Why Kilgrave Returns in Jessica Jones Season 2

Warning: Major SPOILERS for Jessica Jones season 2 ahead


Comic book characters are notorious for refusing to stay dead, so perhaps it's no surprise that master mind-controller Kilgrave (David Tennant) returns in Jessica Jones season 2. This monster met his end in the first season of the show, when Jessica (Krysten Ritter) snapped his neck in order to rid the world of his poisonous influence forever. But ending Kilgrave meant becoming a killer (as a deliberate choice, rather than the result of brainwashing) - something that haunts Jessica throughout the second season of the series. When Jessica kills again by accident, the act triggers hallucinations of Kilgrave, who dogs her footsteps as an external manifestation of her guilt.

We've known that Kilgrave was set to return for a long time, since Tennant was spotted in set photos during filming. A trailer for Jessica Jones season 2 revealed that he wouldn't be returning in the flesh, but simply as a specter that haunts Jessica. He's not present throughout the series - just in one episode (the eleventh episode of the season, "Three Lives and Counting"), appearing after Jessica breaks into the home of a correctional officer who is tormenting her mother, Alisa Jones (Janet McTeer). The officer, Dale Holiday (Brian Hutchison) is alerted to the break-in by a silent alarm and interrupts Jessica just after she finds evidence that he murdered previous inmates who were in his care, and made their deaths look like suicides.

Related: A Quick Jessica Jones Season 1 Recap

Dale sprays Jessica with mace and begins to beat her, yelling that she attacked him in his own home and that he's defending himself. Jessica manages to get the upper hand momentarily and hits him in the head with his own nightstick, just once. Because of her super-strength, the blow to his head kills him instantly, leaving Jessica horrified by her actions and also stuck with the problem of how to deal with the body. In what might be called poetic justice, she makes his death look like a suicide - leaving a note on his computer (along with evidence of his crimes), and then throwing his body off the roof of the building. As soon as she does this, Kilgrave returns... well, in her mind.

Despite being his usual horrible self, Kilgrave seems to be as much a coping mechanism as a ghostly tormentor. When Jessica tells him to leave, he retorts that he's "serving too valuable a purpose," and declares that he's "here to help" in the search for Alisa's lover and accomplice, Dr. Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie). He then proceeds to live up to his word - offering observations during Jessica's search - but also continues to taunt Jessica and press on the fresh bruise of her guilt and trauma. He tries to goad her into hurting more people: first Trish (Rachael Taylor), then Dr. Malus. But Jessica is ultimately able to resist the path of further violence, and in her final scene with Kilgrave she vanquishes the ghost of her subconscious with a realization:

"I'm not a killer. I'm not you. I'm not my mother. I can control myself. Which means I'm more powerful than you ever were."

Kilgrave then finally disappears - though not without an ominous parting barb of, "I'll be around if you need me." It's a strong conclusion to what is probably the best episode of the season; emphasizing the fact that Jessica's battle with her potential to kill again isn't over, but is instead a fight that she has to keep actively winning.

More: Did You Catch Jessica Jones Season 2’s Stan Lee Cameo?

Jessica Jones season 2 is available now on Netflix.

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