The Marvel series “Jessica Jones” made a big splash when it premiered in November 2015, proving that character-focused takes on superhero tales had real potential in an episodic context. And the best episode of Season 2, “AKA Three Lives and Counting,” is the one that proves the power of that idea.
[Editor’s note: Spoilers follow for “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” Season 2.]
Thanks to a longer-than-usual gap between seasons, Season 2 of “Jessica Jones” was able to be developed as a whole piece. But it’s not hard to pinpoint the best episode of the 13 that premiered on Thursday. While Episode 7, “AKA I Want Your Cray-Cray,” offers up some fascinating insight into Jessica’s past, it’s really Episode 11, “AKA Three Lives and Counting,” that lingers in the memory.
And no, it’s not just because David Tennant returns.
(But that was nice to see.)
While fans of the Marvel series had been aware that Tennant would be back in some capacity for Season 2, anyone who’s ever watched a television show was pretty confident that his return wouldn’t be in an official/alive capacity.
Instead, the episode, which takes place in the aftermath of Jessica confronting the brutal prison guard in charge of caring for her mother Alisa (and, in the ensuing conflict, killing him), is a deeply psychological installment of television. Fortunately, it was directed by Jennifer Lynch, who found just the right approach to creating an introspective approach to Jessica confronting her demons.
Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg was blown away by Lynch’s work on Episode 11, telling IndieWire that “Jennifer brought so much to that episode. She’s such a artist. [The episode]’s not constrained by a traditional approach to things and really allows her vision to expand. I thought she brought so much visual style and the actors really loved her. I would work with her again in a heartbeat.”
Lynch is, yes, David Lynch’s daughter, but also an impressive filmmaker in her own right. Not only was she the first woman to win Best Director at the New York Horror Film Festival, but she’s directed countless episodes of television since 2013, including “Once Upon a Time,” “The Walking Dead,” and “American Horror Story.”
Lynch is no stranger to psychological horror, going all the way back to her debut feature, the 1993 film “Boxing Helena,” a film that’s all about the power struggles between men and women. And that factors beautifully into how she approaches this episode, which slowly introduces Jessica’s mental manifestation of Kilgrave into the action.
Lynch imbues the episode with so many impressive touches, especially early in the episode, when Kilgrave is just beginning to trespass upon Jessica’s state of being. The use of camera angles and long-lens points-of-view go a long way to make it clear that Jessica is struggling to maintain control over her own psyche, especially as manifested by Kilgrave.
That’s what makes this the most intimate episode of the season, laser-focused on Jessica as she copes with the reality that she’s killed three people — not exactly heroic behavior, by comic book standards. But it does lead to an interesting denouement, as Jessica confronts her flaws in the context of Kilgrave reminding her of what she’s done, even as he seems to aide her in her other investigations.
And his presence in her mind really comes together in the episode’s final scene, as Jessica confronts her actions, along with the reason why she’s let Kilgrave shout in her ear all day long. While her final words — “I can control myself. Which means I’m more powerful than you ever were” — feel believable, we’re still haunted by the casual delivery of Kilgrave’s send-off: “I’ll be around if you need me.”
There’s no official word on a Season 3, but it would be fascinating if Kilgrave did reappear to Jessica in future episodes. After all, as much as we’d like to believe the opposite, there’s no escaping the past.
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.