Jessica Jones 1.13: “AKA Smile” Review

Smile

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

The first season of Jessica Jones is a triumph for Marvel, a triumph I was late in arriving to but one that is largely delightful despite the immeasurable quantities of morose morbidity. The finale of Jones wraps up the story in a satisfying enough manner, stumbling on occasion and trying a bit too hard to make sure the audience is aware of the oncoming conflicts that await our cynical protagonist in the show’s second season. The comparisons to Daredevil are a bit inevitable, but the crossover finally happens here when Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple arrives. Jessica, frantic about the state of Luke after she shot him in self-defense, arrives in a hospital in a state of panic. Jessica doesn’t always harbor the most well-thought of plans, which makes more sense out of her bringing a man whose skin can’t be pierced. That becomes a pivotal plot point that brings in Claire as a male nurse trying to puncture Luke’s skin with the proper medications is simply unable to do it. That is logical and certainly some have to find ways around it, as Claire ends up doing when she sticks a syringe into Luke’s eye to draw out the proper fluid. That still doesn’t explain how the bullet pierced Luke’s skin, however, unless I’m mistaken and someone will explain in the aftermath, but that is the impression the episode gave in the first place. She makes a certain note that she is used to dealing with gifted folk who bloody themselves up on a regular basis and perhaps that’s an indication that we’ll see the character again, perhaps in a more logical way that doesn’t make her appearance seem that forced, contrived. Claire is definitely someone whose presence could be useful to Jessica in the future, with the understanding that her foes are likely to become more expansive going forward.

For now, her greatest foe Kilgrave has taken up residence in the apartment of an unfortunate couple, whose tragic ending is the best use of subtlety this show has to offer in terms of characters. One of the couple is forced to take a high dosage of drugs into his own blood, his demise certain as his husband is surely looking at life in prison  over his dismemberment of Kilgrave’s father (unless Jeri can get him out and garner a second good deed to her name). Kilgrave is clamoring for his father to speed up the experiment, the first indicator within the episode that his arc would come to an end at the end of the hour and not stretched into season two. He’s desperate, he’s despairing, and his love for Jessica has been transformed into a vindictive hatred. That transformation makes Kilgrave a less interesting character to be sure, the complexities of his terrifying obsession becoming less so in favor of dramatic transparency. That desire, that anger at being rejected, drives him completely towards the goal of hurting Jessica, of teaching her a fatal lesson because she dared to belittle his fragile, toxic masculinity. That perspective, of course, is completely bonkers because all Jessica did was make a choice by utilizing her own independence. But choice is something Kilgrave has never understood, choice is something he has never attempted to understand, and his masculinity is so fragile that even understanding Jessica’s choice would lead him to turn that into a rejection of his own being. And that inward self-hatred would, perhaps, lead him down the same path. Kilgrave has never been the most rational of beings and that pumping of all the drugs into his bloodstream does more than momentarily spread purple throughout his pale visage. It solidifies his destruction.

I’ve noted before that Jessica’s plans aren’t always the most well thought-out or frankly not that thought-out at all but that gives some of those plans an authenticity clever crafting on television doesn’t always garner. Human beings are fallible and they are as susceptible to rash thinking, emotions, and internal conflicts as anyone thinks they are and perhaps even more. Why no one has thought of using headphones against Kilgrave yet is beyond me (once again, I may credit human fallibility here even if it stretches logic just slightly in this specific example), so to see Trish walking into the bank dressed as Jessica with headphones lead to a massive sigh of relief. It was ingenious and it didn’t entirely work right in that circumstance, but Kilgrave didn’t get what he wanted and we saw Jessica’s fantastic leap through the air, so all in all, it went better than most of her plans so far. The fight sequence spills out of the bank and onto the docks, where Kilgrave forces a mass melee between civilians, a scene taken straight out of the Alias comics and rendered on screen fantastically (even if the choreography was a bit sketchy).

In the midst of the chaos, Kilgrave calls forward Trish and stops the fight with a single sentence. “I’ll be racing her everyday,” he purrs hideously, looking towards Trish with a hungry pair of eyes. “She’ll be my plaything. She’ll be my slave.” That was his revenge on Jessica, taking away her best friend and leaving Jessica with the knowledge that she had doomed the one person she loved in the world because she couldn’t love him (not that he ever did a single thing to earn her love). Jessica plays along, letting Kilgrave believe that she is truly powerless to stop him from taking Trish away. He aptly asks, in his final line, for a declaration of love from Jessica. “I love you,” she notes, but the camera pivots towards Trish as Kilgrave comes close to Jessica. Her eyes narrowed and she says her final word to Kilgrave, a word that is remarkably simple but imbued with a plethora of loaded meanings. “Smile,” she sneers right before she cleanly snaps his neck. In a second it’s over and the camera pans down to Kilgrave’s broken body. Jeri saves Jessica from life imprisonment as her official good deed of the season and for now, the future looks significantly brighter with the horizon, despite the fight with IGH that lies ahead. But for now, Jessica is content and for the future, she’s certainly not alone.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“I am no one’s sidekick.”

+Jessica describing Jeri: “A sack of dark, oozing shit in an expensive suit.”

+“It helps with the self-loathing, trust me.”

+“Take It Down!” is a great music choice, even if it’s a little too on-the-nose

+I’ve warmed to Malcolm and maybe his move to become Jessica’s secretary affords him more responsibility and character work from the writers

+The final shot of the broken door is a great reference to the pilot’s opening

+I cannot emphasize enough how great the word choice of “smile” is. Subtle, loaded, brilliant.

Great

8.5/10

Episode Title: AKA Smile

Written by: Story by: Jamie King & Scott Reynolds

Teleplay by: Scott Reynolds & Melissa Rosenberg

Directed by: Michael Rymer

Image Courtesy: Digital Spy

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