Nothing like the taste of crow in the morning. It tastes like… I was wrong… kinda.
One of my big complaints about the first three episodes of Jessica Jones was the handling of Malcolm, the private detective’s drugged-out neighbor. His purpose never felt justified, beyond a series of rather dumb jokes about how oblivious he was. It was a bad look for one of the two people of color on the show. So what is the point of Malcolm?
Turns out that there is a point, and the reveal was a solid twist and a rather tragic one at that.
But let’s work our work way back to the truth about Malcolm from the start of the fourth episode, “AKA 99 Friends,” because there was a lot going beyond that.
In the wake of her raid on Kilgrave’s latest hideout, Jessica is paranoid. Someone is taking pictures of her, and she’s determined to figure out who it is. Why she wants to do that is a bit of a mystery to me. I would understand if her motivation was to save someone else from Kilgrave’s psychic hold, but since that isn’t made clear, the search for the photographer feels kind of random. Does it really matter who is taking the snapshots, when Jessica has bigger, mind-controlling fish to fry? Considering that her search leads directly to a big story twist, my more cynical side is thinking that the only reason Jessica undertakes it is to get to the reveal, but when the twist is as effective as this one is, does this nitpicking matter? I don’t know.
Sneaking voyeurs aside, Jessica still has to pay the bills, and that means taking on clients. Her latest is a woman named Audrey Eastman, an art dealer who is convinced that her husband is cheating on her. Since divorces are a lot easier when there’s evidence, Audrey tasks Jessica with taking a picture of her husband in flagrante.
But if you remember, the last time that a client walked into Jessica’s office, the Schlottmans ended up dead in the elevator. She remembers and isn’t going to take any chances with Audrey, opting to follow her first before tracking down her husband’s mistress.
Meanwhile, Trish is dealing with the fallout from her run-in with the NYPD in the previous episode. The cop who Kilgrave sent to murder her is back, and this time he has back-up and a battering ram. He’s not there to kill anyone, though. Sarge thinks he murdered Trish, and he wants to know for sure. Much to his relief and confusion, she has not passed on, thanks to Jessica’s quick thinking and a little Sufentanil. The cop is still useful, however, as he can access the security cam footage that Jessica needs in order to track down her photographer.
What I wasn’t expecting was a sweet B-plot between Trish and her attacker. After he returns to the apartment to give the gift any girl would love — a gun! — the two got to talking and bonded over their shared trauma. There’s real heart here in a place I would not have guessed. You’ve surprised me, Jessica Jones, twice in the same hour.
So things are looking up for Trish, especially after that little girl delivered a message to Jessica from Kilgrave. He’s not going to hurt Trish. The over-the-top apology/ego appeal that she delivered on her show worked, so there’s one less person for Jessica to worry about. There is, however, still the matter of Audrey Eastman, who may or may not be a spy for Kilgrave. The little girl is possessed long enough to give Jessica an answer, so it’s back to following her client to find out.
If Audrey is under the Purple Man’s control, she needs to visit him every once in a while, since Kilgrave’s voodoo only works for 10 or 12 hours at a time. So all Jessica has to do is follow her long enough to find out the truth, which turns out to be weirder than expected. The trail takes Jessica to an abandoned warehouse, where Audrey is practicing her aim with a handgun and a bunch of mannequins. (How was the door to the warehouse chained up from the outside if Audrey was already inside? I’m feeling nitpicky today.)
Despite sending Kilgrave after her, Trish’s radio interview with Hope has also done some good. More of the Purple Man’s victims are coming forward, creating a boatload of work for Hogarth, who wants Jessica to spy on her soon-to-be-ex-wife Wendy. (Hogarth, that restaurant move you pulled was way uncool.) One of the more interesting moments from the hour came after the series of interviews with potential victims. Hogarth says Kilgrave’s powers are wasted on a wicked man. Jessica’s argues that any “side” the Purple Man could be on would still involve him taking away the agency of other people. It’s a point that isn’t super obvious and one that makes it clear that there is some serious thought going on behind the scenes.
Jessica Jones is at its best when it’s dealing with trauma in a real way — something that’s apparent with the new crop of Kilgrave survivors and Trish’s budding relationship with her attacker. Most of these characters are coping after a supervillain hijacked their bodies, and the scenario is similar to rape. The meaning behind Kilgrave’s power goes even deeper when you consider Malcolm, whom I’m about to get to.
Mostly satisfied that Audrey is acting of her own volition, Jessica begins to tail her husband, Carlo. The guy appears to be the philanderer that his wife suspects he is, staying out at an odd hour of the night and carrying flowers, but it’s a little more complicated than that. As she sneaks into Carlo’s building, Jessica discovers that the woman he’s sleeping with is indeed Audrey. Jessica burst into the room, expecting a Kilgrave drone. What she gets is something stranger. Audrey’s mother died in “The Incident” (a.k.a. Avengers’ Battle of New York) when a building fell on top of her. Because of this, the woman has a prejudice against all superpowered people, even though Jessica tells her to take it up with “the green guy” and the flag-waver.” (Why doesn’t this show want to say “Hulk” and “Captain America”?) Jessica’s bluff that bullets can’t hurt her doesn’t work on Audrey, but the detective is able to disarm the woman and smash the apartment, furious that someone would try to take her life because she has powers (possibly gained in the the accident that killed her parents).
Does Jessica actually know of 99 other superheroes in Manhattan? I hope so.
Now for the Malcolm twist. Thanks to the footage provided by the now-friendly cop and a tip-off from one of Kilgrave’s former victims, Jessica is able to identify her photographer as Malcolm, adding another element to the Purple Man metaphor. It’s clear from the photo in his room that Malcolm wasn’t always the drugged-up mess we know, suggesting that his addiction is just another form of control that Kilgrave is using on his victim. The people who have been prey to the villain often say that it wasn’t them doing what they did, making the line to drug usage very easy to draw. With the widening context of his power, Kilgrave is becoming a more frightening villain than ever, possibly the worst in the MCU to date, because of how relatable his particular brand of destruction is.