[Warning: This post contains spoilers through season three episode three of Killing Eve]
The first time Eve Polastri meets Villanelle, she thinks nothing of it. She doesn’t realize who she’s looking at. Villanelle, who often uses her beauty to get exactly what she wants but can simultaneously merely blend in when she needs to, unflinchingly approaches Eve in the very first episode of the series. They’re in the bathroom (gay), make brief eye contact (gay), and Villanelle compliments her hair (gay). When Eve eventually puts it together, she’s transfixed by the image of Villanelle. She describes her to a composite sketch artist with too much detail, incidentally revealing that she thinks of Villanelle as more than a target. Their relationship has always been a strange one, full of yearning and chemistry and betrayal and suspense. It’s obsession. It’s chaotic sexual tension.
Now, 19 episodes, a lot of blood, some stabbings later: Villanelle and Eve share a kiss.
It doesn’t play out exactly like I’ve imagined it (perhaps too often!). First of all, Eve initiates. And she does so in the middle of a physical fight on a bus. Villanelle takes a job in London, freshly aware that Eve survived her gunshot wound, ready to reconnect with an “ex.” Eve is surprised and scared to see her, naturally. The last time they were together, Villanelle shot her.
They tussle, a bit like in season one when Villanelle shows up at Eve’s apartment hoping to just chat over dinner but ends up having to waterboard her in the bath. Villanelle doesn’t necessarily want to hurt Eve right now, but she reacts and fights back. So Eve kisses her. It’d be easy to completely dismiss it for any romantic or pleasurable value as merely a distraction, a tactic on Eve’s part to get Villanelle to hesitate and give her the upper hand (on that front, it works by the way—Eve follows the kiss with a headbutt). But that would ignore over two seasons of character and relationship development between these two.
Who exactly are Eve and Villanelle to each other? At the end of season one, Eve stabbed Villanelle. At the end of season two, Villanelle shot Eve. But Eve survived, and when Villanelle learns this in season three, she tries to settle on the appropriate gift. What does one get for the lover they thought they killed? She chooses a teddy bear. But when it comes to recording a message for the bear to say, she flits between “I should have shot you in the head” to “I should have shot you in the head and watched you die” to “I think about you all the time” before settling on “don’t you wish I was here?” Even Villanelle isn’t quite sure what they are to each other, so she poses it as a question. She needs to be needed by Eve. Remember last season when she waited and Eve didn’t come? It began an unraveling of Villanelle.
Season three further complicates their dynamic in these first three episodes, beginning with the two of them apart and attempting to live without the magnetic pull of each other. Eve’s in a full-on depression. There’s a Villanelle-shaped hole in her life. We don’t often get to see Villanelle thrown for a loop, but she absolutely is by the information that Eve is alive. Villanelle has always been quick to refer to Eve as if they are dating or broken up. I mean, in season one she literally has a woman roleplay as Eve during sex. Villanelle’s desire for Eve requires no real digging.
With Eve, it has sometimes been more complicated. She has had colleagues accuse her of being in love—or at least turned on by—Villanelle in the past, and she usually denies it. But her own body and movements betray her. She is compulsively pulled to Villanelle, and while this doesn’t mean that these two are ever running off to some hillside together arm-in-arm, to completely ignore the sexual undercurrent of their dynamic is just silly!
A kiss of distraction is an oft-used trope, and it usually hints at something more. Killing Eve loves that tease, practically gets off on it. And the kiss seems especially significant because of how sudden and unceremonious it is. There’s so swell of music or dramatic close-up. There’s just Villanelle’s surprise, her wide-eyed shock and slight loosening of her grip. Even Eve seems surprised at herself for doing it. So how calculated could it have really been? It’s not a conventional kiss, but Eve and Villanelle are not conventional counterparts in any sense. The queerness of their dynamic isn’t always explicit, but it’s never coded either. These two are defined by their ambivalence, by the what-ifs, by the slight fantasy of it all. “Eve and Villanelle kiss mid-fight” sounds very much like a fanfic, but the way it plays out here is indeed believable and grounded within the show’s overall narrative.