Jessica Jones and the Mechanics of “Post-Series Depression”

afterellen
Image from afterellen.com

Warning: The following content contains spoilers.

While I should have been studying for exams, I finally gave in to the hype and watched the first episode of Jessica Jones… and then the second episode, quickly followed by the third. Several days later, I found myself finishing the entire first season and dealing with that strange post-series depression; the kind of ache that arises only after you know you have finished a great show.

I know I’m late to the party since Jessica Jones aired on Netflix in November 2015, but this empty, void-like feeling after finishing this great show has got me thinking—why do we feel this way only when we have finished something that we really enjoy? After mulling over this for quite some time, I decided to do what I always do when I do not know the answer to something: write about it. I have decided that the answer to this question lies within Jessica Jones itself, or more specifically, its treatment of human psychology.

screenrant
Image from screenrant.com

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, Jessica Jones is a Netflix series produced by Marvel that follows the titular character’s quest to stop a mind-controlling psychopath named Kilgrave. Kilgrave himself is fixated on Jessica, and will stop at nothing to possess her. The show is one of the few television programs that accurately depicts a psychologically-tormented protagonist with an equally psychologically-complex villain. Characters on both sides of the good/evil spectrum suffer from mental illness. This is one of the reasons that Jessica Jones is so complex and compelling—it shows that people with mental illness are neither inherently bad nor good. Illness has no direct causal effect on a person’s morality, and thus we must examine the other, deeper reasons behind a character’s actions.

Everything about Jessica Jones is phenomenal, except for one glaring aspect that I find myself somewhat troubled with: Kilgrave’s death. There were so many interesting avenues to develop—Kilgrave was obsessed with gaining power and in one of his last scenes, his father warned him that the serum to expand his abilities might kill him. It was the perfect set-up for his death: in trying to develop his powers, his quest to become more powerful would end up killing him. Jessica’s ethical conundrum of having to kill someone would be avoided because Kilgrave’s own mad desire for control would do it for her.

So imagine my disappointment when Kilgrave falls for Jessica’s trap and gets himself killed in what felt like the most anti-climactic death in the entire series. I was so upset at this seeming cop-out of an ending. I ranted to all my friends about it, wrote this angry blog post about it… until I started thinking about why I was really so distraught by Kilgrave’s death.

I missed him.

screenrant2
Image from screenrant.com

I missed Kilgrave, the psychopathic, mind-controlling, cold-blooded murderer who rapes women and makes people commit suicide with his voice alone—but let me explain. I did not miss the unspeakable acts that Kilgrave committed. Rather, I missed Tennant’s chilling yet incredibly entertaining performance of him. I missed seeing what Kilgrave was up to next, and guessing at how he was going to carry out his next grand plan. Most of all, I lamented the potential to explore the possibilities of Kilgrave’s powers as a villain.

It is here that we come back to that empty feeling, that “post-series depression” we all get when we finish a great show. I would like to examine the effects of post-series depression first through the series’ most captivating (albeit disturbing) character, Kilgrave. He is a textbook psychopath, cunning and manipulative with an aura of superficial charm, and a complete lack of guilt for the atrocious acts he has committed. He does not see people as individuals, but rather as tools for his entertainment; characters in a play of which he is the director. We see this in the way he treats and imagines Jessica—although he claims to love her, he has no problem in trying to kill both her and the people she loves. What Kilgrave loves about Jessica is his ability to control her, to possess her, and it is this control that Kilgrave misses about Jessica when she is gone.

On a less extreme level, we miss our shows in the same manner. We miss our everyday interactions with them, seeing the characters we love, and the degree of control in what we choose to watch and when. Once the show finishes, we do our best to find other shows similar to the one we have just finished, but it is never really quite the same. Kilgrave’s character demonstrates the darker implications of this emptiness, since he tries to replace Jessica with Hope Schlottman (with the hope of filling the void), but this ultimately fails. Kilgrave’s behaviour demonstrates that possessiveness towards the things we love is not by any means the kind of relationship we should strive for.

rollingstone
Image from rollingstone.com

Jessica is the offered solution to this problem in the show. Although she suffers from depression and PTSD, she does not let these illnesses define her, nor is she isolated by them. On the contrary, Jessica has people she cares about and people who care about her. Despite her repeated attempts to “not give a shit,” she finds herself caring about people anyway, and in the end she chooses to accept these friendships rather than reject them.

It is worth noting that all of Jessica’s plans to defeat Kilgrave fail, and it is not until she starts including her friends in her plans that they start making progress. She includes her best friend, Trish, in her plan to take down Kilgrave. In addition, the very last scene shows Malcolm, one of Jessica’s allies, answering Jessica’s phone at her apartment, and viewers are left with the hopeful assumption that Jessica and Malcolm are to run Alias Investigations together.

Maybe the right way to love our shows is not to find another one to replace them with, nor to let post-series depression keep us from discovering new things, but to share our experiences with the people we care about. Having a good relationship with art means having a good relationship with people; we should want to share the things we love with others, not keep them exclusively to ourselves. It’s the reason we always want our friends to watch the same shows that we do, so that we can talk about the shows with them and have a shared experience. In a way, it is like we are keeping our experience of the show alive in our everyday conversations so that, technically, a show is never really over if we keep talking about it—and that, I think, is a comforting thought.

-Contributed by Carine Lee

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep…or of a Blade Runner?

Upon receiving the syllabus for a course, I quickly scanned the book list and noticed one particular book: Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I was instantly intrigued by this title. Aren’t androids robots? And if they are robots, how would they dream, and why of electric sheep?

Cover art by Bruce Jensen
Cover art by Bruce Jensen

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was first published in 1968. Set in the year 2021, the novel chronicles the journey of Rick Deckard, an android bounty hunter. A majority of Earth’s population has immigrated to Mars in the aftermath of World War Terminus. Those who stayed behind on Earth were struck with illnesses due to the devastating pollution and radioactive environment. Animals have become extremely rare, and since most people can’t afford real animals because of their rarity, they buy electric ones instead.

After the war, androids were placed on Mars. The Nexus-6 androids are the newest and smartest androids. However, like the androids created before them, the Nexus-6 androids have one fatal flaw: they are unable to feel or experience empathy. Rick Deckard is assigned the job of capturing and retiring— that is, killing—six Nexus-6 androids that escaped Mars and returned to Earth.

During his hunt, Deckard develops a relationship with Rachael, one of the Nexus-6 androids. Their relationship challenges his views on the world, for Deckard is unable to understand how he can be attracted to someone that isn’t capable of true human emotions. Deckard begins to feel guilty for retiring the other Nexus-6 androids, but he eventually realizes that nothing can come out of his relationship with Rachael. However, rather than retire her, he opts to spare her life and tells her to return to where she belongs instead.

I enjoyed reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because of its deeper implications and the philosophical aspect that ran through it. Rick Deckard is a deeply conflicted character who questions his beliefs on everything. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? left me with more questions than answers, and perhaps that is Philip K. Dick’s intended purpose, for there are no concrete answers in life, and nothing is completely certain.

Poster art by John Alvin
Poster art by John Alvin

Blade Runner, the film adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? differs greatly from its novel counterpart. Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott and released in 1982. It stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard and Sean Young as Rachael.

The main difference between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner is that there isn’t really any emphasis on animals in the film. Blade Runner is the kind of film that has inside information that only those who have previously read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? would be able to understand. In his first meeting with Rachael, Deckard is endlessly fascinated by the owl that she owns. This slight reference to the importance and rarity of animals is never mentioned again. It made me think that other film watchers would wonder why it would even be important to mention the owl in the scene.

Deckard and Rachael’s relationship is also immensely different in Blade Runner. Rachael has been implanted with memories of a real person, in order to give her emotionality. When Deckard reveals to her that none of her memories are actually hers, she bursts into tears and leaves his apartment. I found this to be particularly striking because I didn’t consider the fact that androids could cry. Maybe they aren’t supposed to, just as robots aren’t capable of doing so. Deckard is also more forceful towards Rachael. There is one scene where she tries to leave after resisting his advances, and he physically restrains her and makes her kiss him. This was slightly disturbing to watch and not in any way romantic.

In Blade Runner, Deckard doesn’t have any issue retiring the androids. I tended to view the androids as just robots, but when they were retired, they actually bled. That was surprising, and I wonder if that directorial decision was to add emotional depth to the scene. I thought that because of their human-like appearance, Deckard would be more sympathetic—but he isn’t.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner have their pros and cons, but both work well. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? focuses more on the ethical implications of what it means to be human, whatever being human means. Blade Runner focuses more on the complicated relationship between Deckard and Rachael because she was a Nexus-6 android. I enjoyed both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner.

By the way, there is going to be a sequel to Blade Runner. I wonder what an old Rick Deckard will be up to. I can’t wait to find out!

-contributed by Liana Ramos