Season 1, Episode 6
Written by Edward Ricourt
Directed by Stephen Surjik
Kilgrave gives new meaning to the phrase “the banality of evil.” Though his use of Jessica and Hope has been absolutely horrifying, so far he’s made no overtures to do some big-scale evil with his powers (that we know of) a la Doc Ock or Wilson Fisk. The opening of episode six exemplifies this as Kilgrave chooses to fleece some random card sharks of a million dollars. It shows that he’s awful, yes, but it’s a strange way to continue proving his dark side.
Jessica Jones has made many interesting choices like this in characterizing Kilgrave. He’s brilliant and ruthless, yet he spends his time printing out pictures of Jessica to plaster on his temporary walls and playing cards rather than seeking world power. It’s not your typical supervillain fare.
No, Kilgrave is a new kind of supervillain: a sexual and domestic abuser. Not only do we discover in this episode that Hope was raped by Kilgrave and is now carrying his child (despite her efforts at an in-prison, ad-hoc abortion), but in order to save Malcolm, Jessica has agreed to send photos of herself to Kilgrave each day. He’s using this tactic to control her, as he used the recreation of their relationship via Hope to draw her back into his life.
His villainy is stripping women of their control. Perhaps it makes Kilgrave extra scary to me, as a woman, but I think it’s extremely important for this particular kind of villain to be put at the forefront of a strong pop culture franchise.
What’s equally important, here, is that Jessica is otherwise surrounded by strong, trustworthy male figures in Luke, Malcolm and even Simpson. Throughout this episode, Malcolm makes his best effort to protect her from Luke while Luke tries to repair their relationship as well as protect her from Kilgrave. It’s so important to showcase healthy relationships in the media and I’m so glad this is the “good versus evil” nucleus of one of the only female superhero franchises running.
Of course, Luke’s attempt at reconciliation doesn’t stop Jessica from trying to sabotage it by continuing to lie to him. As they work together to find a guy named Antoine, Luke reveals that if he finds Antoine, his sister Serena will give Luke evidence that Riva’s killing wasn’t an accident. Rather than come clean about her involvement with her death here, she acts like nothing happened – after they share some intimate moments, including a sweet ride on Luke’s Harley. Jessica might not have kryptonite, but she definitely has a fatal weakness: healthy relationships.
Jessica as a domestic abuse victim who is constantly walking the tight rope between dangerous and healthy relationships due to past trauma is fascinating. I trust this allegory will expand through the show and, again, I’m happy women’s issues are the thematic center of the series.
This, of course, includes Hope’s later, successful abortion. Many have said this before me, but I really appreciated how the show portrayed Hope’s abortion: she was decisive and self-assured and did not show remorse. So many fictional accounts of abortion are weepy and require serious emotional breakdowns, plus plenty of reassurance that it’s “the right thing to do.” Hope didn’t care what anyone else was saying. She did what she felt was right for her.
Of course, as with every episode of Jessica Jones, this one balances the heavy hitting thematic elements with some just-plain-fun elements. Turns out, lost little bro Antoine is really just trying to get his weed business off the ground to make his sister proud. Jessica drags him out of his growing warehouse, almost by the ear, before being confronted by the loan sharks after him. Then Luke and Jessica take them all on in one of the show’s rare, but awesomely choreographed, fight scenes. This is where their chemistry really shines.
Alas, despite Luke being the sweetest guy ever and making sure not to hurt the warehouse attack dogs, Jessica tries to get to Serena first anyway. Here, he offers one of the show’s most cutting lines to date: “I guess I should get used to you bailing on me.”
Unfortunately, the evidence Serena has says Charles Wallace, the bus driver, was drunk the night of Riva’s “accident” and Luke goes after him. A very scary side comes out in Luke as he forces Jessica out of the way. (The scene leading up to this also includes a killer reprieve of the Jessica Jones theme. Thumbs up, music crew.) In the end Jessica, at least, does the right thing and tells him the truth.
This scene is particularly frightening as Luke very nearly really injures Jessica. It’s strange moment as Jessica realizes Luke good will is not unconditional. The fear in Ritter’s eyes, as well as the bitterness, sorrow, sadness and anger as she realizes she’s destroyed the good in him as well as their potential relationship, is moving. She packs so many emotions into a tiny scene.
At the end of the episode, Malcolm discusses his traumatic run-in with Kilgrave with the support group, Hope is physically struggling with her abortion, Jessica is drinking (heavily) again and Luke is devastated. All of them now question their identities — what they’re willing and able to do and to resist, who is in control, their own morals — thanks to Kilgrave. It ends on a haunting note, a glimpse at Kilgrave’s plan to control Jessica, that’s perhaps scarier than everything he’s done before: he buys her childhood home.