by Carter Glace
If there’s one notable weakness of the seemingly unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is their rouges gallery. Once you leave the pinnacle of Red Skull, Loki, Winter Soldier, The Mandarin and arguably Ultron, the majority of the 12 films have featured one off villains who mostly served to put the gear in motion for the hero. On one hand, a common criticism of other comic book hero films and comics in general are that the villains are infinitely more interesting than the hero. In 2008, people saw The Dark Knight to see The Joker, but people saw Iron Man to see Iron Man. But that doesn’t fix an issue that Marvel’s the universe grows more massive without the appropriately massive villains.
Marvel has managed to find a tiny corner where they are incredible at writing intense, killer villains: television. Between Agents of Shield’s massive cast of rouges to Agent Carter’s genre perfect communist spies and Daredevil’s terrifying monster Kingpin, they have already created an entire universe worth of great villains in just a few years. And with Jessica Jones, Marvel has made its terrifying, villainous, monstrous masterpiece: Killgrave.
There is so much praise you can throw at “Jessica Jones,” easily in the top five creations of Marvel. But I want to focus one what makes Killgrave incredible, because he is the most perfectly conceived, executed and realized villain in recent memory. So the next two pieces will be spent trying to make sense of what has made him an instant star.
The most simple answer I could give is that Marvel has done a great job at creating a character with a sympathetic back story and a incredibly useful power everyone would want, but is still utterly loathsome. The brutal footage of his childhood and his abandonment seem to explain his warped, attention seeking behavior. He also does a great job of making his powers out to be a curse as well, pointing out how nightmarish it would be never knowing if people are sincere in wanting to help you or under your control. And just the little ways Killgrave uses his powers, stealing jackets, getting everyone to shut up an entire café show how practical mind control could be. Having him rescue a family from a violent father comes at the absolute perfect time in the narrative. Jessica and Killgrave have finally begun interacting face to face, raising the question of whether or not he just needs a moral center to drive him.
Despite all of this, he is still the vilest bastard to leap off Marvel’s pages. He uses sympathetic origins as an excuse, not a motivation to be better. Because what’s clear is he has a Man Child, with a ten year old’s idea of morality and romance. Shortly after saving two lives, he wonders aloud how many more acts of heroism he needs to do to balance the books, as if heroism is a video game-style meter that ways for every good and bad deed. In his mind, raping someone then forcing them to murder their own parents is something that can be erased by helping enough people.
What makes him truly disturbing is how this attitude stems into his ‘romantic’ ventures. Above all, he is an entitled brat, who thinks that his bad behavior should be excused by personal trauma, and that his ‘good’ deeds deserve rewards. He continually whines how Jessica never appreciates him or what he does, even though that entails nearly killing an entire police station, murdering a family to get her attention, buying out her childhood home and redecorating it, taking her out to dinner—against her will—and taking hundreds of pictures of her. He can never accept how disturbing his actions are, because he’s decided that Jessica is his true love, and will woo her, never mind what she thinks. And what’s more, she smiles when they’re together, right? She enjoys being intimate with him, so it can’t be rape, right? Of course Jessica is destined for him. In Killgrave’s head, all of these thoughts spin through his head constantly, creating a warped reality where he is always right, combining with his behavior to make a creature that’s both immature and childish while also terrifying and monstrous.
Tune in next week for an even further dive into the madness that is The Purple Man!
Carter Glace is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org