Superheroes invite metaphors for discrimination by their very nature. People fear what they don’t understand; this is especially true when the “what” happens to be a giant green monster or a Norse god, but what Jessica Jones and Luke Cage lack in enormity or mythology they make up for with power. In “AKA Crush Syndrome,” these two got to see each other for what they are. In “AKA It’s Called Whiskey,” they’re curing their self-imposed isolation from emotional contact with supersex—lots of it, followed by a dialogue about what it’s like being “gifted.” Their talk is the first time in Jessica Jones that meaningful reference has been made to The Avengers, and the nod strikes a sharp contrast between them and their better-known peers.
Other Marvel shows, particularly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., suggest that their casts of characters live explicitly in the shadows of Marvel films. In Jessica Jones, they’re living off to the side of those shadows. Neither Jessica nor Luke seem to have much use for the tragedy of the New York incident, or for the exploits and adventures of Tony Stark, Thor, Captain America, and Black Widow. If anything, having those heroes saving the world out in the open makes life just a mite more overloaded for everyone else. “People find out,” Luke murmurs to Jessica over dinner, “They either come at you with a noose or their hands out.” If you knew your neighbor could lift a car over their head, what would you do? Would you suddenly fear them? Would you see them as a threat to your safety? Would you ask them to help you renovate your den in time for the holidays?
Being a hero, “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” tells us, puts a target on your back. Case in point: The episode’s final sequence, where Jessica busts into a posh highrise Kilgrave has ensconced himself in (more posh than the last posh highrise, even) to confront the son of a bitch, only to discover that he’s been tracking her via discreetly photographed snapshots taken on the street. That’s Kilgrave for you: He’s everywhere and anywhere. If Jessica didn’t already operate the day to day with a healthy dose of paranoia, she’s sure to be looking over her back now more than ever. Who does Kilgrave have on her tail? Who is sneaky enough to surreptitiously catch Jessica in their lens while under the cover of broad daylight?
The final scene of the episode, which the show’s promo materials have sadly already given away, is a total chiller. If you needed further convincing of Jessica Jones’ individuality among Marvel fare, then the psychological thriller quality of the unnerving discovery she makes in that aforementioned highrise might help you along. It’s like David Fincher ran onto the set, threw a mosaic mug shot of Krysten Ritter on the wall, and dashed off into the night before David Petrarca (Game of Thrones, Tyrant) even noticed, cackling maniacally at his own deviousness all the while. Tone is important on Jessica Jones, and while the considerable amount of time Ritter and Mike Colter spend in the buff is your first clue that this ain’t your average Marvel show, the creep factor Kilgrave brings to the story is undeniable.
We’ve only gotten to see and hear David Tennant in bits and pieces since the show went live last Friday. “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” doesn’t give him that much more screen time than in the past, but his on-air threat to Trish, coupled with the reveal at the end of the episode, give him more presence than he’s had in the story to date. When Will Simpson (Wil Traval) comes knocking on Trish’s door after her ill-advised broadcasted taunt to Kilgrave, we get a visceral lesson in exactly how dangerous Kilgrave can be, but it’s that phone call he makes to Trish’s radio show that pegs him as a monster. You do not trifle with Kilgrave. He’ll turn the law against you. He’ll even turn normal folks just trying to live out their lives against you. Trish’s encounter with Simpson, combined with the knowledge that Kilgrave has had Jessica tailed, drives home Jessica Jones’ metaphor for female anxieties quite firmly: You can’t ever really know who is following you, or watching you, or what their true intentions are.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing online about film since 2009, and has contributed to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant, Movie Mezzanine, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.