New recaps of Jessica Jones post Mondays and Thursdays. You can read all past recaps here.
Jessica Jones‘ “AKA Sin Bin” is on the level of Breaking Bad when it comes to tension and despair. Things spiral out of control, leading from bad to worse to horrific. I was reminded of the AMC classic’s episode, “Ozymandias” wherein the series crashed their subplots together, having everything come to a head for the buildup to a spectacular season finale. In Jessica Jones, the previous episode we saw Jessica managing to capture Kilgrave once again, and lock him in Officer Will’s safe room. There, we see Jessica has created a system to attempt to get evidence that Kilgrave does in fact have the ability to control peoples’ minds. His room filled with water, Kilgrave is shocked by an electrical current while being subjected to an old video of himself as a child, undergoing horrifying experiments by his parents that eventually led to him receiving his powers.
A “Sin Bin,” for those who don’t know, is a rugby term which gives Jessica the clues needed to discover the true identities of Kilgrave’s parents. Still, a lot of the purple-tinted villain’s backstory is up for interpretation, as we’re never given a clear view of why exactly his parents experiment on him. All we have is testimony from both Kilgrave and his parents as to why they were giving him spinal injections on the regular. It works as far as asking the audience to play detective themselves, and given Kilgrave’s leaning toward being a deceitful monster, you certainly may have a stronger belief that a disease was in fact the reason why the experiments were needed. That is, until other children in similar situations are introduced. To be fair, Kilgrave did, in a tantrum, have his mother burn her own face with a hot iron, but again, the final decision as to the truth about the experimentations lies with the viewer.
Aside from the cat and mouse game between Jessica and Kevin (Kilgrave’s first name, which is obviously different from “Zebediah” in the comics), we get a nice brief scene with Hogarth being left alone with Kilgrave in the bunker … for whatever reason. Luckily, Hogarth manages to keep her own personal desires in check, and doesn’t release Kilgrave when he promises to undo all of her current problems with her soon to be ex-wife. I think most viewers would agree that Hogarth is one of the weaker aspects of the series, ultimately due to a bit too much time being devoted to the problems with her marriage, which is not a strong hook. Of course, if you have Carrie-Anne Moss on your roster, you’re going to want to use her as much as you can. But I think the show may have fumbled the ball a bit with all of the time devoted to her. Therein lies a fundamental problem with the series, albeit a small one — considering I am talking about the best episode of Jessica Jones here — in that the main storyline is so strong that the other subplots just don’t hold much of a candle to it. Some viewers have made the argument that the show could have been far more successful with a shorter number of episodes, and while I don’t entirely agree, it’s in cases like Hogarth’s that I can see that side of it.
Speaking of subplots, look who Officer Will turned out to be! Yes, Will Simpson is in fact the Marvel villain Nuke, created by Dark Knight/Sin City scribe Frank Miller. I personally grew to like Will as a character following my initial dislike of him tailing Jessica and unsuccessfully capturing and attempting to kill Kilgrave, though I’m not entirely sure what to make of this new development. It’s a heck of a coincidence that Kilgrave just so happens to pick a New York police officer who was a part of a failed Super Soldier program in line with the one that created Captain America. Still, if you were going to introduce another villain to the fold who was something of a polar opposite to Kilgrave, Nuke isn’t a bad choice by any stretch.
As the events ratcheted up in the final minutes of “Sin Bin,” Officer Clemons stumbles across the hidden room, after Jessica’s many unsuccessful attempts at getting Kilgrave to reveal his powers. Handcuffed to the wall, Clemons watches as Kilgrave’s parents are brought in to hopefully give Jessica the one-two punch needed to finally exonerate Hope, and give Kilgrave his just punishment. Until, of course, everything goes wrong. The button used to release the electricity in the water fails to work as Kilgrave tells his mother to begin stabbing herself once for every year she abandoned him. To try to stop Kilgrave, Trish unloads at the window with her gun, hitting Kevin but also shattering the glass which housed him. In a whirlwind of terror, Kilgrave shuffles out of his enclosure, telling his father to cut his own heart out, suggesting that Trish put a bullet in her head, and asking Officer Clemons to follow him, regardless of his current situation of being handcuffed to a wall, which ends with Clemons ripping his hand out of the cuffs. It’s a fantastic montage of horror, proving how effective Kilgrave’s powers are without breaking any budgets in terms of special effects.
“AKA 1,000 Cuts” then follows the fallout of Kilgrave’s escape as he first rips a scythe through Hogarth’s life, asking her to take him to a doctor she can trust, which just so happens to be her ex-wife. This makes for a decent culmination of the relationship between Hogarth and Wendy, with the latter picking up a knife and slashing away at Hogarth as per Kilgrave’s request. “AKA 1,000 Cuts” doesn’t quite reach the levels that “AKA Sin Bin” did, but it still makes for a solid entry that moves the plot along in an interesting way. The revelation that Hogarth had stolen Kilgrave’s unborn child, along with his subsequent nonchalant reaction, helped to reinforce how much of a villain this guy really is (you know, on top of the thousands of other things he’s done throughout the series). Wendy being taken out by Hogarth’s new flame is ironic, though it will lead to once again seeing how much of a horrible person one of our characters turns out to be.
Speaking of horrible people … uggggh Robyn. After Jessica had once again managed to get a hold of Kilgrave following his escape, Robyn bursts onto the scene. Having previously barged her way into the “Kilgrave support group” that Malcolm was running with those who survived the Purple Man’s abuse, Robyn convinced the group that Jessica Jones was the true culprit for what had happened to them (somehow??). Colby Minifie, who plays Robyn, does a fantastic job of making you despise the character, though its almost to the point that you begin wondering if she makes for a great character that you love to hate, or a terrible character that you just can’t stand as she mucks everything up. Though to be fair, Robyn’s involvement once again leads to a fantastic set piece for Kilgrave to re-enter the fray.
When Jessica (followed by Kilgrave’s father who has apparently discovered a “cure” for Kilgrave’s powers) confrontsKilgrave once again in an empty restaurant, there he sits with the newly-released Hope. Hope had been released, of course, as a sign of good faith to Jessica by Kilgrave, in an attempt to control her once again. Along with the dastardly Kilgrave also stands the support group, including Malcolm and Robyn, on top of a table with nooses around their necks. The cure is a dud, Kilgrave ensnares his father once again, and he then splits the scene just after Hope jams a shard of broken glass into her own neck and the support group takes a flying leap off the table. In a classic Marvel scenario, Jessica is left with a decision that is terrible any way you slice it, choosing to save the support group while allowing Hope to bleed out, only not before Hope has Jessica promise to her that she’ll put an end to Kilgrave once and for all.
As I said at the start of this recap, if I wanted to show a single episode of Jessica Jones to someone in order to sell them on the series, it would be “AKA Sin Bin.” And while “AKA 1,000 Cuts” was tense and, at times, powerful, I don’t think it achieved the excellent status that its predecessor had.
“AKA Sin Bin” – ★★★★★ Excellent
“AKA 1,000 Cuts” – ★★★★ Very good
AKA Purple Notes
Going a bit more into Will Simpson, AKA Nuke, he was originally part of the “Weapon Plus” program that was designed to create super soldiers. Its first success story was Captain America, and it also had a hand in creating a little-known character named Wolverine … though don’t expect this guy to be breaking into the MCU any time soon. Unlike these previous two successes, the program used on Nuke made him go a little nutty, ingesting red pills to make him go into berserker mode and blue pills in order to calm him down. Nuke’s most distinguishing attribute is the American flag painted on his face, so hopefully we see that make an appearance at some point.
– Poor Officer Clemons, he had a rough go of it in both these episodes eh? (Editor’s Note: Clarke Peters‘ Lester Freamon would have sewn this whole mess up tout de suite!)
– Robyn really is the worst. Aside from her creepy abusive relationship with her now deceased brother, she was just a character you couldn’t help but hate from the first time she opened her mouth.
– Can’t overstate how fantastic “AKA Sin Bin” was. A great summation of the series as a whole while exploring avenues not often explored in television, let alone the Marvel side of things.
– Will: “Gimme a red.”