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Jessica Jones Deals With Top Shelf Terrors
The moment depicted here doesn't even crack the top five in this countdown of Jessica Jones's nightmares come to life in S01.E07.
So this is an episode in which Kilgrave's antics hit close to home (in more ways than one), Jessica decides to take the fight to Kilgrave, and the show takes a turn into dark and crazy territory. This episode is far more dark and frightening than the previous six, for many reasons. Shall we count the ways?
Counted down from "moderately horrific" to "nightmare fuel, everlasting and unceasing," here are the assorted terrors in Top Shelf Perverts.
- Trish and Simpson's "We'll just stalk Kilgrave and nothing bad will happen to us when we stake him out and, presumably, manage to incarcerate him before he can compel us to do something horrific" plot
This is appalling, mostly because these two should know better. Simpson's later scenes in the episode suggest he sees nothing wrong with staking out a dude who's managed to give the comparatively tough Jessica a raging case of PTSD. And that, in turns, suggests he's setting up a situation we will all regret later.
- Being dangled over a subway train track by a drunken superhero with impulse control problems
Shortly after getting kicked out of the bar conveniently located across the street from the free clinic where Wendy works, Jessica spots the soon-to-be-be-ex-Mrs. Hogarth leaving after her shift to head home. Wendy is alone on the platform when Jessica corners her, all, "You're going to sign these divorce papers." Wendy counters that she'll do no such thing without benefit of legal counsel present, and Jessica takes that as a cue to disgorge her feelings about being dumped* and how Wendy needs to "sign the papers or I'll drop--" Thud. Wendy lies on her back on the tracks, watching a train barrel toward her. "--Shit! I didn't mean to do that."
Anyway, Jessica throws Wendy off the tracks, so she lives another day. But still, the experience of being on the receiving end of Jessica's drunken focus is pants-wettingly frightening.
Wendy reacts as we all do when frightened by our ex or our ex's drunken, superpowered proxy: she comes at Hogarth with a divorce settlement counter-offer: 75% of all of Hogarth's assets, or else she goes to the New York state bar with documentation that Hogarth bribed a juror.
*For a given value of "dumped" being "Please do not sleep with me again, woman who murdered my wife and neglected to mention it before besmirching my virtue. Please also do not speak to me again, walk on the same streets or breathe the same air. If I knew that wizards existed and they looked like Benedict Cumberbatch, I'd even ask this hypothetical otter-looking wizard to use his magic-fu to wipe your existence from this reality."
- Falling into your bed, only to discover it's already occupied by the bloody corpse of your banana bread-baking neighbor
Well, technically, he's not baking banana bread right then. But Kilgrave has compelled poor Ruben into Jessica's bed, then forced him to slit his own throat. A drunken Jessica falls into bed next to Ruben, but is shocked into sobriety by the dead weight, the horrific sight of Ruben clutching the knife with which he slit his own throat, the realization that Kilgrave has been prowling around her sanctuary.
"This is the third death I'm directly connected to," says a shaken Jessica. She decides it's time to bring Kilgrave out into the open and get proof of his powers on film. What better way to do that than to set up a scenario in which she's imprisoned and Kilgrave has to work his way through seven layers of well-documented security to get to her?
- Spending time in a children's talent agency
Jessica takes a goodbye tour of her life on her way to turn herself in for murder and get committed to a Supermax prison: her plan is to stay there and lure Kilgrave to her, because surely nothing would go wrong with having him have access to what Hogarth calls a collection of "top shelf perverts."
Anyway, while Jessica makes more than one very moving stop on her tour -- swinging by Luke's bar for a bittersweet conversation with a substitute bartender, climbing to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge for a last lingering look at her home -- the one that actually hurts the most is the one Jessica makes to a talent agency for children. My animus toward the very notion of child actors is well-established, so imagine how a room full of children being coached to sell themselves for capitalism makes my skin crawl.
Still, while the very notion of a child talent agency and its attendant engine of exploitation is horrifying, the reason Jessica drops by the agency is lump-in-the-throat touching: she's there to tell Trish's mother Dorothy to stay away from Trish, or else Jessica will find lots of ways to hurt Dorothy.
My favorite relationship on this show is Jessica and Trish's friendship, and I love how much they love each other. Not going to lie, the fact that they spend much of this episode trying to protect one another puts a lump in my throat.
- Ripping your dead neighbor's head off his body with your bare hands, then dragging the detached noggin into a police station and dropping it on Detective Clemons's desk
Trish and Malcolm tried to circumvent Jessica's "I murdered Ruben, now please put me in Supermax" plan by throwing poor Ruben's body in the Hudson. Ha! As if a little thing like a river would get in the way of Jessica's to-do list! Anyway, Jessica hauls up Ruben's body from the drink, detaches Ruben's head from his body with one twist-and-pop, then proceeds to get Clemons's attention at the beginning of his shift by dropping Ruben's severed head onto Clemons's desk.
Having your workday start off with a lunatic dropping a human head on to your desk? Sure, the 21st-century workplace is basically a sci-fi dystopia or the first thirty seconds of the iconic Apple Super Bowl commercial, but even places with lousy coffee generally do not let Jessica Jones decorate your cubicle with severed body parts. The horror ranking on this one is pretty high.
But let's also look at this from Jessica's perspective: not only does she carry the guilt from knowing Ruben's dead solely because he ran into Kilgrave at the wrong moment; she also had to tear her sweet neighbor's head off at the neck. And then, the next morning, when her plan doesn't work (more on that below), Jessica then has the misfortune to run into Robin, who is not handling Ruben's disappearance well, and who begs Jessica to watch out for Ruben's neck, as it's very sensitive.
Going by the look on Jessica's face, hearing that is maybe the third-worst thing that's happened to her in this episode.
- Having your ploy to be sent to Supermax be foiled by your really annoying ex
The second-worst thing is when Kilgrave follows Jessica to the police precinct, brainwashes all the police into pulling weapons on one another, then delivers the kind of "We belong together" soliloquy that would alarm most healthy, well-adjusted adults and send C-level execs at mainstream movie studios lunging for their smartphones to type "I think we have a pitch for a superpowered rom-com here!"
Jessica is horrified by the prospect of an entire precinct murdering each other if she doesn't play nice, and by the realization that the bodies are only going to keep piling up if she doesn't play nice with her rapist-abuser.
He's the most horrifying thing on Earth-199999. And I say that knowing that Earth-199999 also includes an emotionally unwell billionaire who:
- Unleashed a plague of self-replicating homicidal androids that blew up cities on three continents before finally just eradicating an entire nation by physically removing it from the earth's crust, and...
- Is protected from the consequences of his actions by a gang comprised of special forces assassins, genetically enhanced guerrillas, and a flying space alien, which means that...
- There is literally nothing stopping this emotionally unwell person -- who, by the way has the capacious intellect to match his unlimited resources -- from indulging his God complex in another fashion with, yet again, globally catastrophic consequences.
And yet, despite living in a world in which mad scientists can and apparently will do whatever they want without consequence, the most terrifying thing on Earth-199999 is a dude with very distinctive fashion sense.
Why? Because Kilgrave doesn't need money, a genius IQ, physical superpowers, or a group of talented enablers who will roll their eyes before cleaning up his messes. All he needs to do is open his mouth and take someone else's money, IQ, powers, and friends. Kilgrave is someone who can and does hijack literally anyone he pleases, any time he pleases.
Kilgrave is terrifying because his capacity for overriding people's free will is exceeded by his sense of entitlement in doing so. And that is exceeded only by his malicious glee in forcing people to violate the core relationships of human society: it is probably no accident that we have seen one incident of him forcing parents to neglect their children, heard of another, and witnessed Hope killing her parents.
This monster is not someone who is incapable of thinking of people as human beings deserving of free will. This is someone who looks at a person, then decides, "You. I'll take away your sense of who you are when I tell you what to do." There are no repulser blasters against the annihilation of self. The Black Widow can't simply thwack the side of your head to magically undo it all. Kilgrave's damage is deliberate and deep, and there is no recompense for what he does to anyone.
As Kilgrave tells Jessica, "You're the first thing-- excuse me, person that I ever wanted who left." And that's why Jessica is special to him: because she broke out of the thing category and the lonely monster thought, "At last, my equal."
Imagine being on the receiving end of a monster's full focus and adoration. Imagine being told you and it are two of a kind.
That's the most terrifying thing in this episode. And going by the expression on Jessica's face, after she picks up her childhood diary (which Kilgave left in her home) and returns to her childhood house (which Kilgrave now owns and lives in), what we see in this hour only grows more horrific in the next.