Marvel's Jessica Jones has been lauded for its nearly unparalleled look at abuse and rape culture, particularly when it comes to living a life after such trauma. The show featured a dark swagger, from the music to the acting, and easily the most engaging aspect of it was the dynamic between Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and her villainous tormentor Kilgrave (David Tennant). While Ritter will be bringing her character back for The Defenders this Friday and season 2 of Jessica Jones sometime next year, Kilgrave’s death seemed to rule out Tennant’s return—until now.
News broke this week that David Tennant will return as Kilgrave for season 2 of Jessica Jones. While the announcement has been met with ample enthusiasm by fans of the actor’s work in season 1, the big question of how the character will come back has yet to be answered. The reveal came with a photo of Tennant and Ritter on set together, both wearing outfits similar to those in season 1. As such, it’s difficult to gauge the exact context of Kilgrave’s return. Given that Jessica Jones is a comic book show, however, there are plenty of ways to bring back the key villain.
The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones
Season 1 of Jessica Jones certainly touched on some of the protagonists past. It even showed how Jessica entered Kilgrave’s orbit and was enthralled by him. Most of the story that unfolded in the first season, in fact, was so explicitly tied into Jessica’s history with Kilgrave and its ramifications in the present, that many have wondered what season 2 of the show would even look like. While there’s certainly plenty of avenues to explore with the character and her friends, the full origin of Jessica has yet to be told.
The first season set up the idea that Jessica’s power and the accident that caused them are connected to a deeper mystery. Given that Jessica herself is a P.I., unraveling said mystery is certainly a great place to kick off the new season. By opening the door into the character’s past, however, a number of new possibilities emerge.
While we’ve seen a lot of Kilgrave’s control over Jessica, there’s likely more that could be explored. As such, flashbacks to Jessica’s past seem likely. The concept will already be necessary as part of the plot to understand Jessica’s powers. With that in mind, it makes sense that the show’s creatives would use the conceit to further explore the history of Jessica and Kilgrave. By not having the villain’s threat exist in the present, meanwhile, the flashbacks will be able to use a different lens through which to view Jessica’s trauma.
As much sense as flashbacks would make when it comes to bringing Kilgrave to season 2, they’re certainly not the only means to pull David Tennant’s character back into the narrative. After all, there are much more fantastical means the series could employ.
The Revolving Door of Death
Comics, and most genre fiction, are well known for treating death as merely a temporary inconvenience. Even in the more grounded world of the MCU and Marvel’s Netflix shows this is the case. After all, much of season 2 of Daredevil and the upcoming threat in The Defenders are predicated on the idea of resurrection. With Jessica coming face-to-face with revived characters in her upcoming team-up, it’s not hard to imagine something bringing Kilgrave back from the, well, grave.
Of course, the narrative knock against this theory is that it would not only cheapen the already iconic villain’s death, but would invalidate Jessica’s victory against her abuser. So much of season 1 of Jessica Jones was about fighting back against an oppressor and seeing Jessica snap the Kilgrave's neck was a powerful moment for the show and the message it was trying to get across. While the allure of bringing back such a strong actor and character is tempting, it’s likely that the team behind Jessica Jones will handle it in a smarter way than just reversing the villain’s death.
Mind Games and Bad Memories
While resurrection may be a stretch, the MCU has given us plenty of examples of magic, mind tricks, and all manner of illusions and lucid dreams. Given that Jessica and Kilgrave are wearing what looks to be their season 1 wardrobe in the recent set picture, Tennant’s return could be something as simple as a dream sequence or a memory. From there, things could get more mystical with elements of magic creating memories or hallucinations of Kilgrave. We could even see an enemy with the ability to bring out a person’s fears or cause them to see things.
A simpler answer, of course, is that Kilgrave will appear as some sort of residual trauma. Despite the villain’s death at the hero’s hands, Jessica’s suffering is far from over. She endured trauma both familiar to many women and unique to the fantastical world she inhabits. Not only did her abuse and control at the hands of Kilgrave reorient her entire life, but the entire experience came back to haunt her years later. More terrible things unfolded, forcing Jessica to relive her pain and experience new trauma. All the while, the message of Kilgrave’s constant presence in her life was reinforced. The bad guy may have been thwarted, but it’s easy to see how memories and bad dreams could dredge the image of Kilgrave back up, allowing the show to reintroduce Tennant’s character.
As it stands, we have no indication of the size of Tennant’s role. In all likelihood, he could just feature in a brief scene in one episode. Either way, Kilgrave’s presence in our hero’s life was significant. Jessica may have defeated her abuser, but the scars Kilgrave left will remain with her forever.