A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“WWJD?” refers to the phrase “What would Jesus do?”, which became a popular epithet for certain Christian Evangelical groups in the 1990s. The phrase served most omnipotently as a personal reminder to followers that they ought to follow the moral teachings of Jesus Christ throughout their daily lives. That epithet is one of the classic examples of something being a lot easier to say than to get done and certainly there is no one in the realm of Jessica Jones who is truly following that into fashion, outside of perhaps Trish and Malcolm. The most curious use of that epithet, however, is one I would never have expected out of the series after gleaming the title, a meaning that traces itself back to one of Jeri’s most despicable moments. When Jeri suggests to Jessica that it was a shame that Kilgrave was using his actions for evil, there was a thinly veiled desire for control, for power. That hunger was despicable to Jessica in every form and she made it known that such convenient “sides” didn’t exist. Perhaps Jeri at that point had become accustomed to a world that was divided sharply into the realms of black and white, buoyed by her job in which she functioned the best by such a division. Jessica, free of those specific constraints, knows by virtue of her own existence that such a division is crap and controlling Kilgrave is really no different than Kilgrave controlling someone else. In some sense, there’s a falsehood to that, as there’s little declaring that anyone controlling Kilgrave would commit crimes in a similar fashion. But there is an understanding within Jessica that Jeri so far lacks and that’s that there’s often a pathetically small guarantee that such an attempt is going to remain forever in the realm of what people call “good”.
It is surprising then that Jessica turns towards that endeavor in the best episode yet of Marvel’s latest offering, but she does it in a significantly distinct way that differentiates her from Jeri. There’s no desire from Jessica to use him specifically for what she wants, there’s simply an awakening that perhaps, with the right guidance, Kilgrave could learn to use his gift or curse (depending on how you look at it) to help people instead of harming them. It’s a revelation that grows originally out of Jessica and Kilgrave’s first day of what unaware observers might call domestic bliss. One of those blissfully unaware yet slightly repugnant observers happens to be Jessica’s old neighbor Mrs. De Luca. She assumes that Jessica bought her old house back and this time she had a nice British hubby along with her for the journey (Kilgrave’s smile at the thought is a terrifying facial vestige for him to leave behind). She sits down at their breakfast table, with the slightest sense of unnerving suspense and Jessica treats the affair with an understandable level of dismissiveness and derision. Kilgrave knows this would make Jessica uncomfortable degree, but it’s him forcing her to be in a position he wants to see her in so he simply rolls with it. Mrs. De Lucca opens her mouth and the unnecessary commentary on the deaths of Jessica’s family members rolls out. She notes that she could feel that they were going to die, that some stupid aura had made her feel that some tragedy was happenstance. It’s a terrible thing to say and Kilgrave uses his mind control to get her to admit that she made the whole thing up in order to feel important. It’s at that moment that something in Jessica’s mind clicks and Kilgrave’s tragic history seals it.
Jessica has a rule with Kilgrave, however, a rule that demands that Kilgrave only touch her when she gives her genuine consent. Seeing Jessica’s contentment at his takedown of Mrs. De Luca, Kilgrave overreaches and touches her hand. Jessica immediately recoils, disgusted at Kilgrave’s overreaching assumption that he did a nice thing for her and then suddenly everything was okay, that the blissful breakfast he had devised had transformed itself into a weird reality. At that moment Jessica snaps, reminding Kilgrave of the myriad of ways he had raped her. He had violated her sexually, physically, mentally, emotionally and he simply doesn’t see it that way. He tries to rationalize it with repeating that’s not what he was trying to do, but what he thinks he was trying to do is completely irrelevant. The fact is, whatever he thought his intentions were, he took over Jessica’s mind and had her do whatever he wanted. There was no way, shape, or form in which Jessica could have given her outright consent and that, no matter what words Kilgrave tries to use to rationalize it, is rape. He tries to defend himself with the reveal that his parents had tortured him (more to come on that in the next review), that he was alone, isolated. Jessica doesn’t buy it for a second, retorting that her own parents had died and she was left with a guardian whose form of parenting was abuse and little else and she wasn’t going around raping anyone. Kilgrave mutters that he hates the word rape but has no other rebuttal. Still, Jessica garners the strength to devise a test for Kilgrave to see if his powers could be diverted for the good but they can’t. The only way it would work is if Kilgrave could see the good, the selflessness, but he can only see the good he does in a selfish light. Over a dinner of Chinese takeout, Jessica manages to knock him out with chemicals and walks off triumphantly into the night.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Purple’s not really my color.”
+“Yeah, making a shit situation better.”
+“I’ll wear one to your funeral.”
+“You’ve never paid a goddamn tax in your life.”
+/-The bomb going off was an incredibly affecting cliffhanger, even though frankly Simpson as a so-called “Special Ops guy” should have seen that coming from a mile away
Episode Title: AKA WWJD?
Written by: Scott Reynolds
Directed by: Simon Cellan Jones
Image Courtesy: Multiversity Comics