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‘Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave: The Character We Hate to Love

‘Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave: The Character We Hate to Love

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Jessica Jones season 2 has started production in New York City, which has once again sparked discussion concerning which characters we may see again in the new season. Many fans have expressed hope for the return of charismatic villain Kilgrave. Unfortunately, the death of this formidable foe was confirmed at the end of the last season, and he will not be making a reappearance as a living character in the next one. However, producers have mentioned that he will still have a pivotal role in the story, as Jessica comes to terms with the fact that she took another person’s life.

As fans clamour for his return, the question remains: What made Kilgrave such a popular character? Partly, it was the actor who played him: David Tennant, of Doctor Who fame. The talented Scotsman was able to capture the twisted nature of Kilgrave, but at the same time, his charm and charisma made it difficult to hate him. Despite being the antagonist in the show, we can’t help but be reminded of the Tenth Doctor. However, it isn’t simply the casting that makes Kilgrave a complicated character to understand, but also his characterisation.

Yes, he is a diabolical being, but the show indicates that there were other factors that helped shape his current disposition. In a recent interview, David Tennant mentions that, “when we understand what has landed people where they are, even if that landed them in a very terrible place, we can illicit a little bit of empathy.” It’s the multi-dimensionality of his character that makes him enjoyable to watch.

That being said, it would be a lie to suggest that Kilgrave’s powers also didn’t make him an appealing character. His powers of persuasion enable him to make anyone except Jessica Jones do whatever he wants. An ability this powerful can lead to disastrous consequences in the wrong hands, and Kilgrave made frequent use of this fact in the show by forcing characters to commit heinous crimes, such as killing each other or themselves. However, it’s not the atrocious acts he commits that make him interesting, it’s the irregular ways in which he decides to use his powers.

In episode 6, Kilgrave uses his mind-controlling abilities to win a considerable sum of money in a poker game. He compels his opponents to bid all of their money, and then forces them to fold, thereby giving him the win despite having a losing hand. Kilgrave’s method of winning isn’t all too dissimilar to a typical aggressive play in competitive poker — okay, with the exception of literal mind control. The trick to winning with a bad hand is to convince your opponent that you have a good one and force them to fold, i.e., bluff. Although seemingly straightforward, it can be difficult to execute if played too often. In fact, poker pro Dan Bilzerian is known for using this technique often, but as was evident in a game he played as a guest on Bill Perkins’ Twitch stream earlier this year, his overaggressive play-style eventually made the strategy ineffective against his opponents. They were able to predict his bluffs and challenge him on them.

It’s difficult to know when to bluff, which is probably why Kilgrave decided to use his mind-control powers to get himself the win, a decision most of us would probably also make if we had similar abilities. Kilgrave may not be returning but we’ll never forget the devious deeds his character committed,  and the entertainment he provided for the show. We’ll have to trust that show creator Melisa Rosenberg and co will make up for that with some new strong villains and still give us some flashbacks starring Tennant’s character. Season 2, here we come!

Image: The Mary Sue