Let’s Talk About That “Killing Eve” [SPOILER]!

[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.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a writer and critic currently living in Orlando. Her pop culture writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 237 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. That scene was perfect.It was so sudden and unexpected I thought it was a dream sequence and it was going to flash back to Eve just sitting on the bus day dreaming about Villanelle. Another scene that was wild was when Villanelle later ran into to Carolyn. Also I think teddy bear picnic should now be the official theme song for female queer psychopaths everywhere.

  2. AHHHHHH!

    That scene was so weird?? I have no idea what to think! I guess there’s something subversive about it being so casual. But also it felt anticlimactic? I guess that’s the point?

    I think it might’ve hit harder if we’d seen Villanelle tracking her instead of coming out of nowhere. A bit of suspense leading up to it?

    • But that’s how/what she is, Villanelle, doesn’t she? She’s a magical creature, in a way. (As well as Carolyn, whose life seems to be the endless story within a story. They’re not untouchable, we have seen V deprived of her powers, as now we see Carolyn, but their relation to time & space is different than, for example, Eve’s). Villanelle comes out of nowhere, she disappears in the cloud of dust like a Looney Tunes character, she kills a guy in Kensington, leaves a teddy bear in New Malden, she’s back in the hotel, she reappears in Konstantin’s bed in the middle of the night in Teddy Bear pyjamas.

      The scene in the bus works, because it is sudden and anticlimatic at the same time, violent, unexpected AND dreamy. (Eve is so tired all the time that she could fall asleep in the bus). As the big reunion in the 5th episode of the 2nd season played with the toilet brush/shepherd’s pie sequence in the 1st, this one plays with the whole “Big Reunion in the Kitchen” genre within a show.

  3. I love how the lyrics of songs play so well in the scenes between these two (much better in S1 than S2). After Villanelle pins Eve down the lyrics that specifically play as the camera focuses on each of them are quite interesting.

    Camera on Eve: “You’ve got this strange effect on me, and I like it? (repeat) You make my world seem right. You make my darkness bright. Oh yes you have this strange effect on me, and I like it?”

    Played with the scene the lyrics provide an observation followed by what I read as a question…“and I like it?”. I do think Eve kissed Villanelle to distract her but like you said Kayla, I believe it took her by surprise. Nico’s leaving plays a part here too as he was Eve’s last tether to “normal” and potentially the last thing that’s kept her from tipping but now what?

    Camera on Villanelle after she leaves the bus: “And I like it.”

    For Villanelle this is a fact not a question, and her smile validates that fact.

    Camera on Eve’s back as she walks into The Bitter Pill (repeats several times): “And I like it ? and/or .”

    Everyone but us sees Eve’s face as these lyrics play so in this scene is it still a question, a statement of fact, or both? We only see her face again when everything goes silent and by this time, she’s wants to go numb.

    ALSO…
    That ending scene…Villanelle “gave” Eve her heart (harkening back to the lyrics of a song that played a lot whenever the 2 of them were onscreen together or thinking of one another in S1 (e.g. “If I gave you my heart, would you take it? If I gave you my heart, would you break it?”)) and instead of tossing Villanelle’s heart away (for a 3rd time), Eve holds it and affectionately listening to the sound of it. The screen fades to black and reaching through the silence and darkness is Villanelle’s voice singular and pristine asking Eve if she wishes she were there. Again, Eve just got dumped so that is undoubtedly at play here, but now that everything has fallen away, it’ll be harder to deny the questions.

    Did I mention I love this show? S2 was hit or miss, but its scenes like these 2 that fascinate me.

  4. Hot take, but this is the episode that put me over the edge with the queer-baiting in this show. I’m not usually too fussed about that, but the kiss – followed by the headbutt – has put me off. I feel like the attraction dynamic with them has become really just a plot device, one that the writers will never actually complete.

    To put it another way, if they have a death drive/love drive thing going on (to use those terms very loosely), they’ve consummated the death drive: they’ve both inflicted near-mortal wounds on one another (Eve stabbing Villanelle, Villanelle shooting Eve), but they’ve never consummated the love drive: the closest they get (starting to cuddle in Villanelle’s bed, “kissing” in this episode) turn into vehicles for Eve to hurt Villanelle.

    In what will probably be a super contentious statement, I think I just feel like, I’ve had attraction to and desire for women, and I just really think I couldn’t ever let myself give into it if I were in Eve’s shoes. But maybe other queers have the experience of desiring and desiring women, and then continually undermining the opportunity to manifest that desire. But I don’t see enough of the struggle with Eve. I see her do some gestures of missing Villanelle, and then being continually cruel to Villanelle when she’s around.

    But also, Villanelle is a fucking serial killer and assassin so maybe that’s totally reasonable! I don’t know. I’m just feeling really irritated by the show – but am I being too hard on it??

    • This show is not queer baiting. I feel like people just throw around that word these days. Villanelle is sexually attracted to women and we’ve seen that more than once in the show. Eve is also clearly attracted to her but the fact that she’s an assasain and also shot her last season makes it a little hard for her to accept that. But it’s not queer baiting to explore their obsession and mutual attraction for each other, that’s literally the plot. They probaly won’t end up running away together and living happily ever after and that still won’t be queer baiting.

      • I think the problem with the whole “Killing Eve is queerbaiting” thing is actually even deeper than that. As sara said – the mutual attraction between two women is literally the main plot. Of course Villanelle is more straightforward about it – she’s the romantic one! But Eve’s desire, sexual desire, is there a long before they meet in the bathroom, a long before Eve realises that the nurse who told her to wear the hair down is the killer. I mean the woman is horny around her own husband only when she thinks about the female assassin she’d been following. The fact the assassin’s is female is crucial – Eve is pretty indifferent to the male killers. But the gayness is not a transgressive part of this relationship: you can say the queerness of this relationship is somewhere else. There are a lot of problems there, but the same-sex attraction is not one of them. (I’d argue most of the characters in the series are queer figures in one way or another).

        Why queerbaiting, then?

        Because for the two series they didn’t have sex in, let’s say, regular way. There was the stabbing – a messy, ambiguous sexual act. Then, the wiretap sex in Rome, the tremendous act of trust and confidence in the presence another person. But the queerbaiting accusation is still coming back, which basically means there weren’t “proper” sexual acts. They weren’t “queer enough”. These very sexual, deeply weird, disturbing for some people, extremely intimate scenes are not enough. The whole story – a love story between two women – is not enough.

        In the “Killing Eve is queerbaiting” accusation there is a requirement of a “regular” sex act (whatever that means). For me, it’s a requirement of the normalization of queer stories. It also says that the queer narrative must include sex (a “proper” sex), which is absurd.

        I don’t want to be mean; I know, and I feel the source of this misunderstanding. The lack of representation, but also revealing the homophobia as one of two main interpretative forces in the criticism for most of our lives. Killing Eve uses queer readings of popculture, and basically, the art, but it also challenges our old habits. The young queer assassin is not a sexually transgressive force here – the beautiful asshole who has a husband and “hasn’t flirt since the 90s” is. For me, it feels like an unexpected freedom.

      • what I should have just said, in my very basic way, is probably something more like, “the dynamic of the show is feeling a bit tired for me.’

        I take the point about queer baiting and I shouldn’t have brought that dimension into it. I think it’s probably more that I feel like the show really got somewhere interesting by the close of S2, and now my feeling is that it’s going to be the same arc again – cat and mouse, etc., closeness, harm, repeat – but I should just chill out, I think, and realize that that dynamic *is* the relationship.

        • or, truthfully, I think I probably have a lot of thoughts about whether or not this is a love story, whether or not I’m imposing heteronormative ideas about relationships/sex onto it (b/c while I accept this critique, I also have critical responses), but I’m done being talked down to on this site because for I’m not a huge fan of the trending show atm.

          • I’m not a frequent guest in the comment section either, and I didn’t want to talk you down. It wasn’t even a reply to your whole comment, just a queer-baiting argument in general

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