Jessica Jones: ‘AKA Smile’

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TW: rape

We’ve reached the end of the first season Jessica Jones, and this final episode encompasses all the things I love about the series as a whole. Though not perfect, AKA Smile strikes a good balance between character development and scrappy action sequences, something which the show has historically struggled with. The hospital sequence was well-paced, and the final fight with Kilgrave combined a police raid with a silent disco, which is too charming not to love.

Kilgrave is finally dispatched at Jessica’s hands, but not before we see the vestiges of his romantic persona be completely destroyed, and his true nature fully revealed. Though his pretence of love for Jessica was never convincing, its total abandonment in AKA Smile (the title itself a reference to sexist street harassment) betrayed the extent of his hatred. Far from the flatterer of previous weeks, an embittered Kilgrave delights in the thought of torturing Jessica before her death.

It is this misogyny that ultimately undoes him- the thought of possessing Jessica becomes too intoxicating for him to resist, and he buys into her act of helplessness because it’s what he wants in his heart to believe.

David Tennant and the writing team created a fantastic and disturbing villain- mind control has been the series’ potent central allegory for abuse, and its biggest asset. His loss is necessary- Kilgrave wouldn’t have sustained a second season- but replacing him will be difficult.

Where does the future of the show lie? The new antagonist must surely be Dr. Kozlov, though whether he will appear in The Defenders or Jessica Jones is unclear. Trish’s research into IGH will hopefully yield a tighter plot in season two, something the show had difficulties with despite its strong characterisation.

The reappearance of Will Simpson is likely to be on the cards too, either as himself or as the comic book villain Nuke. If we want to learn more, we’ll have to read the Alias comics, which is the first task on my list for the holidays.

With the end of season one comes the transformation of many relationships. As Malcolm says, Luke and Jessica are isolated not only from those without powers, but also from each other. The couple seem to have recognised that Reva’s death represents an obstacle they cannot overcome together- Jessica lets go of the future she envisaged with Luke, and he leaves the apartment headed for his own Marvel show.

Claire Temple (light of my life) reportedly plays a large role in the upcoming Luke Cage series, and may well help him reach a new beginning outside of his wife’s death. She’s already saved Luke’s life once (by draining spinal fluid through his eye, proving once and for all that Claire is tough as hell). If any connection is to be found, it’s through people like her, the heroic individuals that surround Luke and Jessica and keep them grounded.

Jessica’s ending is not exactly a happy one- she’s free of the threat of Kilgrave, of course, but at a great personal cost. The process is unavoidably traumatic, and recovery will not be easy. It’s a good job that she has Trish and Malcolm by her side, taking her calls and making her take care of herself.

After news of Kilgrave’s death spreads, Jessica becomes an ersatz local hero, however much she may resent it. Whether or not she assumes this mantle, the audience knows that Jessica is nothing less than heroic.

On the whole, Jessica Jones has been an original, sophisticated show. A hardboiled detective drama with a feminist heart, its exploration of trauma and rape culture is pretty much unparalleled by any other series currently airing.

The first season could be a beautiful, self-contained series all on its own, but I can’t deny I’m pretty desperate for more of Alias Investigations. If any show can pull a strong second season out of the bag, it’s this one.

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