This weekend, A.V. Club contributor Caroline Siede is watching all of the first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. After she’s finished with an episode, she’ll post a quick response. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting five reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. Weigh in on this episode in the comments below or discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page.
“AKA 1,000 Cuts” (season one, episode ten)
No one listens to Jessica Jones. Hogarth didn’t listen to her warnings about Kilgrave’s powers; Kilgrave didn’t listen when she rejected his love; and Simpson didn’t listen to her advice about moving on with his life. People keep doubting her, overruling her, and assuming they know better. It turns out even Trish—the one character who actually does listen to Jessica with some regularity—never fully believed her friend’s stories about Kilgrave. “I’ve seen how powerful he is now,” she explains to the woman who’s been telling her that for months. And, unfortunately, when people don’t listen to Jessica, bad things tend to happen.
“AKA 1,000 Cuts” is a grueling 46 minutes of television. I wrote down “this is hard to watch” three times before we even got to a scene featuring four attempted suicides and one successful one. This is the episode where Hope dies. And as Kilgrave points out, “Hope” is a lot more than just a name.
In my review of “AKA You’re A Winner,” I praised Jessica Jones for approaching the topic of rape without exploiting it for cheap drama. The same can’t be said of the show’s use of violence. I asked during my previous review whether the show was becoming torture porn and that’s definitely the case in “AKA 1,000 Cuts.” We watch characters suffer in tense, gruesome, bloody ways to prove a point we already know: Kilgrave is a monster.
Does the show need to be this violent? I don’t think so. Ruben’s death in “AKA Top Shelf Perverts” was incredibly affecting not just because it was shocking, but because it raised the stakes, forced Jessica to take action, and let us see a more emotionally vulnerable side of our hero. “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” on the other hand, just revels in violence for violence’s sake.
Let’s tally up the carnage: Simpson murders Detective Clemons (who, to be fair, shouldn’t have announced he was two years away from retirement), Wendy mercilessly slashes at Hogarth, Pam bludgeons Wendy to death, four innocent people almost hang, and Hope stabs herself in the neck with a broken glass. Theoretically Hope’s death is game-changing, but the preceding cascade of violence numbed me to it. “Oh, her too?” shouldn’t be my first thought when an important character dies.
What I do appreciate about “AKA 1,000 Cuts” is how purposefully it narrows the focus of the show. While I don’t think the payoff to the Hogarth/Wendy/Pam drama is enough to justify the amount of time we spent with them earlier in the season, that storyline at least feels more purposeful now that it’s connected to Kilgrave. Similarly, Jessica’s kooky neighbor Robyn gets brought more directly into the main action as she leads a witch-hunt against Jessica (a prime case of, “Well that escalated quickly”). And I’m relieved to see Simpson emerge as a full-on villain here because for a while I was worried the show found his dick-ish behavior justifiable.
As usual, though, the strongest scenes are the ones that throw Jessica and Kilgrave into tight quarters. They make phenomenal antagonists not because they both have superpowers, but because they’re such intellectual equals. Kilgrave engineers brutal fail-safes to keep Jessica from killing him while Jessica is remarkably crafty at working around his orders and calling out his bullshit. (Continuing her enjoyable trend of tricking people out of following Kilgrave’s commands, she tells Trish to hold a bullet in her mouth to satisfy the order “put a bullet in your head.”)
Jessica Jones should leave the torture porn to Saw and stick to what it does best: Crafting compelling psychological drama out of small moments. It’s telling that the best scene in this action-packed episode is one where two enemies stand around debating an 18-second interaction they had months ago.
Stand out moment: I love the split-second smile Kilgrave’s dad gives when he realizes the vaccine worked before pretending to follow his son’s commands (at least I think that’s what happened there).
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: I got nothing.
Doctor Who side bar: I feel like David Tennant is trolling us with those “Weeells.” Also Kilgrave’s “virus” is giving me flashbacks to the blood control in “The Christmas Invasion.”
Excitement to start next episode: 5/10
Hamilton lyric that sums up my mental state: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”