Kilgrave has a powerful new weapon in “AKA Take A Bloody Number,” and his name is Luke Cage. After forcing him to blow up his bar, Kilgrave continues to secretly control Luke throughout this episode as a means of emotionally manipulating Jessica, primarily by making her believe that she’s been forgiven for her horrible mistreatment of Luke. Both Jessica and the viewer are unaware of this deception until the final scene where Kilgrave forces Jessica to fight for her life against her former lover, and the script by Hilly Hicks, Jr. effectively makes the audience feel that betrayal by withholding that key piece of information.

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Like Trish Walker, I want to see Jessica find happiness after all the terrible shit she’s had to deal with on this show, which is why it’s so easy to be fooled by Kilgrave’s plan. It feels good to hear Luke tell Jessica that he forgives her for Reva’s death because now he understands the reality of Kilgrave’s power, and even though his vow of daily forgiveness comes a bit too quickly and forcefully, I believe him because it’s what I’m hoping to hear. Kilgrave knows these are the words that Jessica wants to hear, too, and he specifically commands Luke to tell Jessica that he forgives her and he’ll tell her that everyday for as long as she needs to hear it.

When Kilgrave reveals his plot to Jessica at the end of the episode, the forgiveness line is the only one that he singles out, which begs the question of just how tightly scripted are Luke’s interactions with Jessica? When he tells her that he understands Kilgrave’s power now and doesn’t blame her for what she did while under his influence, are those legitimate feelings or Kilgrave’s directions? There’s no reason for Kilgrave to know about Luke calling Jessica a piece of shit unless that somehow came up during an off-screen conversation, so it’s entirely possible that Luke’s apology for saying that is real. But what is real when you’re under Kilgrave’s control?

As Kilgrave’s victims have detailed in past episodes, when Kilgrave gives you a command, everything you do is in service to that command even if you don’t want to do it. By ordering Luke to tell Jessica that he’s forgiven her, Kilgrave makes Luke forgive Jessica even if he actually doesn’t, and if that’s the case, all of Luke’s lines during that rooftop conversation with Jessica are potentially lies. By ordering Luke to kill Jessica at the end of the episode, Kilgrave makes rage and hatred the driving forces of Luke’s words and actions, which explains why Luke says he could never forgive Jessica for killing Reva, but that might be a lie, too.

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As long as Luke is under Kilgrave’s control, there’s no way of knowing what is real and what is fake, and that retroactively dulls some of the emotional impact of those earlier scenes of rediscovered intimacy between Luke and Jessica. It does make Kilgrave more frightening and despicable, though, and after being absent for an episode, Kilgrave comes back hard in “AKA Take A Bloody Number.” The Luke plot is definitely the worst thing Kilgrave does in this episode, but there are also some deeply unsettling smaller acts of evil, like making his father stick his hand in a blender to ensure his cooperation, telling a man to stare at a fence forever because he interrupts a conversation, and ordering a courier to impale his head on hedge shears.

Kilgrave has been forcing Albert to find a way to increase the duration and range of his abilities, but as Kilgrave’s power increases, he becomes a more standard supervillain, complete with a plot that could spell doom for the entire city if he’s successful. That’s not as interesting as Kilgrave playing the obsessive stalker in love, and the Kilgrave thread of this episode becomes much stronger once he reveals that he’s been using Luke the entire time. It’s obvious that Kilgrave is jealous of Luke and his connection with Jessica, so he finds a way to get in the middle of their attraction. “It was our sexual tension,” Kilgrave yells while Luke and Jessica battle it out. “It was all me!” Unable to convince Jessica to be intimate with him, Kilgrave gets gratification by hijacking her relationship with Luke, and then he puts Jessica in a position where she needs to kill Luke or be killed.

Jessica Jones doesn’t devote much time to superhero action, so it’s a nice change of pace to close this episode with a big brawl between superpowered ex-lovers. The fight choreography takes advantage of the fact that these are two people with extraordinary strength, and they cause major damage to their concert hall battleground, especially when they get into close quarters. What makes the fight especially painful is the history between the characters, and being forced into this conflict shakes Jessica. Luke is overwhelmed by rage but Jessica is just trying to protect herself without hurting Luke, which becomes increasingly difficult as the fight continues. Faced with the choice of death or shooting Luke in the head with a police shotgun, a tearful Jessica takes the shot, saving her own life but leaving Luke’s in the balance.

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“AKA Take A Bloody Number” features Trish and Dorothy’s first reunion after what appears to be at least a few years, and it’s just as fraught as their flashbacks suggest it would be. Dorothy tracks down Trish’s hospital room when Trish Talk isn’t on that morning, and she’s legitimately concerned when she finds out Trish is in the hospital because of something she took. Despite the awful things Dorothy did to Trish to help her gain fame and fortune, she still cares about her daughter, and there’s genuine affection in Rebecca De Mornay’s performance. That affection is what makes her scenes with Trish so compelling in this episode, and it’s easy to draw comparisons between Dorothy and Kilgrave, who both do bad things to people they love and are played by actors that make that love believable.

The Dorothy/Trish scenes have a dual purpose: the first is to mine drama from Trish and Dorothy’s estranged relationship, and the second is to tease future developments regarding the origin of Jessica’s powers. The former is far more compelling than the latter, and even though this is the first episode where De Mornay and Rachael Taylor share scenes together, the strained dynamic between the characters is loud and clear from the very start. Their performances give a strong sense of the long, complicated history of this relationship, and the initial awkwardness of the reunion quickly melts away as Dorothy and Trish slip into familiar behavior patterns. For Trish, that means aggressively pushing away a mother that is been desperately trying to exert her influence, and for Dorothy, that means finding a new avenue to sneak her way back into a position of power in Trish’s life.

That’s where Jessica’s origins come into play, with Dorothy using Jessica’s medical records to get closer to her daughter. Dorothy goes to Trish’s apartment with sealed medical records from a mysterious organization called IGH, and once she grabs Trish’s attention, she pitches her on sponsoring a friend’s line of bottled water. Dorothy wastes little time pretending that she’s giving Trish these records out of the goodness of her heart, and when Trish calls her mother out for her selfish behavior, Dorothy brings up the life they had before Trish was famous. You get the impression that these are the same justifications Dorothy has run to repeatedly over the course of her relationship with her daughter, and Trish has heard it all before and isn’t falling for it.

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Trish recognizes the game her mother is playing, but she also wants to learn more about Jessica’s powers, even though it’s something this show doesn’t need to delve into. One of the most refreshing things about Jessica Jones is that it doesn’t linger on origins, so the introduction of a shady organization with connections to Jessica’s powers makes me nervous about the direction this show could go if it ends up getting a second season. The show has succeeded because it’s avoided superhero conventions and given us a deep, complex character study, and hopefully the series’ future won’t get bogged down by an ongoing storyline of Jessica and Trish trying to uncover the truth about her powers.

Stray observations

  • I am so over Malcolm trying to make everything all about his pain and his loneliness when Jessica is dealing with a person that is putting the entire city at risk. He should just pack up and go home if he’s just going to loudly broadcast his misery to people with their own problems.
  • Robyn gets her big moment of empathy when she breaks down in the hallway after verbally assaulting the woman delivering a charger cord for Ruben, but it’s too little, too late. The character is supposed to be intensely unlikable, and the writers of this series have done a very good job in that respect, but the combination of unlikable, obnoxious, and abrasive makes it hard to connect with Robyn and her suffering.
  • More wet, shirtless Luke Cage, please.
  • Trish: “He was a good guy.” Jessica: “No, he wasn’t.”
  • “Jesus, who sent carnations?”
  • “I’ll just…scream at some nurses on the way out. To lift my spirits.”
  • “You can help yourself to…well, there’s nothing.”
  • “You can’t improve on an asshole by making it bigger.”
  • “You don’t piss on money, Pats.”
  • “Goodbye, Ruben. I hope they have free express shipping in heaven.”

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