[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Killing Eve” Season 2, Episode 5, “Smell Ya Later.”]
At long last, “Killing Eve” gives fans the face-off they’ve been waiting for when MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) share an intimate moment filled with champagne, meaningful glances, and of course, death threats. The scene in Sunday’s episode echoes last season’s memorable encounter in the Polastri kitchen, but the dynamic has shifted to reflect the hurt and tension between them.
This time, Eve is expecting the killer, whom she last saw writhing in pain after she stabbed her in the Season 1 finale. Meanwhile, Villanelle has arrived to assassinate Eve, not realizing that this MI6-ordered hit is an elaborate ruse to have her extract information from another killer known as The Ghost (Jung Sun Den Hollander). It’s a bonkers scheme that’s so risky that Villanelle calls it stupid. Eve could have ended up dead or seriously injured. And while it’s exciting to see these potential lovers circle each other, this scene is the result of Eve’s increasing disregard for safety, rationality, or ethics.
Kenny (Sean Delany) has warned her against it; Jess (Nina Susanna) has warned her against it. Her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) has been trying to bring back her humanity this whole season. Even Villanelle, when she’s about to carry out the interrogation portion of the plan, questions the legality of what she’s about to do on Eve’s behalf. “I’m just looking out for you,” she says. Everyone appears to have Eve’s best interests at heart except for Eve herself, her boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw)…and the audience at home.
That’s right. The viewers have been taught to root for Villanelle and Eve together. Their chemistry is undeniable and fuels the overall transgressive sexiness of the series. There’s nothing better than having them share a conversation and feel that blood pulse between them. Fans across the internet must have tweeted a collective, “Kiss!!” when Villanelle confronted Eve at the sink. And yet, this romance is a fantasy that’s just as unrealistic as Villanelle’s dream: “A nice life. Cool flat. Fun job. Someone to watch movies with.”
One of the funniest scenes in the episode offers clues as to why this is impossible or what the cost would be to make the romance bloom. MI6 member Martin (Adeel Akhtar channeling some of his Thénardier from “Les Misérables”) gives one of the most ridiculous and condescending slideshow presentations to explain psychopathy to Operation Manderley. The use of bullet points, clip art, and puns are a banal counterpoint to the grim takeaway: Psychopaths are dishonest, manipulative, lack humanity, and absolutely cannot be changed.
This means that Eve herself would have to change in order to be with Villanelle, and she’s already shown signs of taking on certain psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies. She lies and manipulates. Her relationships with her husband and her closest work friend Kenny are in shambles. And worst yet, she no longer seems fazed by violence or seeking it out. Stabbing Villanelle may not have scared her, but instead whetted her appetite. Her colleague Hugo (Edward Bluemel) seems to see Eve’s hidden desires clearly — both sexual and otherwise — and she does come fairly close to pushing a stranger into an oncoming train after he had bumped her rudely. And after Villanelle has finished her interrogation, it’s Eve that the Ghost calls a “monster.”
“It’s crazy, right? You would think that I was the bad guy,” Villanelle says to Niko when she runs into him at Oxford. She’s letting him know that Eve has crossed that line. They’re “colleagues” now. Villanelle even observes that Eve has become more selfish, not thanking her for the interrogation and constantly just takes without giving anything in return.
Carolyn is allowing Eve to go down this self-destructive path, despite Martin’s report that Eve has gotten too close to Villanelle and didn’t react normally to the disturbing image he “accidentally” flashed on screen. And, as Jess points out, there’s no paper trail on Eve. She’s being “managed” as Martin outlined is the only way to deal with psychopaths — except instead of being given money and praise, Eve is getting attention and power — power over life and death.
This season has been a setup for Eve to confront all of her desires, and it appears that she might give into their seduction. Perhaps the show shouldn’t be called “Killing Eve” but “Becoming Villanelle.” Or perhaps the show’s title could refer to how Eve is losing herself, the “kind” person that Niko once knew. She — not Villanelle nor Carolyn — is the greatest threat to herself.
Three episodes are left this season. Eve is making her bloody bed, but it remains to be seen who will lie in it.
Eve to Villanelle: “Take off your shoes please.”
Carolyn about being a spelling bee champ: “It’s a very supportive network.”
Villanelle to Eve, before the interrogation: ”Would you like to watch?”
Villanelle to Niko: ”She does not care about your life at all, does she?”
”Killing Eve” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.