December 12, 2016

Jessica Jones: "AKA Crush Syndrome"

In episode 2 of Jessica Jones, Jessica's (Krysten Ritter) attempt to avoid blame for taking unsolicited photographs of bartender Luke Cage (Mike Colter) only gets Cage into serious trouble, and leads to an unexpected discovery. Meanwhile Jessica's hunt to track down the elusive psychic criminal Killgrave (David Tennant) leads her to a crippled ambulance driver and a doctor on the run.

This second episode is almost as good as the first, slowly teasing out both the current mystery facing Jessica and simultaneously revealing her upsetting back story one clue at a time. The series is proving exceptionally good at the latter, introducing one element that doesn't seem to quite make sense - for example Jessica chanting a list of street names whenever her PTSD overwhelms her - and then following it up and explaining it in due course. It is a solid storytelling technique that does wonders for an ongoing narrative when done well. Here it is being done very well indeed.

In one of the episode's two big developments Jessica's sexy local bartender Luke turns out to be Luke Cage, a popular Marvel Comics character with impenetrable skin and a direct relationship with the comic book version of Jessica Jones. The pairing works very well here, with Ritter and Colter doing a great job of connecting the two differently troubled characters together. It bodes well for future episodes, and is a nice complications to the storyline. Colter is perfect casting for the role of Luke Cage, and given his huge screen presence here I am not surprised he has already had his own 13-episode spin-off series.

In the other key development Jessica appears to learn Killgrave's weakness: if she can inject him with surgical anaesthetic, his mind-controlling powers should dissipate. It's surprisingly early for such a key piece of intelligence to be gained, so I can only assume it is not going to work when the time comes - otherwise this series will have a lot of time to fill in the next 11 episodes. The road to this discovery brings Jessica into contact with another of Killgrave's victims: a parademic ordered to provide both of his kidneys to Killgrave after the latter's near-fatal accident. Now he is severely disabled, living on permanent dialysis with the support of a suffocating, devout Christian mother. He begs for Jessica to kill him; she makes apologies and leaves.

It is remarkable how effectively the series is building up its villain, given that after two entire episodes he has yet to actually appear. There have been momentary glimpses in flashbacks, but the man himself has not actually turned up in person. Despite this, seeing the human wreckage he leaves behind him is slowly raising him to one of the most horrifying TV villains I can recall. Hopefully when he finally turns up David Tennant can match expectations.

Speaking of Killgrave's victims, it is really good to see his last victim Hope Schlotmann (Erin Moriarty) remain in the series. At the end of the series premiere, Killgrave's control led her to murder both of her parents in an elevator. I had assumed this would be the last we would see of her, but there she is: in police custody and charged with their murder. While Jessica tries to persuade lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) to take on the case, we also get to see how badly the trauma of Killgrave's abuse has affected Hope. It ties in nicely to the series as a whole: the effects of violence against women is not ignored. Instead it forms the spine of the whole series.

It is worth appreciating the aesthetic of the series as well. It has a remarkable use of colour and shadow, punctuating otherwise gloomy night scenes of New York streets with sharp flashes of red, yellow and purple. It is tied in pretty closely to characters as well, so it's easy to notice yellow in scenes involving Luke Cage and purple when characters are dwelling on or under the influence of Killgrave. It all gives the series a striking look that emphasises its comic book origins without over-egging the pudding while doing it.

Jessica Jones is running two for two: I'm definitely hooked for the whole 13 episodes.

2 comments:

  1. I'm surprised you have time to write this review, I couldn't turn it off once I started. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I'm reviewing a show I need to pause otherwise I tend to forget what happened in each specific episode.

      Delete