Is Jessica a hero or monster? David Tennant returns to help her answer that question
He’s baaaaaack …. Well, kind of.
David Tennant made his long-awaited return to Jessica Jones in episode 11. However, this isn’t silly fan service or proof that the show, like so many other superhero properties, can’t let go of a great villain. Nor does his appearance undercut season 1’s fantastic conclusion. No, it’s a powerful and very necessary tool that’s used to explore just how much Jessica’s latest, albeit unintentional, kill is adding to fuel to her internal struggle. As Jessica is tormented by this hallucinatory Kilgrave, a manifestation of her subconscious, she’s force to face her demons and realize that she ultimately has the power to decide whether or not she’s a hero or monster.
PREVIOUSLY: Jessica Jones recap: ‘AKA Pork Chop’
Picking up in the immediate aftermath episode 10, we find Jessica curled up in a ball on the ground, unable to process what just happened. Krysten Ritter makes you feel Jessica’s guilt and internal torment throughout the entire opening scene, from Jessica pacing Dale’s apartment to her making Dale’s death look like a suicide.
Kilgrave’s presence in the episode starts out small, as a purple light and a frighteningly seductive voice inside Jessica’s head. However, it’s not long before Jessica starts seeing him. One of the most unsettling moments of the entire episode is when a naked Kilgrave briefly appears behind Jessica while she’s taking a shower. Soon enough, Jessica is exchanging banter with this imaginary Kilgrave, who functions mainly as a little devil on her shoulder that’s trying to pull her to the dark side and accept that she’s a killer.
Fake Kilgrave isn’t the only one who is proud of Jessica for killing Dale. Alisa figures out what happened when she gets a new, nicer female guard name Marilyn, with whom she bonds over being a mother, among other things. Alisa convinces Marilyn to let her call Jessica, and Alisa lets her know how proud she is of what Jessica does. Needless to say, that doesn’t make Jessica feel any better.
It doesn’t take long for Jessica to learn that Karl has gone missing, and that Malcolm and Trish are responsible. So Jessica goes into super-P.I. mode and uses the women Malcolm has been sleeping with on a dating app to triangulate his location. This clever bit of private investigating is yet another sign of how much stronger this show would be if it was even a bit more episodic and featured some standalone cases. While I love the season’s rich thematic material and character exploration, I also just want to see Jessica be an awesome investigator — which wouldn’t stop the show from giving us the former. (Next: Trish is the worst)
As Jessica searches for Trish and Malcolm, Kilgrave continues to fan the flames of Jessica’s self-loathing — “You invite betrayal, don’t you?” — and suggests that the only way to deal with Karl is to kill him, all of which forces Jessica to question her self-worth even more. Eventually, Jessica catches up to Trish and Karl right as Malcolm escapes from the trunk of Trish’s car. Unfortunately, Trish and Karl, who are running off to reproduce the experiment that created Jessica and her mother, manage to escape, leaving Jessica alone with hallucinatory Kilgrave and Malcolm, neither of whom she can stand to look at.
I guess we’ve reached the point where we have to discuss the most frustrating part of the episode: Trish’s self-destructive quest for power. Having spent all her life feeling powerless because of her abusive mother and superpowered sister, Trish is determined to use this opportunity to finally become the hero she believes she can be, to take back control of her life. In the process, however, she becomes rather unsympathetic because this is a needlessly dangerous plan. She and Karl setup shop in the old IGH building and begin the procedure that will, hopefully, give her powers. Karl isn’t sure it will work since he still hasn’t figured out what it was about the Jones women’s DNA that had that that side effect, but Trish is still willing to take that chance.
The procedure starts to go sideways right as Jessica arrives. Despite Karl’s pleas that he can save Trish, Jessica puts an end to the science experiment, which has left Trish near death’s door. In her anger, Jessica comes very close to killing Karl — Ritter is visibly shaking in this scene, and it’s amazing — but she manages to stop herself before she crosses the line because she realizes she has the power to control who she is and what she does. Staying her hand also helps Jessica accept that being scared of becoming a monster is a good thing.
“It should [terrify me],” she says to Kilgrave in the hospital waiting room while Trish undergoes surgery. “I’m not a killer. I’m not you. I’m not my mother. I can control myself … which means I’m more powerful than you ever were.” That’s a huge moment for Jessica, who has spent most of this series drowning in self-loathing. However, there’s more. Kilgrave points out that she won’t be able to handle her mother since Karl’s dead, but Jessica disagrees. “I’m enough,” she says, which is the most declarative statement she’s made about her self-worth ever. With that said, Kilgrave fades away, but he lets her know he’ll be there if she ever needs him again.
Unfortunately, Jessica will have to test whether she’s enough for her mother very soon. After Jessica saves Trish, Karl, believing his work to be useless, takes his own life by blowing himself up inside the IGH building. Karl has barely been a character for most of the season, so his pre-death realization feels unearned and meaningless. In fact, it’s clear that the only reason Karl kills himself is because the writers needed something to push us into the final two episodes. Alisa hears about Karl’s death from a news report, flies off the handle, and breaks out of prison, most likely to kill Trish, whom she believes is responsible since someone captured a photo of Trish and Karl together. This might be how Jessica loses her mother.
- Kilgrave’s return also brought some dark humor to the episode. Him singing “I Want Your Cray Cray” was disturbingly humorous.
- The show forces in a flashback to the first time Alisa and Karl kissed, and it doesn’t work at all. Alisa and Karl’s relationship has been weird since it was introduced, and there’s nothing that will convince me to care about it.
- Grading this episode was difficult because the Jessica/Kilgrave stuff is so good, but the Trish story is messy and frustrating.