This weekend, A.V. Club contributor Caroline Siede is watching all of the first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. After she’s finished with an episode, she’ll post a quick response. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting five reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. Weigh in on this episode in the comments below or discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page.
“AKA Top Shelf Perverts” (season one, episode seven)
I wanted to spend this review talking about Jessica Jones’ supporting characters. How Malcolm has emerged as the unexpected heart of the series; how macho cop Will Simpson is kind of boring; how I didn’t realize I enjoyed Ruben’s odd presence until he wound up as dead; how I don’t really care about Jeri Hogarth’s failed marriage but I do think it’s cool to watch an arc traditionally given to high-powered male characters played out by a high-powered gay woman; how I’m endlessly curious about Trish’s childhood now that we’ve met her domineering mother. But as “AKA Top Shelf Perverts” ended I could only think about one thing: Kilgrave.
What makes Kilgrave terrifying is that he thinks he’s completely in the right. Not in the way, say, Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk believes his altruistic means justify his violent ends. Kilgrave doesn’t even seem aware that the violence he inflicts is wrong. He’s genuinely confused that Jessica has an emotional reaction to Ruben’s death. Kilgrave didn’t like Ruben, so how could anyone else?
Kilgrave is utterly self-centered in his worldview. He has the power to change minds and while some (as Hogarth mentioned a few episodes ago) would see that as a privilege to be used for the greater good, Kilgrave sees it as his birthright to take whatever he wants. That includes smiles, sex, cello music, and life itself. So it makes some kind of twisted sense that the one thing he wants most is the one thing he can’t just take: Jessica Jones’ willing love.
Thanks to that terrific scene in the police station, we now have a much clearer picture of how Kilgrave thinks. He claims he wants to start a relationship with Jessica, but he makes a crucial Freudian slip: “You’re the first thing—excuse me person—I ever wanted that walked away from me.” He may pay lip service to the idea that Jessica is a human being, but he actually sees her as an object to be taken, just like he took that $5,000 coat from a man on the subway platform.
Watching Kilgave rant about the fact that he deserves Jessica instantly called to mind Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who went on a shooting spree in California because he’d never received the female attention he felt entitled too. In both that horrific real-life case and this chilling fictional one, it’s not just the violence that’s terrifying; it’s the twisted worldview totally devoid of empathy.
In an earlier episode (my binge-watching addled brain can’t remember which one), Jessica flat-out rejected the idea that she deserved to complain about what Kilgrave did to her because “someone else always has it worse.” Kilgrave, on the other hand, can’t imagine a fate worse than not being loved by the woman he’s decided is his. Jessica is eaten away by guilt for things outside her control while Kilgrave can’t even take responsibility for his own actions.
Kilgrave uses his masterful manipulation to draw Jessica to her old childhood home. Worst of all, he’s tricked himself into thinking she wants to be there. I fully expected Jessica would wind up in SuperMax by the end of this episode. Sadly, she winds up in an even more horrifying prison instead.
Standout moment: Is it weird that I found Malcolm hiding a body kind of sweet? I feel like this binge-watch might be getting to me… (Honorable mention: Jessica standing on top of the Manhattan Bridge to say goodbye to New York City.)
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: I want to say none but I also feel like I forgot to keep an eye out for them this time.
Excitement to start next episode: 10/10
Hamilton lyric that sums up my binge-watching mental state: “I’ll write my way out.”