The Kilgrave Conundrum: Netflix, Presup, & the Gospel

kilgraveA Brief Intro, and Some Perplexing Questions

Netflix’s newest Marvel comics addition, Jessica Jones, is one of many action shows that can be gleaned for illustrations of just thoroughly ingrained the law of God is in man’s mind. The show, following the comic, centers around a superheroine turned P.I. named Jessica Jones. Having been the mind-control victim of a villain named Kilgrave, Jones experiences PTSD flashbacks that make normal life difficult for her. As a result of this, she self-medicates with alcohol, which only further complicates her attempts at living a normal life.

I mention these things about her life because as the show progresses the viewer begins to understand that Jones is not just a renegade alcoholic P.I., but a woman who once cared about life, her own as well as others’. It is only due to her traumatic experiences with Kilgrave that she has become the train-wreck that the viewer is presented with in the first episode. And this is significant because it underlines just how terrifying Kilgrave is mean to come across as to the viewer. And he is quite terrifying. Kilgrave’s power to control the minds/wills of others makes any concerted effort to kill or imprison him nearly impossible.

Ironically, however, even though he can control their minds, Kilgrave does not want to be caught by the authorities. This inconsistency is partly accounted for by the fact that Kilgrave is not, of course, omnipotent. Yet the explanation as to why Kilgrave’s desire to not get brought to justice only leads to leads to the bigger question: Why would someone with such a formidable superpower be worried about being hunted down and brought to justice? Why does he feel the need to operate in secrecy?

Answering the Kilgrave Conundrum

As with most comics, Jessica Jones presents the viewer with a world in which there are persons who must decide how to use their superhuman powers. Kilgrave has chosen to be a villain, whereas Jones has chosen to use her superhuman strength for the greater good. The narrative is simple to follow, and I think this is why we fail to see the glaring inconsistency I mentioned above. Given that Kilgrave is virtually unstoppable, why is there any fear of getting caught/brought to justice? Given that Kilgrave is virtually unstoppable, why does he operate in secrecy at all?

As mentioned above, Kilgrave is not omnipotent. However, there is more to it than that. You see, the villains’ desire to operate in secrecy, to present himself as just another “one of us” (i.e. normal, ethically mediocre humans [I speak according to the comics, now ;)]), only makes sense if there is a judgment which will bring an end to his reign of terror. The judgment may not come from Jones, but it will come from some other authority.

This may seem like a minor point, but consider what it implies. Firstly, evil is not omnipotent. Villains will not eventually become the ones running the show (no pun intended), but will be pursued by the judgment that they rightly deserve. Kilgrave will get what he deserves; he is at the mercy of the omnipotent good. Secondly, evil is parasitic on the good. Kilgrave’s operating in secrecy tells us that he can only function as a villain if he pretends to be good, to be normal, to not be what he really is: a rapist, murderer, kidnapper, and deceiver. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”[1]

Kilgrave’s desire to operate in secrecy, to not get caught, in other words, reflects the fear that resides in the minds of fallen men. Hence, while he may appear to be without any semblance of a conscience, his fear of being found out and brought to justice shows us that he is primarily consumed with ethical issues, knowing that he will be brought to judgment and rendered what he is due for his crimes. This is why “[Kilgrave] flees when no one pursues.”[2] This explains why Kilgrave who “does wicked things hates the light…does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”[3]

Kilgrave Refutes Manichean Dualism

What can be further gleaned from the Kilgrave Conundrum is the fact that good and evil are not equal and opposite powers in the universe. Though the normal, non-superhuman characters in comics and their made for T.V. counterparts are often presented as caught between equal and opposite forces of power which will determine the fate of humanity, more often than not they openly work alongside the superhero. Sure, some non-superhumans do so out of self-interest, knowing that they will thereby preserve their own lives. But this simply reinforces what I have been demonstrating all along: The wicked know that they will be judged, that evil is ultimately futile, and that they will not get away with their wickedness.

The Work of the Law is Written on the Hearts of All Men

Ultimately, why do Jones and Kilgrave, as well as their non-superhuman friends and enemies seek to fight the evil or flee from the judgment of the good? Because, as Paul declares in Romans 2:14-16:

For when [superheros, villains, and non-superhumans], who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

It is not, of course, the fictional characters who experience these pangs of conscience, but ourselves. The comics merely cause us to reflect upon the fact that morality is absolute, good is omnipotent and coming to judge us, and that we can never outrun the good – i.e. the Triune Maker of heaven and earth.

This is important to note, for Jones’ effort to absolve herself of the guilt of her past sins is as futile as Kilgrave’s desire to outrun the judgment that is fast on his heels. We side with Jones because we know that the good should prevail. However, we also do so because we, like her, desire to justify ourselves, to excuse our sins, to make up for the wrong we’ve done.

The Gospel

This is why fictional scenarios like the ones depicted in Jessica Jones are helpful in underscoring just how indelibly impressed upon man’s heart the Law God is, but are powerless to provide a remedy for our guilt. Salvation must come from outside of ourselves. We can never outrun the God who is awaiting (either to save or to destroy in judgment), for as David states in Ps 139:7-12:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

And we can never right our wrongs by doing good works, for as the Scripture says:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.[4]

And

…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.[5]

What Jessica Jones, and all comics and ethically oriented works of literature, do not present to their readers/viewers is the one true way of forgiveness for one’s sins and peace with the Judge of all the earth who is relentlessly holy. This we only receive in the Good News (Gospel) that the Son of God died in the place of sinners, taking their guilt and punishment upon himself, so that we renegades may no longer have God as our Judge but as our Father. And the assurance of our sins having been dealt with, as well as the assurance of our reconciliation having been procured by the death of the Son of God is his resurrection from the dead.

In the place of sinners, Christ was held guilty.

In the place of fugitive sinners, Christ submitted himself to God’s righteous and holy wrath.

All those who trust in him, as the sacrifice for their sins, whose acceptance before God was proven by a literal resurrection from literal death, will be granted forgiveness, righteousness, and reconciliation to the God whose judgment and righteousness is attested to even in our entertainment.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.


[1] 2nd Cor 11:14.

[2] Prov 28:1a.

[3] John 3:20.

[4] Rom 3:20.

[5] Gal 2:16.

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4 thoughts on “The Kilgrave Conundrum: Netflix, Presup, & the Gospel

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