Three moments actually.
Thar be spoiler-dragons ahead, Mateys …
Are we alone yet?
Jessica Jones (the Netflix series) is a Marvel superhero story that’s hard to watch. It doesn’t hesitate to get right down into the sewer sludge. It’s too sludgy for me to watch more than one episode at a time. It is compelling though, and I’m going to continue to the end of the thirteen episodes, because in it’s own way it pushes the viewer to engage with more than just a shiny superhero defeating a wisecracking supervillain just as Mark Watney surviving everything Mars could throw at him, (in The Martian) pushed the viewer to engage with a grand space opera for grownups.
And it seems that lately, I’m pushing at most of my nice comfy boundaries. Writing stories that are going to places that are rough and awkward and uneasy. This is a good thing for the writer, not so good for the person who’s invested a great deal of time and energy in sidestepping those unnerving boundaries.
Back to Jessica Jones.
The first two moments were, in me ‘umble opinion, character inconsistencies, and the third one was a giant world building or plot one.
First Jessica tracked Kilgrave to a penthouse and she had him dead to rights and didn’t take the opportunity to kill him.
Second one. After Jessica and Co drug Kilgrave and she had him unconscious in the back of a truck, again she didn’t kill him. This is the obscene abuser who subjected her to indescribable humiliations.
The character has been built up over several episodes now to understand in horrific detail how the nasty slithery side of life operates. She knows what Kilgrave can do, what he is capable of. That no matter what she does, the innocent young woman that Kilgrave forced to shoot her parents will never be free of her past. (I know, if she had killed him then there wouldn’t be any more episodes, but that’s another story for another time)
So, Jessica hesitates to kill him, twice. I understand PTSD, intimately, and I know how it can immobilise you, but Jessica has been portrayed as someone who pushes through that, who embraces the dark. These two character inconsistencies threw me out of the story, and as any writer will tell you, if something throws the reader out of a story then you’re doing it wrong.
The final thing was the scene in the police station squad room in Episode 7
Kilgrave had the cops frozen in the act of firing on one and another, in order to force Jessica to do what he wants. He removed any videos, log entries, etc, from their computers, and the severed head (yep, severed head) and told the cops that in 30 seconds they will think this was all a big joke and release Jessica.
It’s been established that Kilgrave’s influence only lasts for about twenty four hours, then the victim is free of his influence and remembers everything.
There’s no way a bunch of cops would let this go once their twenty four hours is up. They would remember and be very angry. This would be too big for Kilgrave to ‘mind-control’ his way out of. His success is dependent on remaining essentially anonymous.
It is a giant plot inconsistency. And it irked me, so I wrote this post about it.
The thing about fiction, and particularly science fiction/fantasy, is that in order for the reader to enter into an agreement with the author to suspend their belief and engage with the story, the world building including characters, has to be consistent. It can be completely off the wall but it has to be consistently off the wall. Even a small detail can trigger the tripwire and the story’s a goner.
I now sincerely and humbly light a candle on the altar of Seshat the Goddess of Writing, so that I may never have any plot or character inconsistencies … but if I do may they be small ones … here and there … occasionally. Very occasionally.
I am hopeful the remaining episodes will to be able to re-ensnare me. I’ll let you know.