WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
As if offering a new spin on an obscure Golden Age superhero wasn’t enough, the second season of Jessica Jones also introduces an updated version of a lesser-known Marvel Comics villain in Dr. Karl Malus.
Debuting at the end of the fifth episode, “AKA The Octopus,” he’s revealed to be the brilliant but ethically challenged biogeneticist behind IGH, the mysterious, cutting-edge clinic that not only saved Jessica’s life 17 years ago, but gave her superhuman powers. He’s also responsible for The Whizzer, Jessica’s mother Alisa and, indirectly, Will Simpson.
A pot-smoking hippie with an affinity for Grateful Dead and Doors T-shirts, the Malus of Jessica Jones differs greatly from his depictions in the comic book source material.
Introduced in 1980 in Spider-Woman #30, Malus was a scientist who founded the Institute for Supranormality Research, where he conducted illegal experiments to learn more about superhuman abilities. His path has intersected with other heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe over the years, including Captain America, Falcon, Hawkeye and Carnage, who actually ate him. But Malus somehow survived, and becomes a human/Symbiote hybrid.
The Karl Malus of Jessica Jones isn’t destined to become Carnage food, and not only because Sony Pictures controls the rights to that Spider-Man villain. A former partner of Dr. Kozlov, from Season 1, who absconded with some of his research to sell to the U.S military, Malus shut down his IGH clinic a decade ago, and devoted himself to caring for the erratic and dangerous Alisa (Janet McTeer), with whom he fell in love. Although his experiments may have started above board, with the best of intentions, they rapidly moved into the shadows. He became a criminal scientist, just like his comic book counterpart.
But while Malus may have “retired,” his mind isn’t far from his questionable research. After an unstable Alisa is arrested for the murders of several people connected to IGH, Malus becomes a fugitive. Tracked down by Trish Walker, whose obsession with IGH barely disguises her overwhelming desire to gain superpowers, Malus returns at gunpoint to the shuttered clinic to subject her to the same procedure that Jessica underwent. However, before Trish can get her wish, Jessica arrives to interrupt the experiment, and save her adoptive sister from herself. Malus then avoids death at the hands of an angry Jessica, only to come to the realization that his life’s work is “useless,” and must be destroyed.
“This is where it ends,” he tells Jessica as he points a gun at oxygen canisters. “It has to be destroyed.” Warning her to run, Malus pulls the trigger, turning his one-time clinic into a ball of flame.
Streaming now on Netflix, Jessica Jones Season 2 stars Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez and Janet McTeer.
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