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Jessica Jones’ sixth episode feels like a season finale—until it doesn’t

Screenshot: Netflix
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For most of its runtime, “A.K.A Sorry Face” feels like a season finale. Erik’s kidnapping provides a high-stakes time clock. Jessica and Trish use their investigative skills to track him down and burst in just in time to save his life. It takes Jessica and Trish teaming up to take down Sallinger. They turn him over to the police. Erik is reunited with Berry. Trish receives a well-earned “thank you.” Jessica gets the admiration and affection of a man she’s clearly starting to care a whole lot about it. For a brief moment, everything seems neatly wrapped up.

But then there’s the matter of what Sallinger is actually being charged with.

Though Jessica points the police towards Sallinger’s tanker of body parts, there’s no physical evidence linking them to him. He switched out his album of trophy photos before the police managed to get a warrant to search his apartment. Jessica can testify that she saw Sallinger dump the severed hand in his stash, but he’s an upstanding member of the community and she’s a powered person with a record. Jessica and Detective Costa both know that Sallinger is a deadly serial killer, but there’s no way to prove it.

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Justice has emerged as the major theme of this season, which makes sense for a series that centers on superheroes, private investigators, and lawyers. Sallinger, too, is motivated by a twisted sense of justice. We learn much more about our central villain during his gruesome photoshoot with Erik. As Sallinger explains, his murders are incidental, his real purpose in life is to capture the moment his victims realize the true worthlessness of their lives.

There are a lot of things about Sallinger that feel like rote TV serial killer quirks. He’s certainly not one of the most compelling Marvel Netflix villains. But Jessica Jones is at least trapping into something slightly original in the way Sallinger’s philosophy consciously echoes language of Men’s Rights Activists and the incel movement. He believes it’s inherently unfair that some people are born with natural advantages, like charm and good looks. Superheroes are the most pointed target of Sallinger’s rage. Their powers aren’t earned in the way he feels his intellectualism is, so why should they be allowed to benefit from them? Sallinger thinks it’s his right to correct that unfairness through violent ends. So while he’ll admit that he’s vengeful, without pity, and cruel, he draws the line at the label of “evil.”

With the police only able to hold him overnight, the big challenge for the rest of the season is how to take down Sallinger permanently. One option would be to get him on charges of kidnapping and assaulting Erik, but that would mean Erik would almost certainly wind up serving at least a year of jail time for his own blackmailing crimes. Given that Erik starts bleeding from the eyes over the course of just one day with Sallinger, it’s likely a prison stint would literally kill him. That means Jessica and Trish are starting over, trying to build a case against Sallinger from the ground-up.

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This is a strong episode for Trish, who’s had an uneven arc over the past two seasons. After a darkly hilarious moment in which Jessica throws her out a window to force her to demonstrate her powers to her mom, Trish and Dorothy have a tense heart-to-heart. The scene is a much-needed reminder of how much Trish’s desire for superpowers is motivated by the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she experienced throughout her adolescence. She spent her earliest years feeling like a powerless victim. Gaining superpowers is a way to reclaim her strength, and find purpose by protecting other people from the same kind of abuse she experienced.

Rachael Taylor turns in one of her best performances of the season during Trish’s conversation with Dorothy. She loves her mom and in some ways is glad to have her back in her life. But she’s also justifiably resentful of the woman who abused her throughout her childhood. Yet as soon as Dorothy moves to separate herself from Trish again, Trish slips back into emotionally vulnerable powerlessness. She suddenly feels like a little kid. Though Trish ultimately decides to keep working with Jessica, the scene really helps recontexualize her sometimes reckless desire to be a hero and reinforce the layers that exist beneath her badass exterior.

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Screenshot: Netflix

When it comes to acting masterclasses, however, no one has Krysten Ritter beat. The end of the episode lingers on her face as we watch her shift from happily cuddling with Erik to realizing the full extent of Sallinger’s threat. It’s a fantastic showcase for just how much nuance Ritter brings to her portrayal of Jessica. Her warmth around Erik is so sweet and genuine, while still being believably Jessica. (It helps that Benjamin Walker is a really great scene partner for her.) Jessica is the sort of character who could easily feel one-note, but in Ritter’s hands she never does.

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“A.K.A Sorry Face” closes one chapter of Jessica Jones’ final season and transitions into the next. Rather than taking down a monster, Jessica, Trish, and Erik might have accidentally unleashed an even worse one.


Stray observations

  • Nothing about Malcolm’s storyline is working for me, and I’m not sure adding Berry to the mix is helping. This episode introduces the idea that he’s grappling with questions of growing up, masculinity, and how to be a man.
  • Hogarth shows up at Peter’s funeral with a tray of bagels and lox. Needless to say, it goes poorly.
  • There’s a weird, almost comedic, subplot in this episode where Jessica tracks down a famous chef who was almost one of Sallinger’s murder victims, but thought he’d just experienced a BDSM situation gone wrong.
  • Picking up on a thread from season two, Hogarth’s former law partner Steven Benowitz is now out of the closet but still vaguely an asshole. He and his colleague Linda Chao use Hogarth’s PR crisis to snatch Rand Enterprises as a client. It feels like a really awkward throughline now that the Marvel Netflix universe has been cancelled.
  • I really like the dynamic between Detective Costa and Jessica, which has a real Commissioner Gordon/Batman vibe to it. He feigns disgust at her suggestion that he hand over police evidence to help with her investigation, but then casually drops his list of Sallinger’s victims as he walks away.
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About the author

Caroline Siede

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.