A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“Men and power, it’s a disease.” It’s a blunt statement from Jessica, but one that is as sharp as it is obvious. Anyone who understands the basic constructs of male entitlement that arises from the privilege of patriarchy sees right through the simplicity of the quote and the layers of oppression that are hidden beneath it. The notion of power is often construed through the grand and dim arenas of politics (think of the excellent parallel trajectories of Varys and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones) but it is rarely construed through the ideals of everyday existence, specifically sexual assault. Rape is often seen through the lens of the perpetrator and not the victim, a significant consequence of the patriarchy that has crafted a culture of blaming the victim. People often arrive, through those unfortunate lens, at the conclusion that rape is primary about sex. It is not. The coercive sexual act at the center of rape is never the primary motive. Stated or otherwise, the primary purpose is the expression of power. The causations are numerous, from the perpetrator exacting revenge because of a sexual and or romantic rebuff to wanting to establish a hierarchy in which the perpetrator is top dog. Rape is about the establishment of said dominance, of power over another being and how often that essential fact is lost is astounding. Kilgrave, much like any other antagonist, sees the world from a specific perspective and it is not a mistake nor a coincidence than in his petrifying worldview, he is the victim. That hasn’t been explicitly noted yet, but it is evident in his behavior. Why exactly that complex exists (or if it exists at all) remains to be seen, but it gives himself in his own mind the countenance with which to keep his nonexistent conscience clean. Well, as long as Jessica doesn’t have something to say about that.
Hope’s case going public wasn’t just about giving her justice, Jessica’s desire to see said justice play out, and especially not Jeri’s stupendous concern about her irrational responsibility. It has seismic effects upon the public, as such well-publicized cases are often wont to do. Murder cases are as prevalent as the amount of empty whiskey bottles that leave Jessica’s apartment, but there are a few things about Hope’s case that make it more prime for the primetime limelight. There’s the angle of two desperate parents trying to find their daughter. There’s the tragedy of them losing their lives right after they found her. Then there’s the manner of their deaths, being shot to death in a closed, moving elevator. As if that wasn’t interesting enough, there’s the mind control angle from where Hope is claiming that she was mind-controlled by a terrifying man with a British accent. Some believe her here but for the most part the public largely finds everything she says to be fairly ridiculous and it isn’t exactly too hard to fault them for thinking that. The show, however, never truly sells the point of how big Hope’s case has gotten. Outside of Trish’s show, the media is largely absent here and so at every juncture where the public as an idea becomes relevant, it feels like the show is grasping at straws. The one area where it succeeds in this regard is when it acknowledges the ripple effect Kilgrave’s mere presence would have on the public. Dozens upon dozens of clients come into Jeri’s offices, claiming that they committed whatever act, criminal or otherwise, under the guise of someone controlling them. There’s a plethora of nonsense cases of course, but there are a few that actually have happened. Out of those cases, the power Kilgrave chooses to exhibit pivots towards another angle of privilege that makes the thematic construction of the series that much more solid. Kilgrave’s traumatization of his victims is an affirmation of the bias and privilege he exhibits in his own self. Case in point, out of all of the victims in Jeri’s office, the rich white guy suffers the least. He bemoans the loss of his jacket because it was Zegna (which I had to look up), while there is a black man who was forced to abandon his own child on the street and become Kilgrave’s chauffeur. His wife divorced him as a result and he was charged with child abandonment. His entire life was destroyed in that one instance when Kilgrave decided to place his eyes on him.
99 Friends takes the slightest of steps back from Kilgrave dominating every frame and instead focuses a bit more on the investigative side of Jessica Jones. It is episode four and as she hasn’t done a lot of investigating work outside of her arch nemesis, she is approached by a woman named Audrey Eastman, whose husband is apparently cheating on someone. Eastman wants photographic evidence of her philandering partner and it seems basic enough at first before taking a fairly dramatic turn that goes into the most obvious reaches of Marvel lore in a fairly dramatic fashion. The events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I am far less impressed by than most people) are dabbled in fairly sporadically throughout the television universe and Jessica Jones has done much the same and arguably muted the cinematic events to the realms of the bygone. That works well considering the rather dodgy quality of the cinematic universe as a whole but from time to time it is nice for the story to acknowledge the dots somewhere else so there’s a genuine feeling of logical continuity without sacrificing its own internal logic in doing so. The most upsetting thing about the generic superhero fights of The Avengers and Man of Steel, for example, is the sheer amount of carnage that is wrought by the superheroes fighting without the films really acknowledging the mass casualties that were taking place. Audrey’s mother had been crushed underneath a building when the Avengers had come into town and had that ridiculous climactic fight with Loki and his forces. She holds all gifted folks responsible for her mother’s demise and it’s a neat human moment for the series to capture, even if Audrey herself doesn’t inspire much sympathy by dismissing the word “retarded” as a euphemism for “gifted.” Jessica dispatches her and her idiot of a husband in about three seconds, but there’s plenty of other problems that await. Her neighbor Malcolm, who has so far been absolutely nothing more than a mere cipher completely centered around his drug use, turns out to be a spy under Kilgrave’s direction. Keep your enemies close, isn’t that the proverb?
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Nothing plays like pictures.”
+“We’re staring a band.”
+“Yes, you are a paragon of mental health.”
+“Whose side would that be?” Jeri’s point that Kilgrave could work for the “good guys” is her worst moment yet as a person and that’s saying something.
+There was some great camerawork here, courtesy of David Petrarch’s direction. The entire episode felt like Jessica was being watched by an outside force, which makes the final reveal that much more thrilling.
-For all of the progressive aspects of Jones, diversity is a real problem. There are almost no characters of color on this show with dialogue and up until this point, Malcolm was a walking stereotype. Hopefully that changes going forward.
Episode Title: AKA 99 Friends
Written by: Hilly Hicks, Jr.
Directed by: David Petrarca
Image Courtesy: Marvel Wiki