Image: Miguel Angel Aranda (Viper) / Flickr

Jessica Jones: AKA WWJD?

This week’s episode takes place almost entirely in Jessica’s old house. It’s to the credit of the actors and writers that AKA WWJD? is so compelling; by scaling down the action, Krysten Ritter and David Tennant are given the space they need to act, away from the violent showpieces of previous episodes.

After almost an hour of gripping drama, which relied on nothing more than the talent of the cast, the explosive climax of Jessica’s escape felt earned, not gratuitous. It’s testament to what can be achieved when actors are simply allowed to interpret the language of a scene.

I’m a little biased as an English Literature student, but for me the most interesting element of AKA WWJD? was the insight we gained into Kilgrave’s semantic manipulation. Language is the key to his power, and as such he chooses his words carefully – his order that Jessica should simply “take care” of Reva absolves him of any responsibility for her death, in his mind at least.

His initial deal with Jessica, too, is filled with verbal loopholes, and allows him to reimagine his past control of her. As long as Kilgrave doesn’t call it rape, he can lie to himself and live in denial.

Erin Moriarty plays Hope in the series. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Favre1fan93

This linguistic deception is unsurprising, given what we know about the way Kilgrave’s mind works. He justifies the murder of Hope’s parents as a reasonable expression of frustration towards Jessica, always framing his actions as someone else’s fault. When Mrs De Luca (Kathleen Doyle) distorts Jessica’s childhood, Kilgrave’s smart enough to realise that it makes her uncomfortable, but so delusional that he can’t see that he does the same thing.

The De Luca incident is indicative of the episode’s larger truth; memory in AKA WWJD? becomes an insidious and subjective tool of control in the wrong hands. Mrs De Luca’s recollection of the Jones household is fundamentally different to Jessica’s, to her obvious anguish, and Kilgrave’s misremembrance of his relationship with her is a clever foil to the painstaking accuracy of his Jones family memorial.

Kilgrave’s time-warp of a pet project is the unsettling centrepiece for this week’s action. Taking Jessica out of the city removes the series’ usual grounding elements, and creates a sense of temporal distortion. Her relative isolation from the supporting characters of the show means that the disturbing timelessness of Jessica’s childhood home becomes all the more apparent.

What Kilgrave does here is unforgivable – Jessica is forced to relive a past that she can never truly access again, trawling through the remnants of a happier time which have now become tainted by Kilgrave’s influence.

As in the best episodes of the series, Jessica is faced with a difficult moral choice – stay with Kilgrave and make him a hero with no guarantee of safety, or leave and potentially unleash him on the world again. We know what Kilgrave would do, we know what Simpson would do, and we even know what Trish would do – but it’s Jessica’s opinion that matters.

There has been a drastic change in Jessica’s personality between episodes 7 and 8 – in AKA Top Shelf Perverts, Jessica was desperate to sacrifice herself to stop Kilgrave, even when it seemed illogical to do so. This week, she let go of her martyrdom and opted for a ballsy sneak attack instead, something that seems far more in character for the heroine we’ve come to know and love.

Jessica will stop Kilgrave by any means necessary; there’s no time for half measures. If she refuses to end his life, then we can only assume that she’s going to try to force a confession out of him again. Would that it were so simple. Like the smouldering remnants of Mrs De Luca (and possibly Simpson) on the lawn, there’s a hell of a mess to clean up before any semblance of reality can be restored.

 

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