[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Killing Eve” Season 2, Episode 3, “The Hungry Caterpillar.”]
Only on “Killing Eve” can a dangerous blade hidden in lipstick be interpreted as a love note. In the final moments of Sunday’s episode, MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) cuts herself using the doctored lipstick left in her purse by killer Villanelle (Jodie Comer). The name of the lip shade, Love in an Elevator, not only connects Villanelle to a recent assassination in a lift, but reflects her mindset is still firmly focused on Eve. The pain and blood caused by the knife isn’t a threat; it’s a bloody, coded kiss.
Despite this and many other delicious highlights in “The Hungry Caterpillar,” the episode doesn’t make much progress in their cat-and-mouse game and even presses reset by placing Villanelle back with her old handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia). Compared to Season 1’s third episode, which catapulted the series forward by changing the stakes, this season’s third entry still appears to be treading water and setting up larger story arcs about data mining and whoever this new assassin is. It also reveals that most of these characters — except for Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) — are not fully in control when it comes to giving into dangerous temptations.
Having worked with Villanelle for so long, Konstantin understands just how unsafe it is to have any sort of personal relationship with her. “You think she loves you? Then make her hate you,” he advises. “Hate is something she understands. It’s manageable. Look at the people she loves. She’ll love you to death.”
Of course, Konstantin doesn’t follow his own advice. Even after her failed attempt to kill him last season, he helps Villanelle evade the police and sets up a new partnership with her.
Similarly, Eve cannot resist and even goes behind Carolyn’s back to pursue Villanelle, even though her assignment is to identify the killer dubbed The Ghost and find out the motive behind the kills. Eve’s obsession has caused her to lose the trust of her boss, her colleague Kenny (Sean Delaney), and even her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell).
As for Niko, he doesn’t seem immune to the attentions of fellow teacher Gemma (Emma Pierson), or at least he’s more aware of them now that Eve has pointed them out. And after an “accidental” run-in with Villanelle in the stairwell, Gemma is coaxed to begin her pursuit of Niko in earnest.
The common denominator in each of these ill-advised scenarios is Villanelle, who is the epitome of self-indulgence. Her in-demand skills have afforded her a lifestyle in which she can gratify her every wish for nice clothes, fine dining, fun, and attention. It’s this last desire, however, that is being threatened.
Villanelle has competition in the assassin world. The Ghost is discreet with her kills, which makes her far more appealing to clients than Villanelle, who draws too much attention with her over-the-top assassinations. Even worse, Eve is on the task force to take The Ghost down.
The jealousy that Villanelle exhibits in the episode makes her petulant. She’s already taken steps against Niko, since his status as husband gives him a legitimate claim on Eve’s attentions. Now that Villanelle is aware of The Ghost, it’s just a matter of time before she starts her own pursuit.
Through all of these dramas, only one character has her personal feelings firmly in check. Carolyn is unmoved by Konstantin’s plea for information on his family and in his shoes would give up her son “I’d be fine if I knew he was alright,” she says. “I would because I’ve alway been careful.”
Later, when she scolds Eve for going off course, she merely acts perturbed.
At this point, it feels like the entire Ghost and Peel cases are distractions. It’s not clear exactly why they’re important to the story except to delay the inevitable.
In the end, Eve and Villanelle are still apart, but their frustrations have mounted. If anything, this episode has only deepened the level of toxicity in their relationship, which doesn’t bode well for when they’re finally reunited.
”Killing Eve” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.