Photo: David Giesbrecht (Netflix)
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“A hero is strong. A hero is invulnerable. A hero has a goddamn spleen.”

Jessica Jones doesn’t like to show weakness. That’s been her M.O. potentially forever, but certainly since a car accident killed her family and gave her superpowers. Ever since then, Jessica has been defined by her physical strength—to the point where she’s started thinking of herself as invincible. So when a random stabbing and a lost spleen remind her that she isn’t, Jessica doesn’t take too well to that shift in her reality.

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Kilgrave isn’t mentioned by name, but his presence hangs over this episode each time Jessica vociferously rejects the suggestion that she’s a victim. Rather than work through those feelings (or find a different word that suits her better, like “survivor”), Jessica runs away from them entirely. She leaves the hospital against medical advice, takes her recovery pills with bourbon, and keeps right on with her investigation—even after she winds up in the hospital a second time. Her pun-happy doctor tries to explain that losing her spleen will require Jessica to make some major lifestyle changes. But Jessica isn’t listening, at least not yet.

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These first three episodes have served as one of the best-paced starts to a Marvel Netflix season because all of their plotting is rooted in character. The Brandt storyline isn’t all that interesting on its own, but it’s an effective fulcrum point around which to explore Trish and Jessica’s relationship, as well as their individual arcs. It’s always a blast when Jessica Jones digs into the logistics of how Jessica goes about investigating a case, and this episode gets to double down on the fun (well, triple down on it counting a Malcolm subplot I’ll get to in a second) as Trish and Jessica lead dueling investigations into Brandt’s attempts to offload his stolen statue. Trish wants to bring him to justice. Jessica wants revenge on the man she thinks is responsible for her stabbing.

Jessica is more effective at the sleuthing, but Trish has her beat at the face-to-face interactions. She uses her celebrity to get an appointment at a fancy art gallery, where she spouts off a hilariously vapid monologue about wanting to develop her own artistic taste. Jessica is annoyed at first, even going so far as to knock Trish down and steal one of her leads. But once she comes to realize that Brandt had nothing to do with her stabbing, she softens a bit. She reaches out to Trish to acknowledge that this is her case and Trish should have the right to wrap it up herself. Trish anonymously turns Brandt over to the police with the evidence they need to arrest him, and though she and Jessica aren’t quite the crime fighting duo Detective Costa assumes they are, they’re at least one step closer to moving in that direction.

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Elsewhere, “A.K.A I Have No Spleen” features two sexy subplots, one of which works better than the other. Eka Darville’s Malcolm has long been a highlight of Jessica Jones, but his storyline feels off this season. According to Trish, a full year has passed since the previous season finale, and while her flashback episode gave me a clear sense of how she got from where she was then to where she is now, I don’t have that same understanding for Malcolm. Sure, Malcolm waded into some moral grey areas in season two and had a deeply upsetting professional breakup with Jessica, but it feels like he’s made a really big leap to the dark side between seasons, and I’m not sure I fully understand why.

Despite a sweet, spiky scene in which he knocks on Jessica’s door to deliver the bloody knife he hid from the police (awww), Malcolm is more than willing to hack Peter Lyonne’s computer camera (ewww) in order to dig up dirt on him for Hogarth. Posing as a student in order to plant the spyware, Malcolm winds up talking to Peter himself about his conflicted sense of morality, but, again, that doesn’t particularly help clarify how he got to where he is. Malcolm’s sexy relationship with his co-worker Zaya (Tiffany Mack) is ostensibly designed to give us more insight into his mindset. So far, however, those scenes are falling pretty flat, mostly because Zaya is such a thinly written character.

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Thankfully, Hogarth is here to pick up Jessica Jones’ sexiness quotient as she starts an affair with Kith. Unlike Zaya, Kith does feel like a three-dimensional character, and that makes her conversations with Hogarth much more compelling to watch. The two women were hot and heavy in college until Hogarth cheated on her with Wendy. Hogarth went on to marry Wendy and then cheat on her too. (Wendy then suffered a horrifically tragic fate back in one of season one’s most upsetting episodes.) Kith, meanwhile, rebounded with and subsequently married Peter. They’ve been together for 23 years, supporting one another through the death of their daughter Zoey, who they lost to cancer.

What’s great about the Hogarth/Kith dynamic is just how many power shifts there are within it. It’s a constant push-pull, with each woman taking control at different points throughout their charged conversations. It finally seems like Hogarth has “won” by successfully seducing Kith, but then the other shoe drops: Kith and Peter have an open marriage. She has no interest in leaving him and no interesting in taking things with Hogarth beyond something casual.

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Carrie-Anne Moss is fantastic at subtly playing the frustration Hogarth feels in that moment. It’s clear she wants to possess Kith in a way that goes beyond just sleeping with her, which is why she pushes Malcolm to find more dirt on Peter beyond his affair with one of his students. Unlike Malcolm’s uneven characterization, this kind of ruthlessness is entirely in line with who Hogarth is, even as it raises fascinating questions about her emotional motivations and her desire to reconnect with Kith in the first place.

In addition to some complex, forward-moving character work, “A.K.A I Have No Spleen” also moves the plot forward too. From the beginning, it seemed pretty obvious that Erik was introduced to be more than just Jessica’s burger-loving, hard-drinking hook-up. Rather than needlessly stringing along that mystery, this episode allows Jessica to be just as savvy as her audience. The man who stabbed her wasn’t connected to Brandt, and he wasn’t even there to stab her at all. He was looking for Erik, and Jessica just got caught in the crossfire. Jessica’s attempts to unwind and find someone to commiserate with will have to wait: She’s got another case to solve first.

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Stray observations

  • Gillian is beginning to emerge as the breakout star of this season. It feels like she’s wandered in from an entirely different show in the best way possible. She just wants to work her hours, live her best social life, and do some sweet caretaking of Jessica along the way.
  • I enjoyed Trish’s cool looking (and arguably entirely unnecessary) flip back onto the couch at the art gallery.
  • In one of the episode’s best scenes, Hogarth visits Jessica to check-in on her after her attack (and to ask Jessica to stop posing as her assistant during her investigations). The two bond about being “invalids,” and it’s a really lovely showcase for their dynamic and how much it’s evolved over the past two seasons.
  • Jessica waking up in her hospital bed and immediately attacking Costa was a darkly funny moment.
  • The writing for Jessica’s noir-inspired voiceover can be pretty weak at times, but I loved her line, “Lose an organ, gain a case.” (So much so that I stole it for my headline!)
  • Is it weird or sweet to watch someone get stabbed/rushed to the hospital, and then stay in their apartment to cook them a burger?

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