Saturday, 21 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E04 - 'AKA 99 Friends'

Realising that Kilgrave has been watching her for weeks, now, Jessica's paranoia begins to get out of hand as we move into the fourth episode. Kilgrave's spy could, after all, turn out to be just about anyone - anyone innocent bystander who could have suddenly found themselves compelled to follow Jessica, and take photographs of her, without truly understand why. Jessica is determined whoever it might be that is spying on her for Kilgrave, though - believing that it could, quite possibly, give her another means of tracking Kilgrave down. Her own experience with Kilgrave, after all, taught her that the effects of his mind-control abilities wear after eventually - so, they would have to meet regularly so that Kilgrave can 'top them up'.

Jessica receives unexpected help in this from police officer Will Simpson (Wil Traval), who is stunned, and relieved, to learn that Trish is actually still alive despite believing that he had been compelled to murder her. Will is determiend to do whatever he can to help stop Kilgrave, even if the favour that Jessica ask for isn't exactly legal - so, Jessica soon finds herself with hours of security camera footage to sort through as the tries to identify a likely suspect.

Also, Trish's radio interview with Hope in the previous episode has proves effective at drawing out more people claiming to have had their own encounters with Kilgrave. Will many of them are clearly either delusional, or lying, it turns out that there are a handful whose stories seem to be true - meaning that Jeri Hogarth now has a handful of new witnesses who can, potentially, lend support to Hope's story.

Meanwhile, Jessica finds herself hired to take on another, seemingly routine, 'cheating spouse' case. Though, after her recent experiences, she is not quite ready to trust any new jobs that come her way.

It feels as though it is much too early in the season for cracks to start to appear. But, unfortunately, there are some weaker elements that drag this episode down. I should warn you, though, that that there is no way I can discuss the first major issue I had without spoiling what is clearly intended to be something of a plot-twist - so, you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs, if that's a concern for you.

So, anyway, first was the entire plot-thread concerning Jessica's newest case, and her suspicions that it would turn out to be another trap. Honestly, it probably would have been better if it actually had turned out be another of Kilgrave's traps - because, that bizarre red herring we ended up with really didn't really do anything for me, here. The idea of vigilante activity directed at people with super-powers isn't exactly a new one - it's been a recurring feature of Marvel's own comics over the years. And, the idea that it was the attack on New York during The Avengers that served as the catalyst for this couple deciding to go after Jessica was also interesting. It is, really, exactly the sort of long-term continuity that I imagine fans would want from Marvel's Cinematic Universe.

So, the idea that this seemingly routine 'cheating spouse' case would be a trap, after all. just not of the sort Jessica was expecting, wasn't really the issue. The idea even had the potential to lead somewhere interesting. The real problem was that the way in which this scene played out, when Jessica found herself confronted by this aspiring vigilante couple, bordered on absurd. The entire scene was awkwardly staged, for one thing - with Jessica looking more like she was throwing some sort of childish tantrum as she tried to intimidate them by throwing furniture around the room. Also, her entire speech about having '99 friends' with powers who can make their lives difficult if they didn't leave the city was kind of ridiculous. Worst of all, though, was the fact that this entire sequence of events leading to a bizarre dead-end effectively ruined the pacing of the episode, as a whole.

The second issue which I have to mention, here, concerns Jeri Hogarth and her increasingly messy love-life. It's not that I have any issue with time being spent exploring the various romantic entanglements of a show's cast of characters, of course - but, simply, because the way it is being done here really hasn't been doing the characters involved any favours. Over the past four episodes, we have had only a small handful of scenes devoted to Jeri's complicated love-life. In the first episode, we learnt that she is gay, married, and cheating on her wife with her secretary. In the second episode, we learnt that her wife, somehow, learnt of the affair. In the third, we learnt that they are in the process of getting a divorce. And, in this episode, we learnt that the divorce is far from amicable.

Honestly, Hogarth's romantic sub-plot has been one of weaker elements of Jessica Jones since the beginning. But, the problem became much more pronounced, when I suddenly found myself watching a tense confrontation - and, it began to seem as though I was expected to feel some sort of emotional investment in the whole mess that I simply haven't had time to develop. Four episodes might feel like enough - but, when you remember that, in total, it probably amounts to barely more than ten minutes of actual screen-time, it begins to feel incredibly rushed. It also doesn't really help that Jeri, herself, is too cold to be truly likable, and neither of the other two women involved have been given anywhere near enough screen-time to make any sort of an impression on the audience. The entire sub-plot is being treated in a very bizarre way, here - the only possible explanation I can think of is that there are a lot of deleted scenes floating around, somewhere, that fill in the blanks.

Those were significant low-points for this episode - but, there were also some fairly great moments to balance them out. Trish being required to issue a public apology to Kilgrave on her own radio show, in the hope that pandering to his ego may convince him to back off, was likely a low-point for both her and Jessica. It seems to have worked, though - and, having Kilgrave's acceptance of Trish's apology be delivered by an eight year old girl compelled to deliver a message to Jessica was certainly a creepy touch. Will, meanwhile, is compelled by feelings of lingering guilt to seek out Trish's forgiveness - with his efforts to earn her trust giving us some truly great scenes between Wil Traval and Rachel Taylor.

While this was, unfortunately, a weaker episode of Jessica Jones, overall, it was still fair from a complete failure. I can only hope, going forward, that this episode was little more than a temporary miss-step, and we can quickly get back to the high level of quality we have enjoyed so far.

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