Gregory Sallinger has a law degree. That’s about all the justification we’re given for why Jessica is adamant about treating his case differently than pretty much every other case we’ve ever seen her handle. Just a few episodes ago, she was pinning Andrew Brandt with a car to get him to admit to stabbing her. Now she acts as if Trish’s suggestion of threatening Sallinger with violence in order to get him to confess is the most ludicrous thing she’s ever heard. This time around, Jessica wants to play things by the books—which in her mind somehow still allows for breaking into Sallinger’s apartment and throwing body parts through his window.
Jessica’s odd sense of legality characterizes an episode that feels slightly off in almost every way. There were a couple moments in this episode that just plain confused me, starting with how Erik reenters the story. In the previous episode, he decided to lay low rather than help Jessica pursue Sallinger. In this episode he’s pulled back into Sallinger’s orbit out of a desire to protect his estranged sister Brianna a.k.a. “Berry,” a self-destructive sex worker. Yet I can’t figure out if Erik went to check on Berry specifically because Sallinger threatened her, or whether he randomly went to check on her and Sallinger just happened to be there. If it’s the latter, it seems like a pretty big coincidence that Erik showed up so soon after Sallinger arrived to wait for him.
Based on the calm way Erik puts his hands on Sallinger’s shoulders, my initial thought was that they were working together. Jessica seems to think that too, but she’s remarkably relaxed about it, even as she watches Erik roughly drag a reluctant woman into a hotel. The whole hotel room scene is played really strangely. Rather than ask Berry is she’s okay, Jessica instantly dismisses her and calmly trusts Erik to tell her the truth of what’s going on. None of that feels like the Jessica we know and love. I think we’re supposed to find Jessica repeatedly tossing Berry onto the bed to be funny, but I just found it upsetting and out of character.
When Erik tells Jessica about his innocuous conversation with Sallinger, the flashback is filmed in a way that makes it feel like a subjective retelling, not the objective truth. I can’t tell if that’s simply an artistic choice or an intentional clue that something isn’t quite right with Erik. Regardless, it’s enough to appease Jessica, who puts Berry into Malcolm’s protective custody and invites Erik to be her sexy distraction. Yet when he offers to help join her on her mission to track down Sallinger (a pretty big leap from his previous refusal), she turns him down. She’s already got a partner in Trish.
The central emotional arc of this episode is about getting Trish and Jessica’s fractured relationship back to a healthier place. They repeat the various squabbles they’ve had as they stake out Sallinger and try to find a crack in his armor. Jessica doesn’t trust that Trish is truly capable of being an investigative hero. Trish is annoyed that Jessica won’t give her a chance to prove herself as an equal, not a sidekick. At the heart of the matter is the fact that Trish murdered Jessica’s murderous mom. One thing this episode effectively drill home is just how much Jessica’s newfound desire to be a hero stems from the brief dream she and her mom shared about teaming up to use their powers for good.
The emotional arc of “A.K.A I Wish” builds to the big climatic moment in which Trish chooses to save Jessica’s life rather than take down Sallinger. Again, however, I’m confused by the basic storytelling logistics. I can’t tell if Sallinger lured Jessica into the water tank in order to trap her there (was that supposed to be some kind of poison falling from the ceiling?) or whether she accidentally trapped herself in there and was just running out of air. The confident way Sallinger tells Trish that Jessica has 30 seconds to live makes it seem like it was all part of his purposeful plan, but it also seems to be Jessica herself who causes the tanker lid to fall shut.
It’s all strange and confusing, but it does lead to the best interaction of the episode. Tired of working through the ethics of whether Trish was justified in killing Jessica’s mom, the two just admit how they actually feel. Trish wishes she hadn’t killed Alisa. Jessica wishes Alisa hadn’t been a mass murderer. There’s nothing they can do about either reality. So maybe the best they can do is just accept it and try to move forward. It’s one of my favorite exchanges in Jessica Jones history. I just wish the story leading up to it had been stronger.
That leaves just the Hogarth portion of this episode to deal with. While I’ve praised this season’s faster pacing, this episode speeds things up too much. Hogarth’s plan to discredit Peter initially succeeds in bringing a vulnerable Kith to her side, but it almost as quickly backfires when Peter figures out that Hogarth was behind it. He releases a suicide video, accusing Hogarth of being morally corrupt and of using her firm to protect dangerous superhero vigilantes. It’s a lot to take in, both because Kith and Hogarth’s relationship shifts so quickly and because Peter’s gruesome death is treated like a cheap shock. If Hogarth’s storyline is building to one about how the law deals with superheroes, this was a very strange way to get there.
Fittingly for this odd episode, it ends with an odd cliffhanger. Sallinger shows up at Erik’s hotel room to choke him into unconsciousness. Rather than get me excited for the next episode, however, it mostly just leaves me confused about the one I just watched.
- If someone randomly threw a severed hand into your apartment, would your instinct be to take it to the place where you’ve previously dumped all the severed body parts of your murder victims? I feel like Jessica and Trish should’ve planted the hand in a place that tricked Sallinger into thinking he’d forgotten to dispose of it.
- That being said, the idea of using a severed hand as bait was very clever. I only wish we’d gotten to see one of Trish’s classic trips to the morgue.
- The most heartbreaking moment in this entire episode is when Erik reveals that he gets a headache around Malcolm. He ranks it as a 3 out of 10, but still, what has happened to our beloved Hufflepuff?
- Gillian remains an absolute standout, both in her comedy moments (“I actually like Trish, so I don’t need to get paid to spend time with her”), and in her dramatic ones. She pushes Trish and Jessica to reconcile, reminding them not to treat friends and family like they’re easily replaceable.
- Sallinger has been operating as a serial killer for at least 10 years, and Erik is the first person to ever raise suspicion about him. From what we see of his “trophy” photos, all of his victims seem to be white men in their 30s and 40s.
- I’m not sure I buy that Sallinger could take down Erik so easily. Benjamin Walker is a pretty strapping guy!