Jessica Jones’ first season goes out with a bang in “AKA Smile.” Everything comes together beautifully, if a bit tragically, but that seems to be the norm for Miss Jones. There were several surprises that I didn’t see coming, and a few things I hoped for didn’t happen… but I’m getting ahead.
The episode opens with Jessica rushing Luke Cage to the ER. She was forced to shoot him in the head with a shotgun at extreme close range at the end of last episode. While his steel-hard skin stood up to the blast, there was apparently internal damage. The ER might not have been her best choice. The staff there begin to realize that Luke isn’t a normal patient and don’t seem happy to have one of “them” in their midst.
Jessica finally catches a break when one of the nurses turns out to be Claire Temple. Claire is the nurse that appeared in several episodes of the first season of Daredevil, and now becomes the only character to be in both series. She’s slated to appear in the Luke Cage series as well, which will put her in three out of three of the Netflix/Marvel series. I wonder if she’ll manage to turn up Iron Fist and/or the Defenders?
Claire is used to “not normal” and makes the decision to help Jessica and Luke. They almost make it out of the hospital before another obstacle gets thrown in their way. Kilgrave has turned up here and is convincing people Jessica must be stopped at all costs. Jessica is strong, sure, but she doesn’t want to turn her powers against a building full of patients, nurses, and doctors.
Eventually they make it to Jessica’s apartment, which is still looking like a war zone. That’s only fair, it more or less was. Claire comes up with some creative, if gruesome, ways to treat Luke’s injuries. It takes a lot to gross out Jessica at this point, but Claire manages it. Claire and Jessica talk about powers, injuries, and friends. Claire makes an offer that probably would have resulted in a Jessica/Daredevil team up, but Jessica doesn’t want to risk anyone else being controlled by Kilgrave, and decides it’s time to end this.
Kilgrave is sulking at his current hideout. His father had come up with a new formula, but it doesn’t have great odds. Albert warns that there’s a 40% chance it will make Kilgrave stronger, but a 60% chance it will kill him. Those aren’t great odds, unless you’re a crazy, obsessive, supervillain. It’s not a smooth procedure.
After an emotional, if one-sided, scene with Luke, Jessica gets to work. She traced some of the numbers in Luke’s phone, looking for a lead on Kilgrave. She finds something worth checking on, and gets some help from Trish. Trish mentions she has found something out about IGH, a company connected to both Simpson’s meds and Jessica’s powers. In what may well be some pretty blatant foreshadowing for season two, Jessica says she can only face one big bad guy at a time.
Jessica convinces Trish to let her go alone to check out the apartment she’s found. The place shows all the hallmarks of a recent Kilgrave hideout- bodies, blood, death in horrific manners. Albert is improbably, messily alive, but not for long. He warns Jessica that Kilgrave is even stronger now, and she manages to find a clue about where to go next.
Back at Jessica’s place, Malcolm wanders in and finds Claire and Luke there. He has a sort of rambling, philosohpical conversation with Claire about helping people, powers, and what powers can do to people. Malcolm is understandably worried that if Luke wasn’t enough to stand up to Kilgrave’s powers, what chance do the rest of them have? Claire has an amusing line about not being special, just running into special a lot.
Jessica has a brief conversation with Hogarth that is pretty ugly. It shows the depths Hogarth has sunk to, and how badly she’s dealing with things. Jessica moves on, running down her last lead. It ends up being a huge ferry terminal that is eerily quiet and empty. Kilgrave turns up with some mind-controlled cops. This is a bad set up, but Jessica pulled off a few tricks of her own. There’s a lot of gunfire (a really improbable amount, actually. The cops must have the action movie special near-infinite ammo model pistols before Jessica gets past them. This has given Kilgrave time to get to a whole new group of hostages, and he uses his power in his standard, sickening way to keep Jessica busy. He then makes a threat that she can’t allow. There’s a really tense, surprising standoff before the situation is resolved. It’s not what I expected for a resolution, but I understand it.
There’s a final scene with Luke and Claire that goes decently. Claire’s reaction to the end of it is really entertaining. Hogarth puts some of her ruthlessness to good use, and manages to get Jessica’s legal problems cleared up. There’s another voiceover from Jessica at the end of the show about the nature of being a hero. It’s one of their better pieces of writing. The season ends with Jessica getting some help from a friend, and the upbeat line of, “Alias investigations. How can we help?”
What I liked: As with most of the series, just about everything. The writing was fantastic, the tension in this finale was amazingly thick. We got a great feel for who Jessica is, but they also did great character work with Kilgrave, Trish/Patsy Walker, and Jeri Hogarth. I loved seeing Claire pop up and tie this in more firmly with Daredevil.
What I didn’t: While I get why Jessica did what she did with Kilgrave at the end, I didn’t like it. I’m a little old-fashioned about my heroes. I’m also not wild about Luke Cage being that shaken up by a shotgun. The man has taken much worse before in the comics. He seems to have been drastically powered down here.
I’ll give this episode a 4 out of 5, and the season as a whole a 4.5 out of 5.
I had one thing I really was hoping for that they didn’t do. One of the things Marvel seems to be handling better than DC is embracing the fact that their superhero characters are, well, superheroes. The names, the masks, all of it. While Jessica’s costume was briefly seen, and I never expected her to wear it (except maybe in flashback), there were two other characters who have had costumes in the comics. I can see Luke not wearing his, but I was disappointed that Trish never made the leap to Hellcat, her comics alter ego. Maybe in season two, or the Defenders. I also hope they lose the “AKA” for each title in season two.