philip
She’s Out Of My League
Confessions Of A Shopaholic
Gilmore Girls - Season 7
Veronica Mars - Season 2
Someone Like You
For other television season and episode reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |