My Poker Face
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
There’s little to be celebrated in this dark and messy installment of Jessica Jones. There’s sequences relating to Hope’s circumstances that are some of the darkest the show has yet to craft, which is saying something in and of itself, then there are the sequences where you feel the writers are passing over hard-earned poignancy and complexity for something I’m not quite sure yields them a solid return on their investment. That investment was in the relationship between Jessica and Luke Cage, which makes less and less sense as time goes on. It began with a remarkable spark that spiraled into uncharted territory for the Marvel screen universe, igniting an interracial relationship that included the roughest sex yet for the brand. The chemistry between Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter is undeniable, but the logic in their relationship is slipping and I’m not quite sure the series truly earns the dramatic moments it attaches to this relationship, moments that, to any reasonable person, would suggest that the time for this relationship has truly and inevitably wrapped up. At the beginning, I had two potential explanations for why Jessica was spying on the man with whom she apparently falls in love with (to a certain extent anyway). I assumed that he was either the target of a client and maybe, although less likely, was that she simply had a crush on him. After Luke’s impenetrable skin was revealed, I assumed that Jessica had suspicions that he was unbreakable and maybe that’s why she was following him. Those assumptions change here and as a result, so does the relationship between Jessica and Luke, whether or not the writers actually intended for that to be the result.
The revelation that Jessica was involved in the death of Reva was a shocking one but in light of that revelation, Jessica’s stalking behavior becomes considerably more problematic. When she saw Reva’s picture in Luke’s apartment, I assumed that was when she discovered the connection, but upon rewatch her expression is less shocked and more muted and understanding. Was she waiting for a right moment to tell him that she was involved with his wife’s death, even though Kilgrave was the one responsible? Was she hoping that nothing would ever happen? But in that case, the romantic connections she forged with him become much murkier as a result. On one hand, I understand that there isn’t much one can do sometimes when there’s a strong attraction that is reciprocated by the other individual. That is the part where I can’t really fault Jessica. But it’s one issue to acknowledge that attraction but it’s another issue entirely to act upon it knowing that specific information that she does. It’s muddling the waters in a way where they don’t need to be muddled, wallowing in unnecessary uncertainty when the writers could have specified exactly what was driving her motivations here. In other episodes, this wouldn’t have mattered as much, but the emotional climax of the episode rests upon Jessica making her confession to Luke when he’s about to go berserk on the driver of the bus that killed Reva. It’s a choppily edited and written sequence and as the emotional heft between Luke and Jessica doesn’t entirely make sense anymore, the dramatic beats don’t land nearly as shockingly as they should have.
Hope’s segments of the episode are its best and they display Jessica Jones at the top of its game. Hope is beat by prison mate Sissy Garcia and for a moment it’s bemusing as to why that’s actually happening. And then one realizes that Hope had hired Sissy to beat her so she might induce an abortion of Kilgrave’s baby. It’s an extremely disquieting scene and one that goes right beyond the realm of television and into the heart of reality, where a woman’s right to choose is under constant attack by so-called pro-lifers. In their mind, Hope’s child could be a gift, a win that arises out of horrific circumstances. That logic is so profoundly unjust, so unmistakably sexist, that it terrifies me every time someone legitimately believes it and unfortunately there’s a plethora of people who find logic within that argumentation as easily as slicing a bread knife through butter. For Hope, there is no gift here, no win. The child feels like a tumor growing inside of her and every time she feels that tumor, she feels raped again and again and again and her parents are shot again and again and again. She became so desperate to remove that traumatic feeling from her mind that she went to the danger of risking her own life just so she could remove that vestige of abuse from her own self. That’s the reality of abortion that so often gets lost in this nonsensical debate that has far more real-life implications than most people realize. Even if abortion was made illegal wholesale, that doesn’t end abortion. That just means that more women die from it. It’s not as if this patriarchal culture does anything about rapists, however, quickly rationalizing rape in a myriad of ways where the blame falls upon the victim rather than the perpetrator. Jessica and Jeri help Hope induce an abortion and for those moments there’s only an immensely disquieting silence and the slightest sliver of hope in camaraderie and understanding.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“A freedom in enslavement.” Malcolm’s best line yet and one of the best for the show. So simple, so eloquent, so powerful.
+The Poker Game
+“I think this is what they call a conundrum.”
+Jessica’s optimistic voice
+“I’m rude to everybody.”
-The subplot that gives the episode its title between Jessica and Luke doesn’t entirely work, treading ground in between Hope’s scenes
-The voiceovers really don’t work
Episode Title: AKA You’re a Winner!
Written by: Edward Ricourt
Directed by: Stephen Surjik
Image Courtesy: Net Freaks!