Jessica corners Kilgrave, Simpson heals up in the hospital, Trish contemplates murder, and Hogarth gets in way over her head. As Jessica Jones’ first season nears its climax, everyone is struggling to gain control of their fates, to contain or redirect or master their problems.
In “AKA Sin Bin” and “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” the consequences of all that struggling for control is total disaster. And actually, the whole concept of “consequences” proves impossible to agree on. After suffering through terror and trauma, everyone is trying to figure out who’s at fault. There’s a lot of tense dialogue in these two episodes about assigning blame, or figuring out legal and moral responsibility.
Jessica has locked Kilgrave in a sealed transparent cell, rigged with an electric-shock failsafe in case he gets out of hand. While she figures out her next move, she projects movies of the painful experiments he endured as a child into the cell. Practically, this is Jessica’s attempt to torture Kilgrave into confessing his guilt. But I think that she’s also symbolically trying to lock Kilgrave away with his pain—she’s indulging a fantasy that you seal a problem off from the world permanently, hermetically. That symbolic “fantasy” gets even more literal in a flashback in “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” as Jessica daydreams about escaping from Kilgrave on a fairytale white horse—leaving the past magically behind.
Jessica holds Kilgrave prisoner for almost the entirety of “AKA Sin Bin,” and the episode largely reads like an extralegal trial: Kilgrave on display in his cell while his various captors try to figure out what to do with him. As well as all this legal and moral “accounting,” there’s a lot of literal counting going on. Numbers are everywhere in these two episodes: the 1,000 cuts, the 18 seconds during which Kilgrave claims Jessica “chose” him, the 24 hours it takes to create an anti-Kilgrave vaccine… or for Kilgrave’s influence to wear off. As if you could quantify an impossible situation and solve it like a difficult math problem.
Of course, things aren’t so simple. Jessica could just leave Kilgrave to die, as Trish suggests, but that would mean giving up on the physical “proof” of his abilities that she needs to vindicate Hope.
So, Jessica reaches out for help, enlisting Hogarth and Clemons as credible legal witnesses. But they both quickly end up as Jessica’s co-conspirators, and then as victims of Kilgrave’s mind control. It’s as if they’re contaminated—and not just by Kilgrave’s powers. They’re not just witnesses, but participants.
In Kilgrave, Hogarth sees an opportunity to make “any stubborn problem disappear”—namely, Wendy’s stubborn refusal to agree to a divorce on Hogarth’s terms. Hogarth is jealous not specifically of Kilgrave’s powers, but of his power over people. She sabotages Jessica’s electric failsafe and helps Kilgrave escape; the situation quickly escapes her control, with horrific results for her wife and girlfriend.
As Kilgrave slips out of Hogarth and Jessica’s control, we get a major revelation about his control over Jessica—at some point, she’s grown immune to his powers and doesn’t have to do what he says anymore. As a plot point, Jessica’s sudden immunity might sound a bit too neat and convenient, but onscreen it feels like a major cathartic victory. At some point, without expecting it, without even noticing it, Jessica has magically escaped, gotten a little better, gotten a lot stronger. Her sudden, miraculous immunity makes her feelings of guilt and complacency more complex and convincing—and it also makes her escape from Kilgrave feel more transcendent, complete, and moving.
To capture proof of Kilgrave’s guilt on video, Jessica also enlists the help of his parents (Lisa Emery and Michael Siberry). “AKA 1,000 Cuts” provides some comic-book science about Kilgrave’s powers—he emits “microparticles,” like a virus that infects and influences people around him. Kilgrave’s father thinks he can manufacture a vaccine, and so begins a tense, 24-hour race against time.
Meanwhile, Simpson—another mad science experiment gone terribly out of control—has, well, gone terribly out of control. After taking some mysterious red, white, and blue pills from his mysterious doctor, Simpson decides to take down Kilgrave, no matter what it takes. He attacks Trish, kills Clemons, and burns all of Jessica’s evidence. Increasingly, Jessica is being backed into a corner—it’s looking less and less like she can trap Kilgrave, prosecute him, or cure him.
Like I said: consequences are tricky. Jessica can’t get the justice she wants or closure she needs—she can’t even get reliable proof of what she’s trying to avenge. Kilgrave is an archetypical abuser, liar, and manipulator—he never admits guilt, but he makes his victims feel complicit in his crimes. Throughout these two episodes (and throughout the entire season), Jessica has to have several painful, infuriating arguments with Kilgrave about which of them remembers their past most accurately, about whose memory is true. Jessica expresses—again and again—a desire to hear Kilgrave admit what he did, but she never really gets it.
Meanwhile, Malcolm is trying to figure out his own guilty feelings—specifically, what he owes Robyn (Colby Minifie) after helping conceal Ruben’s murder. At the Kilgrave-survivors’ support group, Malcolm discusses his “shame” about being a “victim”—he’s still working out how illogically intermingled those two things are. Unfortunately, Robyn overhears Malcolm’s confession, takes control of the group, and convinces them that all their victimhood and misfortune is Jessica Jones’ fault. The support group attacks Jessica at her apartment and knocks her out, allowing Kilgrave to kidnap Hope as she’s released from prison.
In the horrific climax of “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” Jessica and Kilgrave’s father courageously walk into an elaborate, impossible trap. Kilgrave holds Hope and the entire support group hostage, forcing Jessica to choose which lives to try to save. Once again, control over the situation seems just out of Jessica’s reach.
Hope makes the ultimate sacrifice—cutting her own throat—a horrific expression of desperation, rage, futility, and defiance. But Hope’s suicide is also ultimately a desperate attempt to control her situation in some way: to force Jessica’s hand, to force her to kill Kilgrave, no matter what, because she has nothing else to lose.