Comic book fans, “Whovians” and general fans of David Tennant have expressed great enthusiasm for his recently announced casting as ‘Zebediah Killgrave’, the villain of Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series AKA Jessica Jones, based on the Marvel MAX (adult) print Alias. While the name acts as a less than subtle sign that yes, he’s pretty evil, many newcomers to the MCU and those who aren’t familiar with Alias, is that Killgrave is probably one of Marvel’s creepiest, slimiest, purplest villains.
The appearance of Killgrave as a character in Marvel’s AKA Jessica Jones definitely suggests darker, more adult fare than the often light and breezy Marvel Studios productions – the show’s source material undoubtedly took a nasty turn when he showed up. If there’s any concern, it’s how Marvel/Netflix are going to handle the material– Netflix has had its share of adult drama (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black), but Marvel Studios is decidedly more child friendly. There is a fair risk that the Purple Man material may come off either as too obtuse/vulgar, or even too whitewashed/toned down.
Getting the Purple Man right is extremely important for Marvel’s foray into television, so it’s a good thing that Tennant is a strong choice. While I personally feel that his performances can sometimes do with some toning down, having seen his role as Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, it’s evident he can play a slimy, off-putting psychopath, and Broadchurch shows an angrier, yet far more grounded Tennant.
Normally going by the fairly unthreatening moniker of ‘The Purple Man’ (spitefully referred to as ‘The Purple F***ker by Luke Cage), Killgrave’s power to make people do whatever he wants makes for some pretty stomach turning moments. One of the most important things about The Purple Man, however, is that he isn’t a supervillain – he’s a C-List creep who occasionally gets beaten up by Daredevil, but from the perspective shown in Alias, it only makes him worse. Killgrave is a lonely, insecure sadist, and spends most of his time trying to fix his insecurity (often from being beaten by superheroes) by living lavishly, and ‘persuading’ women to fall in love with him, having sex with them, and then moving on unsatisfied – his powers often having a lasting, damaging emotional effect on his victims.
The Purple Man is more than a simple bad guy for Jessica Jones, as one of the main reasons for her abandonment of superheroing, he is more of a haunting, almost ethereal and unending presence in Jessica’s life. The role is new ground for Tennant, sure, but it is ground that is certainly worth covering. Fair warning to fans of Tennant however, in particular those of his run as The Doctor – you probably won’t like seeing him like this.