I was a latecomer to Killing Eve. I had heard the buzz, people excited to see Sandra Oh in this lead role. I don’t know if I really knew what the show was about, but just that there was this groundswell of support. I finally saw it on Hulu and checked it out; I’m glad that I did.
Killing Eve has quickly become the new show that I sit at the edge of my seat, waiting for it to appear in my queue. I quickly burned through the first season when I finally discovered it and was caught by surprise when the new season premiered just a couple weeks ago (at the time of this writing, the third episode will have aired). I’ve never been as fascinated with two peoples’ fascination for each other, and the premiere episode explores the aftermath of their dramatic encounter in ways that felt both captivating and understated.
The premiere picks up quite literally “30 seconds later”, according to the title card after the season one recap. Eve is scrambling down the staircase of Villanelle’s apartment building, bloody knife in hand, Villanelle nowhere to be seen. Eve is in a panic: she doesn’t know where Villanelle is, but she knows she’s close cause she can see the trail of blood, and Russian speaking “paramedics” are shooting the woman next door and clearing out Villanelle’s apartment. Before she can find Villanelle hiding out close by, she leaves the scene, and the two part ways.
Eve makes her way to a train station to return to London, shaken from her experience. Sandra portrays Eve’s state of mind beautifully, without ever losing sight of her character’s sharp but sometimes goofy personality. In line at customs, she realizes she’s still holding the knife from earlier and she has to get out of line, without her shoes, and heads to the nearest bathroom to dispose of it in the stalls tampon disposal, but not before stepping in, and soon after having to make up an excuse about having a bad oyster. At the bar, she’s mistaken for an addict by a well meaning woman and Eve bursts into near-hysterical laughter and the confusion. Once home, she is preparing altogether too much food while dancing along to “Kids in America”, under the guise of wanting to make dinner to make things up to her husband, Niko, for everything that had happened; she’s chopped and entire kitchen’s worth of carrots and celery, but hadn’t remembered to put the chicken in the oven.
Eventually she has to confront Caroline, her superior at MI-6, about what happened. Caroline admonishes Eve but quickly moves on because there’s a new lead on Villanelle and the mysterious Twelve. Alister Peal, a wealthy CEO of a technology company, has died of a heart attack, but his name was on a note from an associate of Villanelle’s, addressed to Eve, leading them to exhume his body and investigate it as a murder. Eve quickly finds herself back in her element, piecing together how he was likely murdered, possibly by Villanelle herself, before having a deep conversation with Caroline about returning to work. She tells her to drop the pretense of pretending she doesn’t desperately want to find Villanelle, and goes as far to say that at this point she has to.
Meanwhile, Villanelle is in full survival mode. Clutching her stomach, she staggers through the Paris streets figuring out how she’s going to make it out of this alive. Tough as nails, she does what she has to do: she cleans her wound with a homeless man’s bottle of vodka (but not before taking a swig), she throws herself in front of a cab and insists he injured her so he’s take her to the hospital, no questions asked. The episode title comes from Villanelle shouting at him to drive faster, warning what happens if he doesn’t.
She wakes up in a hospital, disoriented. She convinces the doctor to keep her admission a secret, but she needs to get out as quickly as she can. She avoids taking the pain medication that makes her sleepy even though she’s still barely able to walk. She steals all of the medical supplies she thinks she needs to treat her wound, with the help of her fellow patient, Gabriel, a teenage boy who was badly hurt in a car accident, and who we later learn has lost both his parents. Villanelle uses him to steal a white coat and badge for her so she can sneak around the hospital and gather what she needs. While she’s out and about, she is nearly caught stealing from another patient’s bag by the man’s wife, but she plays the part of the doctor telling her that her husband’s condition has improved, taking the opportunity to pick her pocket while the woman cries out “You’re an angel!” in French.
As she prepares to leave, she consoles Gabriel, who is depressed by his injury. She checks his bandage and holds nothing back when she tells him it’s not good and will not get better, that his face looks like a pizza. Gabriel laments that he is not normal, and for a moment Villanelle has a human moment with him, telling him that being normal is overrated, that she herself is not normal (though she looks normal, as Gabriel points out). When he admits to her that he wishes he had died in the crash rather than live like this, she puts her arm around his shoulder to console him, and quick as a flash, snaps his neck before gently laying him down on the bed.
After this, she manages to talk her way out of the hospital, just as it’s being put under lockdown, presumably Gabriel having been discovered. She hitches a ride to a gas station with a truck driver before stowing away in the truck of an English family.
In both of their stories, Eve and Villanelle address their feelings for the other. Villanelle is much more direct, true to form, stating emphatically that her “girlfriend” stabbed her, and that she has to find her again. It’s hard to tell if this is really love or Villanelle’s psychopathic distorted view of it, but whichever it is, Villanelle seems convinced that these feelings are not only real but reciprocated by Eve. Eve meanwhile, is much more conflicted. We see her struggling with her actions, trying to confess multiple times to what happened, once after a brief conversation with Caroline, but she doesn’t get the words out until after the line disconnects; only a French couple getting engaged overhear her. Whenever she speaks openly about Villanelle, she tries to tell the other person, and herself, that she’s done with it, but she still is calling hospitals in France asking if a female stab victim has been admitted.
Eve is also having to look over her shoulder, knowing she’s gotten herself deep into something she still doesn’t fully understand. When the woman at the bar first addresses her, Eve believes it’s someone from the Twelve who has managed to track her down. When she gets a call from an Unknown number in bed, she is relieved that it is only a man selling windows; she asks him to “Tell me about your windows. Tell me everything about your windows.” She takes the steps to distract herself from the situation, but nothing ever manages to pull her away. The subtly Sandra brings to the role plays perfectly off the vibrancy Jodie Comer has as Villanelle. Just a simple moment on the train as Eve traces her finger along a heart someone etched into the table speaks volumes.
In sharp contrast, Villanelle says exactly what is on her mind anytime she is not manipulating someone or disguising herself. Gabriel brings her the coat and hospital badge and she congratulates him, suggesting he should steal more often. He tells her that she’s funny (not realizing it wasn’t a joke), and without missing a beat, she looks him straight in the eye and says “Yes, I am funny.” When she first wakes up in the hospital, she is desperate for information and to formulate a plan to escape, but this still doesn’t stop her from asking the doctor for a sucker, which he denies stating they are mostly for children. As he walks out, she also pines for the stickers that are there, which I feel like is a reference to the rewards she got for successful hits when she worked for Constantin, but I can’t recall (just another reason to rewatch Season 1, I guess).
These two leading women have a stellar dynamic, creating a work that is dramatic, deep, and funny all exactly as much as they need to be. Sandra’s a brilliant investigator with complicated feelings for this woman she knows is a murderer, but is absolutely captivated by, but this never stops her from having awkward moments that give her character life. Villanelle is a textbook psychopath who cares only about surviving so she can kill, but contradicting this is her passionate desire not only to find Eve but for her to reciprocate her feelings for her. She murders Gabriel, but this is the first time I can think of in this series that she did that for a reason other than pleasure or work; in her own twisted way, this was an act of mercy, essentially putting down someone in circumstances she deemed unworthy of living under. Though she does not consider that his feelings might change when the wounds are not so fresh, she actually does put herself in his shoes, exhibiting genuine, albeit distorted, empathy for another person. If anything, this decision hindered her escape, but Villanelle is as impulsive as she is cunning and calculating.
This show is often described as a “Game of Cat and Mouse”, which is obviously a good description, but that cliche implies that the two are not on equal footing with each other, that one is being chased by the other. These are two strong, brilliant woman who are evenly matched, and Killing Eve plays them off each other in exceptional fashion. As of writing this, I have seen the second episode, which I will not delve into, but it assures me that this season will deliver on the great story that the first eight episodes left us, a perfect character study of two people that are so different from each other but complement each other in the best ways possible.