For its fifth episode, Jessica Jones mounted its most thrilling hour yet while simultaneously exploring power dynamics in way that felt totally natural to the world of the show. Basically, “AKA The Sandwich Saved Me” was Jessica Jones at the series’ best, and I really hope it can maintain.
The action picks up 18 months ago, back when Jessica was working some dead-end desk job. Her work ethic isn’t the greatest, but that’s not a problem when she has dirt on her corrupt boss. Since this type of work isn’t working for her, she extorts her way out of a corner with only a few filing cabinets as casualties. Considering what she is capable of, I’d say that everyone in the office got off pretty easy.
The flashback is a set-up for Jessica Jones’ most interesting story details so far and serves as a partial origin story for Jessica’s first stint as a would-be superhero. Ridiculously overqualified for her jobs, Jessica can’t find her place in the world, and her closest friend thinks the answer is simple: Go out, and save people. But Jessica resists. She doesn’t want a costume — even one that looks identical to her outfit from the comics — and she definitely doesn’t want to be called Jewel.
Although the idea doesn’t appeal to her, Jessica has a change of heart when she’s faced with the reality of saving someone. That opportunity comes along while working another job, this time advertising two-for-one hoagies while dressed as a giant sandwich. When a little girl wanders into the street, Jessica stops the cab with her fist. “Hey, get off the road, you stupid sandwich,” the driver says.
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So Jessica has found her calling, and through that, we see the full scope of Kilgrave’s atrocity. As revealed toward the end of the episode, it was saving Malcolm from a group of muggers that alerted Kilgrave to Jessica’s abilities, what made her attractive to him. This is what makes Kilgrave just like any sex criminal. He takes the identity that she has struggled to find and reduced her to an object (hair, skin, and fashion sense) meant for his pleasure. The exchange is quiet and absolutely chilling and, in a single scene, establishes David Tennant as most terrifying villain in the Marvel universe.
What I’m really enjoying about this show is that everything I described above also happened in a heist episode. So far the series has mostly worked with a more relaxed pace that had Jessica stalking and following quietly without pops of action. But I really dug the more structured — and consequently more propulsive — approach to drugging and kidnapping Kilgrave.
The revelation that Malcolm has been the one taking photos of Jessica has led her straight to the Purple Man. Every day at 10 a.m., her drugged neighbor receives instructions from a random person in Union Square, who tells him where to meet Kilgrave and deliver the new photos. The reliable pattern is just what Jessica needs to stick Kilgrave with her anesthesia, but it’s going to be more complicated than she initially thought.
NEXT: Down goes Kilgrave — or does he?
So Jessica goes about constructing a plan with the help of Trish and Trish’s new lover, Will Simpson, the police sergeant who tried to strangle her a few episodes ago. Jessica will follow Malcolm like normal, Trish drives the van, and Will will shoot Kilgrave with the tranquilizer gun. He knows about a hermetically sealed room from a buddy of his at the CDC. Since he’s a tough ex-spec ops guy that casually says things like “exfil,” he thinks he knows better than Jessica, and the two have a fun struggle for power, which is fraught at times but so much healthier than the other dynamics in the episode.
Because this heist isn’t taking place in an Ocean’s Eleven movie, things were never going to go as planned. The hiccup comes with a balloon bursts upon Will’s approach. The noise alerts Kilgrave, who sees Will’s conspicuous paper-bag gun, but thanks to Jessica’s quick thinking, he takes a dart to the neck.
Down goes Kilgrave. Down goes Kilgrave. But here comes his backup. A few episodes ago, I brought up the question of who Jessica could possibly fight on her way to Kilgrave, who’s seemingly a lone wolf. Now I have my answer. The Purple Man has hired a security detail to follow him in case anyone tried to kidnap him and planted a tracking device on himself in case they got away. The security team manages to stop Jessica, Trish, and Will just outside the safe house.
The whole sequence was thrilling, but I love what happened after just as much. After Kilgrave wakes up, he gives Jessica a call. She’s not talking, but that’s all right. He has a lot to get off his chest. Looking back on what happened to him and what could have happened, Kilgrave can’t help but feel exhilarated by the thought of being completely helpless, the state of all of his victims. By the nature of his powers, Kilgrave enters into any given situation without fear of what will happen to him. He is so privileged that the idea of experiencing anything but that is almost perverse.
That aside, he’s still a fetishist for power, and his obsession can manifest itself in small ways. Sometimes he just wants to hear Jessica’s voice, which she denies him. His counter-offer is for a daily picture of her smiling in exchange for the safety of Malcolm, who is currently chained up in Jessica’s bathroom.
Digression: Didn’t Malcolm’s drug dealer look like Justin Bieber?
That’s a trickier matter. Throughout the planning of the heist, Jessica has to deliberately put Malcolm is harm’s way, purposefully keeping him under Kilgrave’s influence. It’s a compromise that weighs heavy on her conscience, and it’s what leads her to bow to Kilgrave’s demands for a selfie. Empty people like Kilgrave are able to prey on people like Jessica simply because they have lives. There are people they care about, and there are things they can lose. A text is such a simple act, but with someone as powerful and depraved as Kilgrave, a text can be a significant loss.
Also, what’s up with Hope? First she needs cash from Jessica, and then it looks like she’s getting shanked in prison? Was that just to establish a ticking clock for taking down Kilgrave, or was there something I missed?