NOTE: Contains spoilers for Jessica Jones season 1 up until episode 9.
The last 4 episodes have been deliberately left undiscussed to not deter casual readers.
If there's one criticism you can toss at Marvel, it's that their villains are generally pathetic. They have a fantastic rogues gallery and they waste them on one-and-done, lame Tony Stark rip-offs. (Ultron, looking at you especially)
You could argue that's due to the limited time afforded to movies, but then The Dark Knight did just fine, didn't it?
The only movie villain truly worth sympathizing is Loki, and that's because his motivations and personality extend beyond the usual destroy-the-earth-for-so-and-so-reason-and-beat-the-everliving-crap-out-of-xyz.
Loki is a complex character with human motivations brought to life by a stellar performance from Tom Hiddleston who captures the essence of Loki perfectly.
Netflix realizes the importance of a great villain, which is why their Marvel properties, Daredevil and Jessica Jones have two out of the three best MCU villains till date.
Wilson Fisk is a fascinating character study because he wants the same thing as the hero, except he's willing to work in the shadows and go to extreme measures. No one can watch Daredevil and not sympathize with Fisk.
An yet, when [SPOILER ALERT] Fisk finally gets his due and is imprisoned, you feel it was justified yet sad at the same time.
Of course, that's also due to Vincent D'Onofrio's Emmy-deserving portrayal, but you get the idea.
Kilgrave is different, because he doesn't wanna end the world, or have a grand scheme, he just wants...Jessica.
He's not evil for evil's sake, he's evil because he never learnt anything else.
Marvel was wise to cast David Tennant as Kilgrave, as he's a highly decorated and adored actor with a legion of fans.
Credit also goes out to them for reworking his origins.
In the comics, he's Zebediah Killgrave, a Croatian spy who earned his mind-control powers after being doused in chemicals that also turned him purple.
In the comics, he's evil because he's evil.
In the show, he's a British man named Kevin Thompson who gained his powers when his own parents experimented on him to treat a neural disease.
His parents eventually abandoned him and fled, and he lived on his own with all the power he possessed.
Let's get one thing clear - Kilgrave is a repulsive human being, a tantrum-throwing diva who wants what he wants and gets it with no regards for others. He's psychotic, murderous and psychologically and physically violates everyone he comes in contact with.
Then why the greatness?
Think about it, if you had the power to control minds, what would you do?
You would want a nice phone, a nice car, nice food, nice clothes, sex, and most of all, love.
That's what Kilgrave does too.
He doesn't want to rule the world or destroy it.
He wants Jessica because he loves her.
We'd never go the extent Kilgrave did because we have a conscience, and a sense of right and wrong. We've been groomed to grow up as a compassionate human, so there are lines which we'd never cross.
But if we could control minds, we may as well have.
Charles Xavier can control minds, but not for purposes like Kilgrave's, and that's because he has a conscience.
Kilgrave was 10 when his parents abandoned him. He had all the power in the world, and there was no one to guide him. He himself explains later how he had to use his powers to have food, shelter and clothing.
When someone gets used to that kind of unchecked power without guidance, it is only a matter of time before he's corrupted.
The biggest tragedy about Kilgrave is he could have been redeemed and he wasn't.
Kilgrave's parents left when during one of his tantrums, he made his mother burn her face with a clothes iron. Kilgrave didn't want to do it, he was angry and having a fit, like any normal child, and wished something and it happened.
Kilgrave's parents didn't learn from it and stay and teach him, they were so terrified of what they'd done, they just left him.
He was their responsibility and they abandoned him.
Kilgrave grew up emotionally stunted and that made him...him.
He had no moral compass, hence he would cheat at poker for money, ask a man to throw coffee in his own face at being annoyed or [SPOILER] make someone kill themselves who claim their love for Jessica to him.
...but he did love Jessica.
When he met her, he didn't treat her any different to any other woman in his life - he used her to fulfill his own needs.
And then one day, [SPOILER] his control over Jessica dissolved when he made her "take care" of Luke Cage's wife.
Kilgrave was involved in an accident and he disappeared under the pretext of his death, and during that time, he realized he wanted Jessica, and would do anything to have her back, thus setting the events of the season in motion.
Look, we all get hung up on women. We love them, things don't work out, we make a mess of ourselves. God knows we've done that far too many times.
We get obsessive and act like idiots.
Except Kilgrave's idiocy set in as psychosis and coupled that with obsession and his powers, you have a disaster on your hands.
If you wanted to get someone to take you back, you'd apologize or indulge in a grand gesture, but for Kilgrave, that grand gesture [SPOILER] was taking Hope Shlottman, reenacting his tryst with Jessica with her, raping her, and making her kill her parents infront of Jessica.
Jessica eventually submits to him, and his grand gesture towards Jessica is one that would make women swoon if done in real life by normal men.
[FULL SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT]
He buys her childhood home, the one she claimed she was the happiest in and restores it painstakingly as it was once. He has her favourites cooked, gifts her a dress and wants a new beginning.
Jessica tries to get him to use his powers for good, and he does good, and is amazed at the gratitude it elicits. He wants to become a dynamic duo with his powers and her conscience and Jessica realizes that, and knows that she could use all his powers in a productive way that's not abusive or selfish, but she also knows what he's capable of and what he did to her, and to get to her, and realizes the danger.
She knocks him out and takes him.
Did Jessica do the right thing? I don't know. This man has all the power in the world, and it could be used for good apparently, if she stayed and made an effort, but that doesn't change who he is inherently, and what he does to people.
Maybe he could have.
Maybe we'd always end up where we ended up.
His first chance at redemption was taken from him.
The next was when he met his parents. Jessica had been keeping him in a hermetically sealed room to get a confession out of him or make a video of his powers to free Hope, and she thought best to bring him his parents.
She did bring him his parents, and we learnt of the pain inside of Kilgrave, and for a moment we thought his mother reached out to him when they embraced, but instead of choosing to attempt to reform her son, she stabbed him with a pair of scissors which finally broke Kilgrave.
He asked his mother to stab herself and his dad to cut his heart out.
And that was the moment Kilgrave lost his shot at redemption.
Kilgrave is as perfect as a villain gets, you sympathize with him, you loathe him, you revel in him, but you can't root for him.
David Tennant brought a life to the character that I haven't seen since Heath Ledger's Joker and he made you feel his pain, and loathe his actions while still holding out hope for redemption.
But in the end, it is Kilgrave's innate humanness as a character that makes you admire him. He could be anyone of us.
If we lost our conscience, we'd become him.
What happened to him, wasn't his fault. It was bad parenting, abandonment and a lack of morals that made him him.
It is a combination of the above, that makes Kilgrave the greatest villain in the MCU in my books.
Let me know of your opinions in the comments below!