top of page
  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Killgrave, Allison & Mind Control

Mind control is a subject which has been popping up in fiction for years. In its broadest sense, it's the ability to manipulate or control the minds and thoughts of others. While no discussion would be complete without a nod towards George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, it appeared in pop culture around the 1950s, with many American movies showing the brainwashing of POWs.

In the 1960s, the concept began to take on a more fantastical edge and became popular in thrillers like The Manchurian Candidate and my personal favourite, The Ipcress File. Once it moved into the world of science fiction, there was no holding it back.

As a narrative device, Mind Control changes the behaviour we've come to expect of characters, creating tension and dramatic irony. It's moustache-twirling villain's trump card, inflicted on heroes championing the power of friendship, leading to the classic 'I know you're in there somewhere' punch up i.e. Captain America: Winter Soldier.

This is why I found it so fascinating that in Umbrella Academy, one of the protagonists has this ability. Allison Hargreeves aka The Rumour can manipulate people by saying the “I heard a rumour” before commanding the listener to perform whatever action she wants.

A hero with mind control raises some uncomfortable questions which, while hinted at in the first series of The Umbrella Academy, haven't yet been addressed. To make this clear, I want to compare Allison to another character with this power.

Killgrave, Jessica Jones

It was also in the 60s that Stan Lee and Joe Orlando first introduced The Purple Man aka Zebediah Killgrave in Daredevil #4.

Killgrave is the prime example of this power being abused. He's the inevitable outcome of someone with no moral scruples and an ability which allows him to obey in all things. It’s the superpower of a child who must always get what they want. Killgrave's obsession with Jessica (who's immune) is the obvious outcome of being denied for the first time in his life.

Even before you add the superpower element, the ability to persuade and manipulate has always been treated cautiously. Consider the characters of Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones and Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello. Both are master manipulators, though viewed in different ways.

What usually distinguishes these master manipulators are their values and intentions. Tyrion’s abilities are most frequently used in order to protect his family, loyalty being his greatest weakness. Whereas Iago seems singularly focused on the destruction of Othello. Killgrave, however, is exclusively after his own personal satisfaction in all things.

Allison, The Umbrella Academy

We first meet Allison post-epiphany. From the first episode, she knows that what she does is both terrifying and often morally unjustified.

We see Allison use her ability to put her stubborn daughter to sleep at bedtime - something I'm sure many mothers would be tempted to do. However, the revelation comes after the reaction of her husband on witnessing this. At that moment Allison realises that her powers aren’t simply a leg up to make her life easier. They're a terrible burden. This is why she refuses to use her powers, even during the fight with Cha-Cha and Hazel.

As she drives to the cabin to save Vanya, we hear remembrances of times she'd used her powers for less than heroic purposes. These flashbacks suggest her acting career and maybe even her marriage was the result of this power. And at that moment, it was very hard not to think of Killgrave.

Like Jessica Jones, The Umbrella Academy uses the superhero genre as a veneer over a darkly gritty reality. We see the consequences of these powers in the hands of real, deeply flawed humans rather than idyllic god-like heroes. Alison's journey has been one of moving forward, and becoming a better person by putting aside her past.

The Rules

There are always rules to superpowers. Killgrave's ability comes from an airborne virus he transmits and importantly, once someone is in his thrall, there is literally nothing they won't do.

Deeply dangerous, but the heroes must have a chance. So it's limited by infection time, distance and the interpretation of the orders. Arguably. In one scene, Killgrave orders Trish (Jessica's adopted sister) to 'put a bullet in her head'. Jessica stops Trish from doing this by putting a bullet in her mouth and arguing that it's now 'in her head'. But unless I'm wrong, we only see this once and I was pretty sceptical about it.

Currently, we don't know must about Allison's ability. In the Netflix series, at least. If anyone has read the comics and knows, please leave a comment! What we've seen is, she must be in the target's presence and start her command with "I heard a rumour". She commands a bank robber to shoot a fellow robber in the leg, which he does.

Arguably, Allison's abilities are on the lower end of the mind control scale - closer to hypnosis. However, under hypnosis, you cannot be forced to do something you don't want to do. After Vanya realises that her lack of powers came from Allison’s persuasion, she can “wake up”. And who knows, maybe the bank robber shot his friend in the leg because he's secretly sleeping with his wife?

Image by <a href="">Septimiu Balica</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page