Warning: Spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 3 up to Episode 7.
I've been working my way through Jessica Jones Season 3, and just finished the episode where she returns from her trip to Sallinger's hometown and goes to the middle school where he's teaching wrestling. The following scene really confused me and the internet hasn't been much help. I've never liked Jessica much as a person, nor empathized with her decisions, but I could understand them in the context of her life and her personality. This scene, on the other hand, made no sense to me.
The Invitation In
Sallinger is shown to be a gifted orator and very manipulative, and she could assume that he could turn any listener against her in an open, public discussion. As such, she had much to fear from entering the gym, but nothing that I could see to gain. She should have been hiding her presence while surveilling him (something she'd be used to as a PI). Instead she stood there in the middle of the window, and then entered with little hesitation.
Note that although she's made poor decisions in the past, they seemed to have a purpose. Even if all she had to gain was feeling good by hurting someone who annoyed her, that's still something to gain. She didn't even have that in this situation.
Killing Sallinger in public, or at all, would be risky for her personally, and doesn't seem to be consistent with her new 'heroic' goals. So all she could hope to achieve when he challenges her to a match is to fight him without her powers (and likely lose to someone with expertise) or to fight him with her powers and confirm his claim that she cannot win using skill. The former accomplishes nothing but her chagrin, while the latter will cause an already fearful public to fear her more while buttressing his claims against her. Neither is desirable, yet she engages anyway.
Sallinger is in a similar situation. He is seen publicly as the aggressor (by making the challenge) and extremely unprofessional (by doing it at work). If he then wins he loses some of that public support her gained through his claimed victimhood. However, if he loses then he potentially gets hurt, and will still likely lose some support because some watchers will feel like he deserved it for escalating the conflict. This is inconsistent with his cautious demeanor and careful well thought out plans in previous episodes.
Jessica then wins, clearly by using her powers. While this strange woman who has been demonized in the public eye causes potentially fatal injuries to a beloved teacher who thus far has only been shown to have been supportive and beloved by his students, the watching students cheer for no good reason at all. This continues and grows while this stranger tosses their teacher around the room for no good (apparent to them) reason. The parents also do nothing.
I'm a parent, and have taken quite a few psychology and child psychology classes and this is the point in the scene where I started getting really lost. Kids that age may not always like their teachers, but in their minds they grant them expertise and include them in their 'clan' when confronted with an 'other'. They would like not to see their teacher shown to be incompetent or inferior to an outsider, especially a teacher that they liked (and Sallinger is shown to be likable and liked). I've seen in this happen in real life, not with a teacher being physically beaten but with them losing in a competition of expertise, and the cognitive dissonance taking place in the students was clearly uncomfortable (even painful).
So the children are shown to act just as oddly as the main characters.
I expected there to be some revelation by the end of the scene. Either:
1) Jessica or Sallinger or both had some sort of plan that they put into action to weaken the other
2) The characters were acting inconsistently because the writers wanted to convey something through the scene and needed the characters to act that way in order to do it
(1) didn't seem to happen. Sallinger does taunt Jessica, but as mentioned previously it didn't seem like it would help him even if she did lose control...especially if she killed him. And keep in mind Sallinger is supposed to be much smarter than me; he should be able to come up with a far more effective plan than this. Meanwhile Jessica has no real plan, or reason for her actions, at all. She can't even 'enjoy' beating him up since she can't do it properly and is in front of a huge crowd.
(2) seemed more likely to me, but by the end I was just more confused than ever. Not because it seemed like the writers were trying to convey something that I didn't understand, but because it didn't seem clear that they were trying to convey anything at all.
So what was the purpose of this scene and why did the characters (all of them) act the way they did? Was there some message or idea that I was supposed to get out of it that I missed? Or is this explained in later episodes that I've yet to get to yet?