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Your Parents Would Just Love Jessica Jones's Evil Mastermind Kilgrave
And if they didn't, he would tell them to, and then they would. Angela Hamilton discusses the big moves of S01.E09!
Yes, all right. Technically, he's a mass-murdering sociopath with a God complex and ideas about how consent works that are, um, well, let's go with desperately misguided.
But hear me out.
Kevin Kilgrave* is fascinating and dreamy and complex and your parents would love him.
* I need to point out, for Marvel superfans and also anyone who cares about "factual accuracy," that Kilgrave's real name is Kevin Thompson, and Kilgrave is his alias. But technically, he's also supposed to have purple skin and be Croatian, so I don't know how strictly we're supposed to be playing any of this.
David Tennant is an amazing villain. This is because he could recite the alphabet for 12 hours and people would find him captivating. And THIS is because of his whole commanding-yet-defenseless vibe, which is endearing in a Time Lord but POSITIVELY RIVETING in a supervillain.
He's got that thing, that certain something, that je ne sais whatever, which screams, "Yes, yes, I'm attractive, intelligent, and sophisticated, yes, my sartorial sense is on fleek, and my wit is literally deadly, but...I'm vulnerable. Can we just stay in tonight and cuddle? Maybe make ganache?"
The Kilgrave role asks him to do both of those things (commanding and vulnerable, I mean, not cuddling and cake frosting, MORE'S THE PITY) to the exclusion of pretty much everything else except wearing the ever-loving hell out of some purple suits, which: thank you for your time, costume designer Stephanie Maslansky.
"There are worse things than death," Jessica tells Kilgrave. "Like being slave to a sociopathic killer."
"I've never killed anyone." And somehow that logic works when he says it. (It's probably the suits.)
Whatever it is, it has led to a real collapse of common sense on my part during the last few episodes, wherein I have actually caught myself rooting for him and Jessica to work it out. What can I say. Psychopaths need love too. Plus, their names are both alliterative.* Jessica Jones and Kevin Kilgrave. Imagine the impeccably monogrammed linens.
* Again...although he'd be Kevin Thompson, not Kevin Kilgrave, I'm pretty attached to the bath towels idea, and I ask that you let me have this.
He's got range, too. He can go from childlike petulance to childlike food snobbery in the space of .75 seconds:
"My feet are pruning. What's that?"
Kilgrave also gets pretty depressed this episode, which may have something to do with being locked up in a Brooklyn warehouse, repeatedly assaulted and electrocuted by the woman he loves, and given a Happy Meal for dinner. Anyway, his response to the world's myriad disappointments is to slurp directly from a plastic container of ketchup with one sad pointer finger.
This is not only the most relatably human thing he's done so far on the show, but also maybe the most relatably human thing any character has ever done on any show.
Okay, we're veering kind of away from relatable again right here, Kevin. At least it's ketchup and not blood. I mean, probably.
Let's not forget that he's also funny. In addition to playing the entire spectrum of human emotions, from sad kid at bath time to full-on sociopathic rage, he serves up the funniest one-liner of the episode:
Hogarth: "Do you need something?"
Kilgrave: "A good lawyer. Do you know one?"
Although we're obviously rooting for Jessica -- given that it's her show and she's not, you know, a deranged murderer -- her complicated, whiskey-soaked self somehow decides that it's appropriate to pull a bait-and-switch on Kilgrave after gaining his trust and then spend twelve hours physically and psychologically assaulting the guy in order to coerce a confession. Along the way, she ignores some pretty sound advice from various corners about this type of thing not being "admissible in court" or "moral behavior in any sense of the word." So it's hard not to feel a teensy bit conflicted about all this.
The end of the episode finds Kilgrave collapsing on his long-estranged mother's shoulder, crying and telling her: "I'm sorry I hurt you, Mom."
And you know what? I believe it. I believe he feels this, and I believe there's some chance for redemption here, building on the hostage-rescue scene from last episode and his attempt to have Jessica in the "right" way (i.e., by her choice and not because he enslaves her).
Trust doesn't come easily for him, obviously, but in the scene with his mom, we see a very human, non-super-villain capacity: a willingness to put pain aside and trust again. It's this -- the grounded simplicity of Kilgrave's pain and willingness to forgive -- that makes him such a compelling villain.
Ugh, Mom, get off me, you're embarrassing me in front of the girl I like, now stab yourself with some fabric scissors.
But then his wackjob mom -- it's unclear if this was a Jessica-approved plan or not, but it's so sadistic a moment that it doesn't even matter -- ruins everything by literally stabbing him in literally his back. After which Kilgrave does the only sensible thing one can do in such an awkward situation, and calmly tells his mother to stab herself, once for every year since she abandoned him.
I mean, really, though, can you honestly blame the guy for having issues?