Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Ballad Of Luke Cage "AKA Take A Bloody Number!"

The Good: Decent performances, Good character moments
The Bad: Predictable plot
The Basics: A mediocre ramp-up to the finale, "AKA Take A Bloody Number" gives Luke Cage an understanding of what Jessica Jones went through with Kilgrave and gives viewers that battle they truly wanted to see.

This weekend, I am at a Star Trek convention as a dealer and I was put in the exciting position of having my opinion matter when the conversation I was having with some fellow dealers veered onto the subject of Jessica Jones. The person with whom I was conversing was up to episode seven and unsure whether or not she was going to finish the first season. As I round out my second viewing of the entire season, I find myself considering the question of, ultimately, was it worth it? The penultimate episode of the first season is "AKA Take A Bloody Number" and ramping into the conflict that has been building for the entire season, the episode's direction seems more obvious than audacious and in my conversation, I found myself advising the person to end on the high note of "AKA WWJD?" (reviewed here!) and just leave the season there if she was on the fence about bothering with the show.

"AKA Take A Bloody Number" bears some blame for that advice. Going into a season finale, especially a first season finale, a show has to have an energy that drives the viewer to watch to the very end. "AKA Take A Bloody Number" lacks the essential urgency of the best penultimate episodes. Instead, "AKA Take A Bloody Number" follows immediately upon "AKA I've Got The Blues" (reviewed here!) and goes in the most predictable, Marvel Formulaic way possible. It's impossible to discuss "AKA Take A Bloody Number" without some references to exactly where "AKA I've Got The Blues" left off.

Following the destruction of his bar, Jessica Jones takes Luke Cage back to the Alias Investigations office to dry him out from Kilgrave's influence. Kilgrave is still alive and has his father, Albert, with him and they are attempting to create a serum that will boost the range and duration of Kilgrave's powers. Jones is convinced that Kilgrave is trying to up his mind-control strength in order to be able to control her once again. At the hospital, Trish is recovering from her ordeal well, when her mother comes to visit. Dorothy tries to get Trish to let her back in and sis rejected by Trish.

Rummaging through the hotel where Thompson was staying leads Jones and Cage to Zalk Labs for a drug that Kilgrave has the technicians making non-stop. Cage and Jones have a heart to heart where Cage forgives Jones for Riva's death. Back at Trish's apartment, Dorothy arrives with a file about the mysterious organization that Simpson was working for from her personal archives. It turns out that Simpson was made into a supersoldier by the same shadowy organization that paid Jessica Jones's medical bills following the car accident that killed Jones's family. Following a technician from Zalk leads Jones into a confrontation with Kilgrave that pits Jones and Cage against one another.

"AKA Take A Bloody Number" does what viewers who are invested in the characters of Jessica Jones have secretly wanted since Kilgrave's powers were verified on-screen. The episode puts the unstoppable force in conflict with an immovable object and the result is entertaining and predictably devastating. The Kilgrave-influenced Luke Cage is a terrifying notion and given that Jessica Jones's super-strength is not enough to stop him, it puts Jones in the difficult bind of trying to survive Cage and Kilgrave while trying to kill the latter and save the former.

On the character front, "AKA Take A Bloody Number" plays off an important, if subtle, moment from "AKA Ladies Night" (reviewed here!), where Jessica Jones deduces through observations just how important Luke Cage's bar is to him. Jones's observations are proven right in "AKA Take A Bloody Number" and without the anchor to normalcy, Luke Cage bounces between being Kilgrave's pawn and Jessica Jones's willing tool in her quest to take down Kilgrave. The episode also plays off the most interesting characterization of Kilgrave, which has him infatuated with Jones and threatened by any man who might take his place in Jones's heart.

En route, "AKA Take A Bloody Number" fills with a scene between Robyn and Malcolm that has the flaky upstairs neighbor setting Malcolm back on the path of virtue. Or virtuous enough to be a sidekick and moral guide to Jessica Jones. Malcolm intends to flee Hell's Kitchen for his parent's home where he wants to reconnect with what is important and, in that way, he has almost the opposite character arc of Luke Cage in the episode. Cage could have been of use to Jones by getting away and leaving any potential sphere of Kilgrave's influence; Malcolm learns he needs to stay to help and find purpose with Jessica Jones. It's a weird conduit that Robyn becomes to help him understand his own arc.

Krysten Ritter gives a decent performance in "AKA Take A Bloody Number," as Jessica Jones is forced on an emotional roller coaster through the course of the episode. Amid the fight scenes, Ritter emotes well. David Tennant does great with the material given to him, but in "AKA Take A Bloody Number" his character Kilgrave degenerates into a pretty generic Marvel supervillain lacking in the subtlety and intrigue that made him watchable and incredible only a few episodes earlier. Mike Colter exhibits enough range in "AKA Take A Bloody Number" to convince viewers that he can absolutely handle a spin-off if Luke Cage has a decent story to tell [hey, executive producers, if you're reading this - why not shake up the formula you've developed with Daredevil and Jessica Jones and have an established villain in place that Luke Cage finds wherever he goes and have him have to stop him there, as opposed to a similar story with an entrenched protagonist and a rising antagonist who takes several episodes to arrive on-screen for a big reveal?].

But, ultimately, "AKA Take A Bloody Number" is a set-up episode and it is vamping for time as viewers wait for the inevitable confrontation between Jones and Kilgrave that will cap the season.

[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 Michael Siberry, please visit my reviews of:
Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)
House Of Cards - Season 1


For other film and television reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission. | | |

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