Jessica Jones: 1.3 AKA It’s Called Whiskey / 1.4 AKA 99 Friends Review

Insecurity, paranoia, and (missed) connections.

As Jessica commits to her quest to take down Kilgrave, Jessica Jones doubles down on her insecurity and paranoia.

In “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” and “AKA 99 Friends,” the photograph and window motifs introduced in the first two episodes are everywhere. Jessica confronts Kilgrave in a glassy multistory penthouse with huge windows and skylights, locking eyes with him through a pane of glass. Even as a series of his brainwashed minions ambush her, the danger is less about what’s happening than who might be watching. It’s an action sequence in a giant fishbowl.

In the penthouse, she discovers a creepy room full of photographs of her—her face multiplied, reflected, magnified ten feet tall. Kilgrave’s not just spying on her. Terrifyingly, he wants her to know it, to see her face reflected through his eyes.

Through much of these two episodes, Jessica is trying to find video footage of the person who’s photographing her for Kilgrave. “Nothing plays like pictures,” she says, tailing a client while perched between two buildings. In the past, Jess has used her camera lens to keep her distance from the world around her. In these episodes, photos continue to get her into trouble—the photos her newest client (Jessica Hecht) wants of her cheating husband, and the haunting photograph hidden behind Luke Cage’s mirror.

The irony is that Jess’s essential defense mechanism—constant vigilance, watching and judging  and monitoring the people around her—has been turned against her. People are watching and photographing her—and when they’re not, she imagines that they are. Her strategies of disconnection and isolation stop working, and in these episodes we see her begin to rely on others for help—Trish, Hogarth, and even Officer Simpson (Will Traval).

And, at first, it seems like she’s going to begin to rely on Luke, too… or at least connect with him. After his theatrical, um, “home improvement demonstration” at the end of “AKA Crush Syndrome,” Luke and Jessica have a few hours of passionate, giddy sex. You get the impression that they’re both simply thrilled to have sex with someone they can’t hurt—but, of course, that concern isn’t just about physical hurt.

But ultimately, Jessica distances herself from Luke, brusquely breaking things off at his door. Sure, she’s concerned that Kilgrave might hurt him. And yes, she’s not interested in real intimacy. But she’s also terrified of the other connection between them, the one he doesn’t know about: Jessica was involved in the death of Luke’s late girlfriend.

Throughout Jessica Jones’ first four episodes, Jess is constantly bouncing between fearing for the people close to her, and fearing that they’re working against her (sometimes, with good reason!) Setting off—alone, of course—to get to the bottom of her shady client’s shady case, Jessica finds herself in a trap. She may not want to be a hero, but she gets caught up in the popular backlash against “gifted” people that’s been brewing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since Loki rode a Chitauri invasion through Manhattan.

Yesterday, Forbes published this misguided article, bemoaning the fact that Jessica isn’t regularly crossing paths with characters from the rest of the MCU. But what that article calls her “weird disconnection” is precisely the point. There’s exactly nothing about her situation that would benefit from a vengeful smashing or air support from a helicarrier.

In response to her attackers’ anti-superhuman hysteria, Jessica threatens them with the wrath of her “99 Friends”—a city full of invisible “gifted” folks who she can allegedly summon at a moment’s notice.

The sad joke, of course, is that she’s (mostly) lying. She doesn’t have a lot of friends, and they probably couldn’t help her if she did. The significance of Jessica Jones telling this particular story in the context of the MCU is that, in one way or another, Jessica Jones is beyond help. Ironically, her “connections” to the larger MCU only emphasize her isolation.

In these episodes’ action sequences, we get to see Jess use her physical “gifts”—really emphasizing just how a phonebook full of superhuman friends isn’t really a problem. Sure, Jess gets in a few scrapes, but their outcome isn’t based on how hard or how skillfully she fights. She’s not trying to inflict maximum damage—she’s doing damage control. Her assailants are victims she has to save, or at least try not to hurt—they’re symptoms of her problem, but the man pulling their strings is out of her reach. She’s terrified of his hold on her, but she can’t get close enough to touch him.

Meanwhile, Hogarth assembles a group of Kilgrave’s other victims. Jess relies on their testimony to vindicate Hope, and lead her to Kilgrave, but isn’t willing to speak publicly herself. “I’m using them,” she says bluntly. When they form an informal support group, she doesn’t participate—she just listens and then demands info. Basically, she’s terrified of how much she relates to them—she’s frustrated and appalled by their weakness, by their terrible connection, and by how much they have in common.

 

Image courtesy of Netflix

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Mad Moll Green

Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.

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