Jessica Jones has made a point of being judicious with flashbacks; they’re used sparingly when they’re used at all, and they never overstay their welcome. Take, for example, “AKA The Sandwich Saved Me,” which visits a Jessica and Trish in the B.K. (before Kilgrave) days of their friendship, when everything looked bright and optimistic (by Jessica Jones’ standards) and Jessica seemed destined for superheroic greatness. They perform their base narrative function of filling in gaps in our knowledge of Jessica’s story, while also enhancing her relationship with Trish in the show’s present. (Plus, any opportunity to let Krysten Ritter throw out extra sarcasm and make douche-bros look stupid is an opportunity worth taking.)
Praising Melissa Rosenberg and her writing team for getting flashbacks right feels almost condescending, but it’s remarkably easy for a show to stumble on a trip down memory lane. Jessica Jones treats all such sequences with economy, though, and they’re smartly deployed for the purpose of supporting the meat of the series’ driving plot. So it is with “AKA I’ve Got the Blues,” which transports us back to Jessica’s childhood post-accident. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that Kilgrave is the sole source of all Jessica’s trauma. In her adult life, that is absolutely true, but once upon a time, a freak accident cost her her family, which she clearly hasn’t fully made peace with, even today.
It’s worth noting that Jessica Jones is concerned foremost with her victimization by way of Kilgrave than with the death of her family, but every now and again we’re reminded that yeah, that sort of sucked for her, too. (See: Jessica as she’s tormented by hallucinations of her blood-streaked parents and brother in “AKA WWJD?”) This episode drills down on exploring her acclimation to life with the Walkers and contrasts the formulation of Jessica and Trish’s bond to their search for Papa Kilgrave, or what’s left of him. They don’t find him, of course; for whatever reason, it doesn’t occur to either of our leading ladies that Kilgrave has bigger plans for dear old dad than ordering him to forcibly insert his own head into his own anus.
Finding Albert and Kilgrave might not really be the point here, though. For the eleventh chapter in a thirteen chapter series, “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” is surprisingly unconcerned about moving the story forward. For as often as the Kilgraves are name-dropped here, they don’t put in a single appearance, which leaves Jessica Jones bereft of its excellent villain. (And it must be emphasized that David Tennant is, in the limited canon of Marvel’s film and television brands, an all-timer as heavies go.) Instead, they search high and low, scouring morgues and turning up naught but the dearly departed Clemons’ scorched carcass, before tangling with Simpson, the proxy heavy for “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” in Kilgrave’s absence.
As mentioned in the “AKA 1,000 Cuts” recap, this feels like a mistake. Yes, a confrontation between the ladies and the increasingly twitchy Simpson was just an inevitability once he started popping pills again; no, there’s nothing wrong with that, from either a dramatic or thematic standpoint. But putting the Kilgrave debacle fully on hold for an entire episode saps the show of momentum. He has been as much a presence in Jessica Jones since his dreamlike and thoroughly creepy introduction in “AKA Ladies Night,” a necessary and vile part of the show’s casting and Jessica’s patriarchal shadow. Jessica Jones is about them. There’s room for Simpson in there, too, just as there’s room for Trish, or Malcolm, or Ruben and Robyn, but Simpson isn’t enough of a character that any demand to place him front and center as an antagonist should have been ignored (particularly since we’ve seen the build-up to his eventual heel turn meted out shrewdly for a while by now).
But you know what? It’s all good. “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” jettisons Kilgrave in favor of Simpson, but it keeps the spotlight on Jessica and Trish. This is their definitive episode as a team, as besties, and as victims of male and female domination alike. If you wondered what Trish meant by her validation of Jessica’s heroism in “AKA Top Shelf Perverts,” now you know. Jessica is and always has been Trish’s superhero, her guardian, her support system. They have stuck together through awful and awfuler times. Trish could have been a throwaway character with little reason to exist beyond cheering on Jessica from the sidelines, but she has been able to get directly involved more and more in Jessica’s mission as the show has progressed. In “AKA I’ve Got the Blues,” the tables turn: Trish gets to be Jessica’s hero for once.
Watching her toss back a couple of Simpson’s red pills and kick his ass is an immensely satisfying payoff that’s been a long time coming. If the trade-off to that is wheel-spinning in the Kilgrave department, so be it: “AKA I’ve Got the Blue” does its job, and does it well, and in one ante-upping explosion, it returns Jessica Jones to the hunt for the most persuasive big bad in the MCU.
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.