Why Kilgrave Is The Best Villain In The Entire MCU (And Why He Should NOT Return For Jessica Jones Season 2) - Quill’s Scribbles
I don’t always complain about Marvel you know. Occasionally I say nice things too.
As we come to the end of what is for all intents and purposes Phase 1 of the Marvel Netflix Defenders… stuff, the response has been largely positive. Okay Daredevil Season 2 was a bit messy and the less said about Iron Fist the better, but overall I’d say that the Defenders… collection (what the fuck are we supposed to call these?) was quite successful. As well as being darker and more adult than the big budget Marvel movies, one of the primary reasons these TV shows stood out was the villains. Usually considered the bane of the MCU due to lack of development and formulaic writing, here the baddies were a revelation. They were given depth and complexity, as well as interesting dynamics and relationships with their respective protagonists that often went beyond the usual good vs evil tropes we’d normally expect from superhero media. I’m sure we all have our favourites. There’s Kingpin of course. Cottonmouth. Madame Gao. But for me the leader of the pack has to be Kilgrave.
Kilgrave has got to be the best antagonist ever to come out of the collective MCU, not just because of David Tennant’s performance and the stellar writing behind him, but also because of what he represents.
Let’s start with the whole mind control thing. In the comics, Kilgrave (or the Purple Man as he’s known) mostly used his mind control powers to create an army of slaves and minions for nefarious purposes. A tad obvious and not very inspired. The Alias comics, which Jessica Jones is based on, tried to expand on this, but still painted the Purple Man and his abilities with very broad strokes, turning Jessica Jones into a bodyguard and implied sex slave because… he’s the villain I guess. The Jessica Jones TV show, on the other hand, goes deeper into it, exploring what drives Kilgrave and how having the power of mind control would affect his character and morality.
The clever thing about it is even though Kilgrave does some truly horrible things in the show, his mind control powers still feel very enticing. I’m sure we’d all secretly want Kilgrave’s powers, maybe to talk our way out of a parking ticket or to get rid of someone really annoying. But as awesome as mind control is, it can also be very dangerous. Not only is there the question of removing someone’s free will, but there’s also other psychological implications. The episode AKA WWJD explores those implications as Jessica tries to convince Kilgrave to use his powers for good. There’s no denying that mind control is a powerful force that could do a lot of good in the right hands, but it becomes abundantly clear that Kilgrave is incapable of doing it, as indeed everyone would be incapable of doing it due to just how enticing and intoxicating the power of mind control would be.
Kilgrave makes a big song and dance about wanting to turn over a new leaf, but the truth is he has no compelling reason to. I honestly believe him when he says that it’s difficult for him to know for sure if someone is genuinely giving consent, but the fact is his life is just easier when he uses mind control. Why bother persuading someone to do what he wants when he can just command them to do it? Kilgrave is a repulsive human being, but the fact is his life is just better because of his powers. He doesn’t have to wait for other people to give consent or play by our rules. He can just do whatever he wants whenever he wants. That’s why his powers are so enticing. Mind control allows Kilgrave to bypass all those inconveniences like morality and the rights of other people, but the cost is that by doing so he became an amoral sociopath. I’m sure we’d all say that if we had mind control we’d be better than Kilgrave, but that’s easier said than done. Once you’re able to cross that moral line with no consequence, there’d be nothing to stop you from going all the way. That’s part of what makes Kilgrave so scary. We recognise what a vile, disgusting and selfish individual he is, but we also secretly recognise that, in his shoes, we’d be no better than him.
The other reason of course why Kigrave is such an effective villain is because he is in many ways a distillation of the many things women have had to endure in this patriarchal society. Kilgrave is the very embodiment of male entitlement. He believes that people, particularly women and especially Jessica, owe him something. Control is a major theme of the show. Jessica’s fight to reclaim control over her own life after the abuse she endured from Kilgrave, as well as Kilgrave’s ability to control others. He claims to be in love with Jessica, but the truth is he’s obsessed, and the reason he’s obsessed is because Jessica is the only one that managed to escape from him. After years of being able to control other people and get anything he wants with little to no effort, he no longer views people as people. Rather as tools for him to exploit. And he doesn’t respect or even comprehend people’s boundaries. The sad truth is there are loads of women out there who have met men like that. While Kilgrave takes it to its logical extreme, the premise isn’t so farfetched. There are men out there who do objectify women, merely viewing them as slot machines that you keep putting money in until you win the jackpot, as it were, and completely disrespecting their views and boundaries. I think that’s why this show has struck a chord with female audiences in particular because they can recognise the struggles Jessica is going through. Kilgrave is uncomfortable to watch because the idea of him hits very close to home. Even in the most progressive and feminist of men, there is a little bit of Kilgrave in all of them.
Kilgrave is such a dark, fascinating and downright disturbing character both in the context of the show and because of the real world parallels you can draw from him. So you’d think I’d be all in favour of him potentially returning for Jessica Jones Season 2. If only that were so.
For those who don’t know, photos were released from the set of Jessica Jones showing David Tennant on set with Krysten Ritter, suggesting Kilgrave will be returning from the dead. Some claim he may just appear in flashback or dream sequences, but there are photos of him interacting with Malcolm as well, which suggests he may well be alive. Nothing is certain of course. Maybe he’ll only be in a couple of episodes. Maybe he’ll be the main villain of Season 2. i don’t know. Either way, i honestly think it’s a mistake bringing him back. To explain why, I need to briefly discuss another favourite of mine. Loki.
I’ve made it no secret how much I enjoyed the first Thor movie, and Loki was definitely the highlight for me. A complex, intricately written character who reminded me a lot of Edmund from Shakespeare’s King Lear. A man who was clearly better suited to rule the kingdom than Thor, but is unable to ascend the throne due to the fact that he’s an illegitimate son. In the first Thor movie, Loki was a villain not by choice, but by circumstance. Loki would make a great king, but the only way he could possibly get to be king is through treachery and subterfuge, and by doing so he grows more and more corrupt until by the end he wouldn’t be fit to run a supermarket, let alone a kingdom. He’s a classic archetype, written with care and attention to detail and performed expertly by Tom Hiddleston. However problems started to emerge when Marvel kept bringing him back for repeat appearances. With each appearance, it seemed as though Loki was bering painted with broader and broader strokes, removing all the complexity and intricacy that made him so interesting to begin with until he became just the bog standard muhahaha villain we’ve come to expect from the MCU.
I’m worried the same thing could happen to Kilgrave. There’s a reason why most superhero movies kill off the villains after their initial appearance. To avoid the law of diminishing returns. Even before Heath Ledger’s tragic passing, Christopher Nolan had no intention of bringing the Joker back as the main villain for The Dark Knight Rises because he had already explored everything he wanted with that character. The problem with characters like Loki and Kilgrave is that they are effectively one trick ponies. Once you’ve explored Loki’s resentment and jealousy of Thor, his frustration at Odin and Asgardian society and his desire for power slowly turning into an insatiable lust for it, what else is there left to do? His story is basically done now. Why bring him back? All they do is just run the risk of repeating themselves and the nuance is no longer there as a result of the filmmakers desperately looking for something to do with Loki. Kilgrave has that same risk. The mind control stuff was scary and interesting and thought provoking, but we’ve pretty much seen everything we need to see and there’s nothing left really to explore. So why bring him back?
There’s also another problem with bringing Kilgrave back and that applies to Jessica herself. With sequels, filmmakers often struggle to find the right balance between retaining what people loved about the original and finding new, creative ways of moving the story forward. By bringing Kilgrave back, I fear that Jessica’s story is going to be stuck in amber. The first season focused on Jessica’s abuse. Logically the second season should focus on Jessica’s recovery. See her try to get back on her feet and perhaps fully address her alcohol addiction. Jessica should be moving forwards now, but by bringing Kilgrave back, there’s the risk that the story could end up going backwards instead. While an effective villain in the first season, he could actually serve as a detriment to the second because the show has exhausted all creative avenues with him at this point, plus there’s just no reason to bring him back after the first season wrapped his reign of terror up quite nicely, just like the first Thor movie did with Loki.
Kilgrave is the best villain in the MCU ,and that’s precisely why I don’t want to see him again. His story had a proper beginning, middle and end. Jessica’s has only just begun. Let’s look toward her future rather than continue to dwell in the past.