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Jessica Jones regains its footing by focusing on Trish and Jessica’s history

Illustration for article titled iJessica Jones/i regains its footing by focusing on Trish and Jessica’s history
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After trying and failing to juggle too many plots in “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” Jessica Jones considerably improves by doing less in “AKA I’ve Got The Blues,” relaxing the pace to explore the relationship between Jessica and Trish and how it’s changed since their teen years. There’s no Jeri or Kilgrave, and while Tennant’s performance is missed, their exclusion is a wise decision, providing a welcome breather from those villains after the major events of last episode and allowing for a stronger focus on Jessica and Trish. Flashbacks detail major moments in the adopted sisters’ shared past as they track down Kilgrave and deal with the escalating threat of a drug-addled Simpson in the present, and bringing the story back down to a more intimate, personal level helps the show regain its footing after stumbling with the previous chapter.

“AKA 1,000 Cuts” was all about intensifying the show’s momentum, moving quickly through multiple plot threads to create a dizzying atmosphere that reflected the chaos of Kilgrave’s escape. Unfortunately, achieving that momentum came at the cost of honest emotional storytelling, and the script lost sight of what makes this series engaging as it gained speed. The opening scene of “AKA 1,000 Cuts” immediately established the hectic pace of the entire episode with Kilgrave running down a stairwell while a percussion-heavy score bangs away, and the opening sequence of “AKA I’ve Got The Blues” serves a similar purpose, but for an episode that has a calmer rhythm and less aggressive tone.


Rather than jumping right into the present-day action, the first scene gently transitions into a flashback of Jessica waking up in her hospital bed after the accident that killed her family, showing the entire scene with a first-person shot from the perspective of Jessica’s still-adjusting eyes. Instead of that forceful percussion, the theme song to Trish’s TV show, It’s Patsy!, plays in the background, underscoring a conversation between Trish and her mother that explains why they’re adopting Jessica. Having Jessica wake up to catch this revealing point in Trish and Dorothy’s conversation at the exact moment the It’s Patsy! theme plays is an overly neat, convenient development, but it makes it very clear that Trish is the focal point of this episode. It also emphasizes that adopting Jessica isn’t a move to help the new orphan, but the young starlet who needs to shift public perception away from her boozy nightclub antics.

I’m a big fan of how this show reinterprets the Patsy Walker comic-book character for Trish, and even though the characters are very different, they have similar roots. Patsy got her start in romance comics published in the ’40s, which were later retconned to be stories written by her mother in the fictional Marvel Universe, and Jessica Jones embraces this character foundation while giving it a modern twist: Instead of romance comics, Patsy Walker was the star of Disney Channel-esque children’s TV show developed by her mother, who abused and manipulated her daughter to maintain the image she was working so hard to build.

Sure, the scene of Dorothy forcing Trish to vomit up her food so she won’t be called “Fatsy” is over-the-top, but it works well as a representation of the longer history of abuse Trish has suffered from her mother. The scenes with young Jessica and Trish are a bit subtler, but the dialogue is still largely driven by the show’s thematic content instead of the character’s distinct circumstances. The major scene between the two girls happens just after Jessica first discovers her superpowers by breaking a marble sink and then effortlessly lifting the debris over her head, and the manifestation of Jessica’s abilities forces a change in her less than sisterly relationship with her new sister.

The animosity between Jessica and Trish slowly dissipates over the course of the scene, providing a good sense of the respect Trish feels for Jessica not because of her powers, but because she thinks Dorothy is a total bitch and refuses to be exploited by her. Trish agrees to not tell anyone about Jessica’s powers if Jessica doesn’t try to save her from Dorothy, and as on-the-nose as this moment is, it explains why Jessica and Trish are so fixated on heroism and saving others as adults. Weighed down by clunky exposition and heavy-handed dialogue, the flashbacks aren’t especially well written, but they’re still an effective way of strengthening the bond between the two characters. Jessica does end up saving Trish when she finds her hunched over the toilet with her mother trying to force a finger down her throat, and Trish pays her back in the present by saving Jessica when Simpson goes on a murderous rampage.


Given Simpson’s influence on Jessica and Trish’s current dynamic, it makes sense that he would step into the primary antagonist role for “AKA I’ve Got The Blues,” which references one of his drugs in its title. He spends most of the episode being shady and shifty, creeping around Trish’s apartment and badgering her for information about where Jessica is when he’s not killing goons sent to bring him back to Dr. Kozlov. While this is happening, Jessica is overexerting herself with her hunt for Kilgrave, specifically with her search of local morgues where the body of Kilgrave’s father may turn up. Instead of finding Albert, she finds the charred corpse of Detective Clemons, and with Simpson’s help, she’s able to quickly figure out that he’s responsible for Clemons’ death.

The only reason Simpson has any chance in his fight with Jessica is because she’s exhausted and recovering from a broken rib after being hit by a car, and this weakened Jessica is vulnerable to her pharmaceutically enhanced attacker. The action lands with outstanding impact because of how thoroughly it demolishes Jessica’s apartment, which works as a nice metaphor for how men like to walk into Jessica’s life and destroy it. Trish swoops in to save Jessica by hitting Simpson in the head with a fire extinguisher, and when they’re cornered in the bathroom, Trish takes one of Simpson’s pills and goes on the offensive, putting her Krav Maga training to use as she pummels Simpson. Trish is still overpowered, but she weakens Simpson enough that Jessica can knock him out by dropping her fridge on him, making for a successful sister team-up.


“AKA I’ve Got The Blues” highlights what Rachael Taylor brings to this series, which is a comforting softness that the gruff, damaged Jessica needs for support. Taylor can be hard when she has to, like when she bites into Simpson’s red pill and starts kicking ass, but in general, she has a much more gentle presence than Krysten Ritter. There’s a calm familiarity and genuine compassion in Trish’s interactions with her adopted sister, best exemplified by the scene where Trish mends a bruised Jessica and tries to convince her to start thinking about her immediate health instead of putting down Kilgrave.

Despite its flaws, this episode does excellent work reinforcing Trish and Jessica’s relationship, so when it becomes a possibility that Trish may have sacrificed her life to save Jessica, the stakes are very high and very real. She ultimately pulls through, and it’s a huge relief because we’ve learned exactly why she means so much to Jessica. Trish is the only family Jessica has left, and it would be devastating to lose her at a time when Jessica is weak and vulnerable. Trish may not be able to help in the Kilgrave hunt from her hospital bed, but her being alive is help enough by giving Jessica someone to stay alive for.


Stray observations

  • Good news: Luke Cage is back! Bad news: His bar gets blown up by Kilgrave!
  • Robyn is surprisingly tolerable in this episode, going along with Jessica’s lie to cover up what truly happened with Hope’s death, and later giving Malcolm some harsh real talk when she tells him that people are horrible and no one can help anyone. Not much has changed about the character or the performance, but now there’s some foundation for her exaggerated reactions because she’s just survived some horrible shit.
  • While Jessica is still waiting to get a new comic series (which I predict will be arriving eventually given the success of the TV show), Trish’s comics persona Patsy has a new solo title hitting stands this week. Here’s a preview of Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1, and if you like it, I highly recommend checking out the entire issue, which is an extremely fun, bubbly take on Patsy that takes full advantage of her expansive comics history.
  • The It’s Patsy theme song is a really damn catchy tune. I can’t get that chorus out of my head.
  • I wasn’t sure if I liked Simpson’s verbal tic of repeating certain words when he’s hopped up on reds, but I came around on it once I saw Jessica’s reaction. It’s a very obvious tell that he’s doped up, but it works when the point is that he’s being super obvious.
  • I bet Robyn would have been a great villain for It’s Patsy!
  • “It’s a morgue. It’s not a photo shoot.”
  • “Purple’s his favorite color and he didn’t even get to give it to me. That’s what they call irony.”
  • “Without the blues, you’ll die!” This is the kind of silly-serious line that makes me love superhero narratives.

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