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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Strong character moments can’t save a weakly plotted episode of Jessica Jones

Illustration for article titled Strong character moments can’t save a weakly plotted episode of Jessica Jones
Photo: Netflix
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The good news about “A.K.A I Did Something Today” is that Jessica very much feels like herself again. She’s once again faced with an impossible, impossibly frustrating scenario, but she approaches it with intelligence, empathy, and ruthless practicality, rather than the one-note petulance that defined her in the previous episode. The bad news about “A.K.A I Did Something Today” is that this episode sends her on a pretty lackluster journey.


Perhaps it’s just the binge-review exhaustion setting in (watching and reviewing this much content this quickly is nothing if not a unique viewing experience!), but I found this episode to be a real slog to get through. Unsurprisingly, Trish didn’t wind up slitting Sallinger’s throat in the previous episode, although she did brutally beat him without her mask on, which allowed Sallinger to capture her identity on film. He uses that image as leverage against Jessica: He’ll keep Trish’s identity a secret if Jessica destroys the DNA evidence linking him to Nathan’s murder.

Though Jessica knows Trish would be willing to go to prison to take Sallinger down, she can’t stand the idea of seeing the only family she has left disappeared onto The Raft. So she agrees to Sallinger’s terms, and the episode becomes a supremely boring waiting game as we watch Jessica figure out the logistics of how to sneak into a crime lab in Queens to destroy the strands of hair found on Nathan’s body. That Jessica’s ultimate plan hinges on two highly trained people leaving crucial DNA evidence just casually lying around a lab unprotected while they evacuate a biohazard is proof that there’s just not much there there. Sure, I chuckled at watching Jessica play the world’s grossest game of “the floor is lava” after causing a sewage backup, but that’s just not enough to hang a whole episode on.

The frustrating thing about my overall reaction to “A.K.A I Did Something Today” is that on a scene-to-scene basis, this is actually one of the best written, best directed episodes of the season. There’s some absolutely fantastic character work in this episode, like the hotel room sequence in which Jessica gently takes care of a near-catatonic Trish or the scene in which Erik opens up about the horrific experience of using his powers to discover his dad’s incestuous sexual abuse and having his whole family destroyed because of it. The scene where Costa shows up at Jessica’s door to quietly break a mountain of bad news is sensitively written by Lisa Randolph and beautifully acted by Krysten Ritter and John Ventimiglia. The problem is those strong scenes are in service of a larger season-long narrative that’s starting to get actively annoying to watch.

Part of the reason I enjoyed the first four episodes of this season so much is because they showcased this same kind of meaty character work without a lackluster larger narrative to drag them down. This episode in particular made me long for a truly procedural season of Jessica Jones, one that featured these characters and these moral questions but within a framework that’s not so heavily tied to a boring Big Bad.

Illustration for article titled Strong character moments can’t save a weakly plotted episode of Jessica Jones
Screenshot: Netflix

Jessica Jones just hasn’t sold me on the idea that Sallinger is truly an intellectual mastermind. His wins feel coincidental or accidental rather than shocking and clever. In fact, according to this episode he actively miscalculated the fact that Trish would be the one to come after him, not Jessica. That Trish wasn’t wearing her mask when she attacked and that Jessica showed up just in time to stop her from killing him are two things he very much lucked into, not intentional parts of his plan. And just what was his original plan anyway? Was he going to let Jessica straight-up murder him and then use his photo shoot for some beyond-the-grave revenge? That hardly makes him seem like a criminal mastermind who can’t be stopped.

Speaking of murder…

There comes a point in pretty much every season of these Marvel Netlix shows where I wish our non-murdery heroes would just call up Frank Castle for an assassination assist because the ethical rigmarole this season has to go through to justify keeping Sallinger alive is just preposterous. If Jessica is absolutely adamant about not letting Trish go to jail in order to catch Sallinger legally, then clearly the more ethical of their remaining options is to kill Sallinger rather than let him go free to murder countless more people over countless more years. Yet for some reason, the discussion around letting Sallinger go is framed solely around the injustice of him not paying for his past crimes, not the threat of the future damage he could inflict on society.


Also speaking of murder…

I knew an episode this wheel-spinning had to end with a big cliffhanger to kick the season back into gear, and I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what it might be. Would Dorothy somehow still be alive? Would Trish find a massive clue in her mom’s apartment? No, instead the cliffhanger is that Erik murdered the random evil cop who was introduced in this episode, and Jessica is maybe going to get blamed for it. Which… okay? It feels like more of a shrug than a big reveal, but I guess anything that gets us away from Sallinger and onto something new is a good thing.


Stray observations

  • Kith’s son Laurent is a pretty thinly written character, but you can feel actor Michael Hsu Rosen doing everything he can to inject some quirk and personality into his portrayal, and I appreciate that.
  • Erik’s entire M.O. was that he blackmailed people without actually knowing their crimes, yet in this episode he has a whole detailed file on all of Officer Carl Nussbaumer’s wrongdoing.
  • Hogarth continues to swing from being incredibly interesting in her moments of nuanced character drama to incredibly uninteresting in her moments of one-note villainy. In other words, she’s better as an antihero than someone who’s anti-hero. In this episode, she reunites with Kith (at least on a professional levels), and discovers Trish’s secret identity on the undoctored footage Malcolm hands over as he resigns.
  • I’m assuming the fact that Trish hired Hogarth as her lawyer will cause some conflict of interest. Hogarth can’t take down her own client, right?
  • While cleaning Sallinger’s blood from underneath Trish’s fingernails, Jessica saves a bit of it on a tissue. Expect Chekov’s bloody Kleenex to pay off later down the line.

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.