Love Is a Deadly Game in ‘Killing Eve’ Episode 3 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Episode 3 of Killing Eve Season 2, “The Hungry Caterpillar.”]
After last week’s Killing Eve, I talked a lot about what Eve (Sandra Oh) sees in Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and what it is that continues to draw her to the enigmatic assassin — an attraction to danger and an awakened desire to live life more carefree and confident. But it’s even more fascinating to analyze what it is that drives Villanelle’s obsession with Eve, a woman who, on the surface at least, appears to be a very ordinary law enforcement agent.
Comer’s performance is so full of vigor and humor that it’s easy to forget Villanelle is a psychopath. There are fleeting moments where she makes you believe that she does have feelings. That she is capable of expressing sympathy and regret and maybe even… love? That perhaps she just took the wrong path in life and redemption is still possible. But Villanelle is a master manipulator who possesses an uncanny ability to persuade others. She is a psychopath powered by impulse and self-absorption.
In this episode, the returning Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) compares his former client to The Very Hungry Caterpillar; “a parasite who gets in your brain and eats you up to make space for herself.” (I must have read a very different version when I was a kid.) Konstantin warns Eve to let Villanelle go before she completely consumes her life and replaces everything in it. “She will love you to death,” he cautions.
It’s that word “love” which stands out. Is what Villanelle feels for Eve love? Or is it merely a desire to be seen? After all, everything that Villanelle does this episode is to capture Eve’s attention. The whole reason she ignores Raymond’s (Adrian Scarborough) orders to make her kills “boring and discreet” is because she wants Eve to know that she was the one responsible. The neck-tie-elevator strangulation of a Peel company hedge-funder is exactly her kind of trademark kooky kill, and she rightly predicts “Eve will know it was me.”
Any suggestion that Eve has lost interest or is more concerned with a new female assassin (“The Ghost”) infuriates Villanelle. “[Eve’s] not thinking about you at all,” Raymond tells the hotel-bound hit-woman, taking great pleasure in rubbing it in her face. Villanelle is barely able to mask her inner-rage, and her jealousy shows, which is interesting, given that jealousy is an emotion commonly related to love, particularly when it comes to unrequited love.
Villanelle reacts like a scorned lover, making it her mission to separate Eve from the things she loves, starting with her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell). She not only calls Niko’s school and files a complaint of inappropriate behavior with a student, but she sneaks into a staff party dressed as a sort of bohemian drama teacher and tries persuading a flirtatious colleague to pursue an affair with Mr. Polastri. “Make him doubt his wife,” she says, “…or you can do nothing and die alone. Do you have cats?”
It’s petty and callous behavior, and yet Villanelle is so captivating that we laugh off what is, in reality, deeply terrifying high-level stalker material. When she slips a lipstick into Eve’s handbag, it becomes this twisted romantic gesture and sinister threat all rolled into one. But if these actions aren’t born out of love, then what is it that she sees in Eve? Why does she crave her attention so much when her psychopathy should mean she doesn’t care about anybody?
Dr. Mark Freestone, the show’s psychiatry consultant, proposed in an interview last year that “Eve represents something to Villanelle that she never had; a stable mother figure who takes a deep and genuine interest in her.” It’s not so much that Villanelle is “in love” with Eve but more that she is infatuated with the idea of someone caring about her to that extent. It doesn’t matter to Villanelle that Eve wants to throw her behind bars, “she just cares that Eve represents something fascinating and undefinable that she knows she wants.” It’s not a romantic love; it’s a selfish love.
As for Eve’s part in all this, despite what others are telling Villanelle, the MI6 agent has not let go. She is still equally as obsessed. We see that in how distracted she is at home; her sex-life with Niko is non-existent, instead replaced by a slapdash breakfast-in-bed (“I’ll just masturbate into this omelet, I guess?”). Eve again forgets about Niko’s work get-together, and her awkward conversation with Gemma (Emma Pierson) highlights just how much communication has broken down in her marriage. It’s not just Eve who has been keeping secrets; Niko also hasn’t told her about the school complaints.
Eve tries to spice things up by telling Niko to take her to his classroom, but their maths-based foreplay is interrupted when she notices an apple on his desk, and she immediately flips back to Villanelle-mode. “The one time you came to support me at my job you miraculously made it about you and your job,” Niko snaps at her before telling her to go home. “Maybe it was just an apple,” Eve ponders, questioning her own sanity.
But her suspicions are right, confirmed by the discovery of the mysterious lipstick (named after Aerosmith’s elevator-sex-song “Love In An Elevator”). When Eve realizes Villanelle is in London, she goes to drastic lengths to get to her, using Konstantin’s family as a bargaining chip and compromising her relationship with Kenny (Sean Delaney) in the process. Not to mention going behind the back of her boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw).
Konstantin remains one step ahead of Eve. He gets to Villanelle first, and after a “terrible hug” and a phony apology, he warns his former asset that the MI6 are on their way to bust her. Konstantin offers her a chance of escape, from both the law and Raymond, who he says is preparing to kill her anyway. His proposal? To partner with him as freelance assassins. Villanelle and Konstantin make their exit mere seconds before Eve bursts in the room.
It’s a disaster for Eve who is on the verge of losing everything. Her marriage is sinking fast. She’s on precariously thin ice at her job. She’s destroyed her trust with Kenny who used to respect her so much because she wasn’t selfish like everyone else in this line of work. “I’m not doing this for myself,” Eve tells the expert web-tech. “I’m doing it because… because…” she can’t finish her sentence because she knows whatever she says next would be a lie. She is doing this for herself and deep down she knows it.
As the episode ends, Villanelle rides shotgun next to her former handler, singing Roxette’s 1988 classic “Listen To Your Heart,” well, until Konstantin kills her mood by telling her that Eve only cares about The Ghost now. It’s not true of course, Villanelle is still top of Eve’s mind, as we see when she applies the Love In An Elevator lipstick, cutting her lip on the blade cleverly disguised under the wax.
Eve and Villanelle are stuck in this parasitic relationship, built on dark feelings and narcissistic love, best described by Roxette’s lyrics: “I know there’s something in the wake of your smile. I get a notion from the look in your eyes. You’ve built a love, but that love falls apart. Your little piece of heaven turns too dark.”
-It was nice to see Villanelle out of the gnarly PJs and back in her flashy outfits this week. Those silver pants! Also, she’s crafty, as demonstrated by her glittery pasta necklace.
-“I don’t like getting angry; it makes me sleepy. So you’ll just have to imagine I sound rather angry when I say this.” The fact Carolyn is always so calm, even when furious, makes her that much more frightening.
-After that interrupted Roxette performance, I want a full episode of Villanelle and Konstantin doing Carpool Karaoke.
-“Do you know how Raymond gets paid?” “Ugly jackets?” It’s so easy to be sucked in by Villanelle when she’s so witty.
Killing Eve, Sundays, 8/7c, BBC America and AMC