Three is a trend, but after seeing the first two episodes of the second Marvel-Netflix shows, I’m already seeing a pattern.
These shows know how to establish a villain.
It’s something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always struggled with. The movies have succeeded on the strength of the heroes, but they’ve also never quite figured out how to establish a baddie to match them. The answer to the problem, however, can be found near the MCU’s most effective villain to date, Loki. What makes Loki different than, say, Ronan the Accuser or Malekith, apart from the phenomenal performance from Tom Hiddleston? Time.
Loki has been the evil half of the equation in two Marvel films, giving the audience time to familiarize themselves with him and his wicked, wicked ways. After all, Loki Fever didn’t fully catch on until his second appearance, in The Avengers. And now both of Marvel’s Netflix series have taken advantage of that concept in a nearly identical fashion.
Call it the Yoda Principle. In Empire Strikes Back, there’s nothing but thin talk about Yoda and his power in the first part of the film, and when we do meet him, there’s a subversion of expectations. How could someone this small be the powerful Jedi that we’ve heard so much about? This is exactly how Marvel has handled their villains for Daredevil and now Jessica Jones, and the strategy is so similar across each series that it’s hard not to figure that it’s purposeful.
If you recall back those many months (seven) ago, Daredevil began with three episodes of talk about what Wilson Fisk was capable of and some physical evidence to support it. Then, just before the credits rolled on the third episode, we meet him. But he’s not anything like what we expect. All Fisk has to do in his first appearance is stare at a painting and say how it makes him feel. The first three hours of Daredevil have established the evil that this man is clearly capable of, and then our true introduction to him is a simple scene, which explains that we don’t actually know the first thing about this guy.
This strategy worked very well. Fisk, outside of Charlie Cox’s stellar Matt Murdock, was the best part of Daredevil, so it’s no surprise to see Jessica Jones take a similar approach to Kilgrave. And after the events of the first episode, I think it’s safe to say that Jessica Jones is managing to pull off the same trick in one fewer hour.
Thusly, the second episode of Jessica Jones wastes no time diving straight into the question of how Kilgrave can still be alive, when Jessica supposedly watched him die and saw a death certificate. It’s almost as if the mind controller is like a bug that refuses to stop living. If only there were some sort of really obvious metaphor for that…
The private detective isn’t exactly in a great spot when “AKA Crush Syndrome” begins. Lester from The Wire doesn’t believe her account of what happened to the Schlottmans in that elevator, and the police are knocking on Luke Cage’s door to show him the pictures Jessica surreptitiously took of him and his married lover, Gina. That’s right, married. Her husband had been the one who put Jessica on the Power Man case, or at least that’s how she tells it. None of this matters too much, though. She’s got a madman to catch.
NEXT: A couple puzzling leads…[pagebreak]
The first stop is the psychiatric where Hope Schlottman is currently being held. The college student was presumably the person who saw Kilgrave last, so she’s a great place to start. Though freed from his hold over her, Hope isn’t the most forthcoming with Jessica in the interrogation room. Instead of offering up helpful info that will lead straight to the Purple Man, she turns her focus to Jessica, the only other person who understands what she’s just been through. Kilgrave had been obsessed with Jessica, even when he held Hope, always comparing the former to the latter.
The one piece of info that does help, however, is that Kilgrave is upset that Jessica left him to die after the accident. So even though Jessica managed to escape him, she’s still in his sights, but now she’s determined to stop him…. and help Hope, despite the fact that the girl told her to kill herself. (Not cool, Schlottman.) Both of those objectives require Jessica to actually prove that Kilgrave is still around, since Hogarth won’t take on Hope’s case unless she has proof of the bastard’s mind control abilities.
To move the investigation forward, Jessica decides to go back, to the night when she managed to escape from Kilgrave. There had been a bus accident in Hell’s Kitchen — one of the first mentions of the neighborhood after Daredevil turned the phrase into a drinking game, repeating it so often. (Drink every time someone says “Kilgrave”?) Only one person was reported to have died, a woman named Reva Connors died, leaving the official status of the Purple Man vague in the wake of the crash. The seemingly incomplete hospital records aren’t any help either. There’s no record of a John Doe being brought into the hospital that night.
So what the hell happened?
While Jessica rides the subway, we’re offered a glimpse into her recollection of that night. Shortly before the city bus had flipped, seemingly without hitting anything at all, Jessica had stumbled into the street, dressed up for an evening out and desperate to get away from Kilgrave, who pursued her.
Jessica’s next lead is a slightly confusing one. One of the EMTs dispatched to the crash that night took off with his ambulance, going AWOL for months afterward. That seems like a pretty big red flag, no? Nothing suspicious about that, Jess? It turns out that the driver’s name is Jack Denton, and he’s living (not so happily) with his mother. (That “Kilgrave”-“Kill me” moment earned a genuine lol.) Also, Jack is hooked up to a dialysis machine around the clock. That’s because when Jack resurfaced after the accident, he was missing both of his kidneys. His mother claimed it was his penance for a life wickedly lead, but Jessica knows better.
Through the dialysis machine, Jessica is able to track down the doctor who performed the double nephrectomy on Jack Denton. The guy is teaching community college now and takes off running when he sees Jessica enter his classroom. It’s from him that Jessica learns the most valuable piece of info yet. During the surgery on Kilgrave, the patient refused to go under. He was awake the entire time with only a local anesthetic to numb that pain.
So that’s it. If Jessica manages to drug Kilgrave, she’ll be able to avoid his powers. The problem will be getting close enough to the monster because as we see at the end of the episode, he’s able to handle himself pretty well.
For all of the talk about Kilgrave in the first two episodes, I appreciated the fact that the second hour closed with one of the best superhero moments to come out of the Netflix-Marvel universe yet. Considering how well this universe is handling its villains, it’s moments like this that remind us that heroes are still the heart of Marvel stories. The work that Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter have done with just a couple of hours and scenes between them is enough to pull me through the rest of the series alone.
And I’m already getting hungry for the Luke Cage series.