Week of January 8, 2023:

AKA Sin Bin (Jessica Jones s1 e9) released November 20, 2015 (where to watch)
AKA 1,000 Cuts (Jessica Jones s1 e10) released November 20, 2015
Scott Hardie | February 8, 2023

AKA Sin Bin: At the risk of overstatement, this might be one of the best hours Marvel has ever produced. Among its accomplishments:

• Plumbing deeper into the show's central theme, self-control and agency. Jessica enters Kilgrave's chamber to compel him to use his mind-control ability, only to be manipulated by his words alone into attacking him on camera. She is forced to acknowledge that the power that he holds over her is at least partly psychological rather than supernatural. Also, Kilgrave has claimed to be a helpless victim of his parents' experiments, but they reveal the truth that he had (and abused) power over them, to the point where they were forced to flee for their lives, from an adolescent boy!

• Testing the limits of heroism and morality, another important theme of the show. Jessica's unwavering determination to save Hope is noble, but it requires her not to take Kilgrave's life, a decision which has already resulted in several preventable deaths. Now in this hour, it has led her into this insane scenario where she commits felonies on camera and in front of a detective, while endangering more lives and finally resulting in the death of Louise Thompson. "Just kill him!" snapped Kelly at the screen as we watched this. How is Simpson the one with moral clarity at this point? One of the tragedies of Jessica Jones is that she's a true hero at heart in a world where doing the right thing is wrong and vice versa.

• Building its story around conflicting desires, yet another theme. Nearly everyone in this series wants something that they cannot have, but they convince themselves that it can be theirs if they can just bridge that impossible gap, leading them into foolish risks and moral compromises. Until now there have usually just been two people with opposing desires in a given scene (ie. Kilgrave wants Jessica back and Jessica wants Kilgrave gone), but this hour keeps adding more and more of them into the room together until finally the conflicts become impossible to contain. Which brings me to:

• The tension of this episode is fantastic! It starts out calm, with Kilgrave sealed up and powerless while Jessica manipulates what he can see and hear and say, lulling us into sharing Jessica's false confidence that the situation is under control. But the tension keeps building as the battles of will get underway, until the hour finally explodes in violence at the end. I've dissected the themes of the episode like an English major, but it's also just thrilling to watch and well-executed, including the production design and music and acting.

And I haven't even gotten into the many tiny things that make this episode great, like revealing why the villain has such a dumb name (he came up with it as an adolescent boy) and making fun of it. Among the many great little moments is one that might be my favorite: When Jessica advises Hope by phone not to take the plea bargain, she says, "Do not let [Kilgrave] off the hook for what he did to you… to us." There are mountains of meaning in those last two words.

I've criticized the show several times now for Jessica's schemes to stop Kilgrave that didn't amount to anything, which felt like padding to stretch out the episode count. This episode's plan didn't work either, but it revealed so much about the characters and created so many captivating little conflicts and dilemmas that I don't consider it a waste of time at all. (9/10)

AKA 1,000 Cuts: As the title implies, this hour is slow torture for every character involved. And it's torture for us, too; I consider this series hard to watch primarily because it involves bad things happening to good people, and here, three decent people lose their lives, making this the single hardest episode to watch in that sense. And a fourth life is ruined, if Pam is indeed being charged with murder and no credible defense, though the scene where she rejects Jeri is very good. The argument between Jessica and Kilgrave about their memories of that day on the rooftop is also good, yet another condemnation of his conveniently absolutory self-perception.

My main problem with this hour is that it feels too contrived in places. I absolutely do not buy that Hope would take her own life at the end to motivate Jessica, especially when she's finally free of both Kilgrave and prison. People's will to live is not easily overruled, and they tend not to see themselves as motivational supporting characters in someone else's drama, so her suicide is just way too convenient. On top of that, there's the desperate lunatic "logic" of Robin and the two support-group guys; I'm willing to cut Robin some slack in her grief, but her hatred of Jessica has been a thread for so long in the series and with so little grounding in reality that it feels like mere plot contrivance here. And hey, how is her hearing poor enough not to hear Marcus ten feet away on an empty sidewalk, but good enough to hear Marcus ten feet away in a busy restaurant?

Speaking of plot contrivances, there's Simpson's needless murder of a colleague as part of his heel turn. It's harder to swallow than one of his giant red pills that he would so quickly kill a fellow cop after being traumatized at the fate of his "boys" so recently. But that said, I really appreciate the arc of the character, which I promised to discuss once it was out in the open. He's very much the "white knight" that some women struggle with, the man who wants to be helpful and sees himself as a hero but whose bumbling inadequacy and obstinance cause her more harm than help. Simpson's willingness to insert himself into dangerous situations to "help" Jessica and Trish, combined with his unwillingness to listen to their objections or instructions, make his subplot an excellent thread in this larger story about the power that men abuse over women. In other words, he's an annoying and frustrating presence on the show, because he's supposed to be. The moment here where he's walking out in slow motion, his face in shadow, with a dramatic fire behind him, perfectly illustrates the point: It's the kind of image you see in movies about tough anti-heroes, because Simpson thinks of himself as the hero of this story, but he just murdered an innocent cop and he's not done. The first time I watched the series, I was initially skeptical of Simpson's usefulness as a character, but now I think the show was very wise to make room for him; he's not a distraction from the main themes, but an important extra dimension in them. (7/10)

Discussion topic #1: Was it just my imagination or was Wendi enjoying the thousand cuts that she gave to Jeri? It was subtle, but she didn't seem robotically controlled or sadly resigned to her fate the way that most of Kilgrave's victims do. She seemed to be participating enthusiastically. Perhaps this is another take on his power of mind control, that here is someone who is happy to receive a command to kill because it lets her do what she has longed to do but couldn't before? That was my read on it given their conversation leading up to the command, but I could be misinterpreting.

Discussion topic #2: I have enjoyed Carrie-Anne Moss's subtle performance changes over the course of the last few episodes. When this series started, she seemed to be disengaged and dead inside, like there was no life in her eyes, and Kelly accused me of being ageist for saying this because it seemed to be about the actress getting older. But over the last three episodes, as the divorce conflict has escalated into life-ruining threats and then violence, she has really come alive with a desperation evident in her every expression. And finally, in the scene where Pam leaves her and she collapses into the chair, she dies inside again and is left with that same empty expression. I don't know what subtle technique Carrie-Anne Moss is using to control her eyes like that (imagining that she's wearing invisible sunglasses?), but I'm impressed and I wonder if anybody else noticed it too.

Erik Bates | March 19, 2023

AKA 1,000 Cuts: I also felt like Hope's murder was just too easy. Literally the entire first 9 episodes of this season were centered around proving that Kilgrave exists so that Hope could be freed. It honestly felt like SO MUCH time was wasted on that plot just to have it thrown away like this. Surely there was a better way?

I feel like Jeri would be able to get Pam off pretty easily, wouldn't she? Seems to me that all they had to say was "We went to talk to Wendi, and she started attacking Jeri with a scalpel. I was only trying to stop her." Meanwhile, there's Jeri bleeding with scalpel cuts all over her, and a scalpel in Wendi's hand. While Wendi's death in itself was tragic, I didn't see it as all that much of an insurmountable hurdle, especially for a shrewd lawyer like Jeri.

To answer your question, Scott: Yeah, she looked like she was enjoying it just a little too much. To Kilgrave's point in an earlier episode, he didn't force the people to do what they didn't already want to do -- deep down I'm sure Wendi wanted to hurt Jeri for all the pain she caused, and in this instance, there's a part of her that is happy to be able to do it without it truly being her decision.

Scott Hardie | March 21, 2023
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