“AKA Ladies Night” introduces us to Jessica Jones, a noir heroine in the classic mold. She’s suffering from PTSD and self-medicating with alcohol and her job as a private investigator: “A big part of the job is looking for the worst in people. It turns out I excel at that.”
Krysten Ritter does a fantastic job with the physicality of Jessica Jones. It’s deeply satisfying to watch her as she stalks down the streets, as she sprawls across her desk and her bed and barstools. There is not a single bit of cuteness to Jessica Jones. Leading Ladies are still rare on the ground, and it’s even rarer to see one so unapologetically fucked-up.
The first half of the episode gives us a sense of the standard pattern of Jessica’s life; she has an acerbic relationship with Jeri Hogarth, a lawyer who gives Jessica freelance work and an estranged best friend (Trish) whose job as a radio host means her face is on buses and billboards, keeping her in Jessica’s life even as Jessica tries as hard as she can to isolate herself.
Jessica is adept at making self-destructive choices, such as when she sleeps with bartender Luke Cage, who she meets in the course of an investigation. Why she’s investigting him has not yet been revealed.
The pilot episode picks up momentum when two worried parents hire Jessica to find their daughter, Hope, an NYU student who dropped off the map. It is quickly revealed that Hope is bait.
Jessica’s PTSD results from her experiences with a man named Kilgrave, who possesses mind-control abilities. Before his supposed death, he had Jessica under his thrall and made her do terrible things.
He was drawn to Jessica because of superhuman gifts – Jessica is unnaturally strong (we see her lift a car and jump several stories) and at one point Jessica was using her gifts to try and be a hero.
Kilgrave picked Hope to reenact his “courtship” with Jessica. He repeated the beats of his relationship with Jessica, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for her to find when she investigated Hope’s disappearance. (It was Kilgrave who referred Hope’s parents to Jessica in the first place).
Realizing Kilgrave is alive, Jessica’s first reaction is to get out of town as fast as possible. She borrows money from Trish, who gives it to her, but encourages Jessica to save Hope.
Jessica finds Hope, drags the girl out of the hotel room where Kilgrave had left her (still under the sway of Kilgrave, Hope fights every step of the way) and reunites Hope with her parents.
Time and distance being the only thing that lessens Kilgrave’s powers, Jessica tells Hope’s parents to get her out of town. Jessica plans to take her own advice, and has a flight to Hong Kong booked.
But Kilgrave left another order in Hope’s head: she shoots her parents as they ride the elevator down from Jessica’s office. Jessica is too late to stop Hope.
Jessica stumbles out onto the street, ready to leave New York.
“Knowing it’s real means you gotta make a decision. One, keep denying it. Or two. Do something about it.”
Jessica deciding to stay and do something about it ends episode one and propels us into the next episode.
I am not a fan of the theme song. The music starts as a very noir-appropriate instrumental that changes to something closer to hard rock and then shifts back. That’s fine and rather appropriate. However the visuals do not work for me. They seem slow and only vaguely related to the show. We’ll see if another 12 viewings will cause the theme song to either grow on me or clarify what I don’t like about it.
On the flip side, I adore the episode naming convention: “AKA [blank].”
Two by two: this is Marvel’s second Netflix series (after Daredevil), Marvel’s second female lead property (Agent Carter was the first), and the second example of gay character(s) in the MCU.