[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Killing Eve” Episode 3, “Don’t I Know You?”]
“Killing Eve” has been a wild and daring ride so far, but it’s always kept the tone lighthearted and breezy. Sure, the gamine assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) murders people willy-nilly throughout Europe, but it’s always done with such flair and only to peripheral characters that it felt more like fantasy violence than anything else. Death by hairpin or perfume? Come on. That’s just downright die-lightful!
Sunday’s third episode of the season broke the spell on that fantasy and marks a turning point for when the series went from fun and addictive to essential viewing. In “Don’t I Know You?” MI-6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) has yet to be killed, but a bit of her heart dies when her former boss-turned-employee Bill (David Haig) becomes Villanelle’s latest victim.
And to be fair, Bill’s fate is telegraphed throughout the episode via the usual storytelling tropes hinting at a colorful past and a rosy future that he clearly won’t get to enjoy. Even though he’s 60, he’s a new father to an adorable hapa baby. Before heading reluctantly to Berlin, he jokes to his child, “Oh god, I’m going to die, aren’t I? Daddy’s going to die. It’s me.” Eve assures him it will only be “one trip.” And while in Germany, he reminisces about the richness of his kinky and romantic experiences back when he used to live in Charlottenburg. As soon as he recognizes Villanelle and doesn’t tell Eve, his fate is sealed.
Viewers can be forgiven for missing — or perhaps willfully not heeding — the signs that Bill would die. The series had not reached that level of gravity in the first two installments. Hell, the opening scene in Episode 3 is of Villanelle dispatching a Chinese colonel during his session at a kink clinic. The show, run by “Fleabag’s” Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has manipulated the viewer with over-the-top deaths and scenarios that have created a suspension of disbelief that has been extended to all expectations.
Therefore, Bill’s death may not be a surprise to some, but it’s still a shocking game-changer. For one, how he dies is a massive departure from the killings before. While audiences can cringe and chuckle at Villanelle’s previous outrageous hits, Bill’s death is both horrifying and heartbreaking in its simplicity. Villanelle knows exactly what she’s doing to Eve when she attacks Bill and therefore makes it brutal and yet intimate all at once. Stabbing him repeatedly at close range is straightforward; embracing him and gazing into his eyes as she does it makes it personal. To highlight this, it’s Eve who discovers Bill in the nightclub, just seconds too late.
Villanelle had always been played as an unpredictable psychopath, but in this episode, she has a stalker-like fascination with Eve. She uses Eve’s name as a false identity so she could kill the colonel, she steals Eve’s luggage, wears her scarf, eavesdrops on Eve’s conversation with her husband, and even lures an American tourist into role-playing as Eve in the bedroom. Hints in previous episodes reveal that Eve’s unruly hair caught her eye and could be connected to a woman named Anna who may have had a similar hair texture.
While Eve had been fascinated by female assassins in general, when she gives a description of Villanelle to the sketch artist, her intrigue with this particular one is apparent. The words she uses are sensual and poetic. Now that Villanelle has killed Bill, Eve’s professional interest will graduate into a full-blown reciprocal obsession. The cat-and-mouse games had been entertaining but now that each woman can recognize the other, and now that Villanelle has invaded Eve’s life, everything has changed. This isn’t necessarily a new dynamic, but we haven’t seen this executed so well since perhaps “Hannibal’s” Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.
What’s Eve’s next step? Here’s a taste of what’s coming up next in Episode 4, “Sorry, Baby”:
Other highlights from the episode:
– The Chinese colonel’s safe word at the kink clinic is “frühstück,” which means “breakfast” in German.
– The playful interaction between Eve and her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) when he tells her, “All chickens lay eggs out of their asshole,” and she replies, “I love how you say that.”
– The entire sequence when Villanelle is grooming the American tourist to play “Eve” is both scary and hilarious, especially when she insists that the woman keep her tourist-y ensemble on and then instructs her, “I’m going to hide, and you are going to find me.”
– Bill revealing the depth of his understanding of kink. “A spankophile wouldn’t just spank himself, would he?” Nope. You’re absolutely correct, Bill.
“Killing Eve” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.