Hello! This is the Autostraddle Killing Eve 404 recap! Look, if you have been confused by the way AMC/AMC+ has been rolling out these episodes stateside…you are not alone! I know it seems kind of like I’m always one episode behind on these, but I’m going off of the schedule of when the episodes actually air on physical television in the States so that the episodes are available to the most amount of people. But for some reason, folks with AMC+ streaming subscriptions get episodes early? I guess because AMC is trying to incentivize subscription signups. Alright, now catch up on past recaps, make yourself a Carolyn-approved sandwich, and let’s dig into the dessert that is “It’s Agony And I’m Ravenous,” written by Kayleigh Llewellyn and directed by Anu Menon.
This is Killing Eve the way I like it. Funny and strange and erotic and strange and stylish and STRANGE. Sure, Drag Jesus is no longer with us, so the episode isn’t as absurd as some of the other episodes of the season so far. But “It’s Agony And I’m Ravenous” is a delightful little weirdo that blends all the show’s best genres: queer erotic thriller meets chic spy adventure meets dark farce. It’s the first good Carolyn episode of the season! IT ENDS WITH EVE AND HOT HÉLÈNE MAKING OUT ON A COUCH WHILE EATING SOUP AND WATCHING A COOKING COMPETITION SHOW. It gives us a Carolyn/Villanelle buddy comedy plotline?!
But let’s start at the beginning. The episode indulges by starting with dessert. (More meals should start with dessert imo.) While Villanelle waits in her (again, very well lit) jail cell to get her phone call, Eve goes on a dessert date with Hot Hélène. The scene cuts between Villanelle, alone, and Eve and Hélène together, a pattern mimicked at the end of the episode. The implication being that Hélène satisfies for Eve what Villanelle used to satisfy for her. I wouldn’t say Eve’s moved on, but there’s a sense that she’s turning Hélène into an object of obsession because she’s at a crossroads with Villanelle, their flame still there but muted.
Eve meets Hot Hélène in a massive theater that Hélène apparently owns because her daddy bought it for her. Of course Hélène has always been a rich bitch. They really do eat dessert before talking shop, sitting on the stage’s edge, going through the motions as if this really were a date. Eve drops Lars Meier’s name, and Hélène is, for once, visibly surprised. She pulls it together though to act cool again, not flinching when Eve also mentions Fernanda’s name. “Your brain is like a hamster on a wheel,” Hélène says. “It must be exhausting.” It’s ironic, because you can absolutely see Hélène’s mental wheels spinning in this scene as she tries to stay ahead of Eve.
“On the subject of exes,” Hélène says. “I hear you’ve had a busy night.” She knows Eve got Villanelle arrested, and this is another example of characters outside of Villanelle and Eve framing their relationship as if they were lovers and exes in a way that, sure, is meant to be emotionally manipulative but isn’t fake, isn’t played for laughs. Hélène, as becomes very clear later in the episode, understands the expansiveness of what passion, desire, and romance look like. When she calls Villanelle Eve’s ex, it rings true.
She challenges Eve to a race to find Lars, which sends Eve on a little tangent alongside Yusuf to uncover this mystery man with some sort of important connection to The Twelve. These are some of the least interesting (though, I suppose, necessary for plotting) bits of the episode, so I’ll summarize them: Yusuf finds Lars by trawling Fernanda’s social media posts, runs facial recognition, and finds an old photograph being sold by a collector featuring him. Eve goes to the photographer, searches through old archival photos, and finds another. It looks like she’s winning the race! We’ll come back to Eve at the end, because there’s…much to discuss about where she ends up later on.
As previously mentioned, it’s finally a good Carolyn episode! And, also, the very first time we get a storyline team-up between Carolyn and Villanelle. Fiona Shaw and Jodie Comer are terrific scene partners, and I’m almost sad we haven’t had more of this before, but I also think part of what makes it special is that it’s fresh and unexpected.
It begins when Hot Hélène breaks Villanelle out of jail, for a price of course. Hélène decides to take the sharp shooter route with Villanelle, saying she knows she can’t threaten Villanelle or stroke her ego or offer her more money in order to get her to do The Twelve’s bidding. She puts it like this: “No one leaves The Twelve. Not you, not me.” Of course, her whole I’m-not-going-to-manipulate-you-into-doing-what-I-want gimmick is, well, its own form of manipulation. And it works, especially because Villanelle doesn’t really have much right now. Her rebirth experiment failed. Her attempts to get Eve’s attention failed. And so, she returns to what she knows: being an assassin for hire. Hélène slips her an envelope, and she takes the job.
The job is to kill Carolyn.
Set up in much nicer safehouse digs than her Moscow arrangements, Carolyn’s in Havana to visit with the member of The Twelve who survived being tortured by whatever assassin Hélène has been using for her masterplan. That torture survivor is the brutish Rustem, whose sexist worldview apparently outweighs his instinct for self-preservation. When Carolyn asks him who is contacts are, he asks for a cigar, makes some disgusting jokes about Carolyn knowing her way around one (“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Carolyn responds, unfazed and, frankly, bored by his macho antics), and says he’ll die before he grovels to a woman. Famous last words on this show, buddy!
Then Carolyn’s sacked. Quite literally: A burlap sack is placed over head by an unknown assailant before the scene smashcuts away. When we return to Havana, we see Carolyn’s sky blue convertible winding through backroads toward the coast. Villanelle gets out, in a fabulous multicolored striped leisure suit and frees Carolyn from the trunk. All the bright colors of the Havana scenes are fantastic. Between that and the gorgeous modern gothic palace that is Hélène’s apartment, the sets and aesthetics of the episode are so visually immersive and dynamic. There really is a globetrotting spy movie sheen here, a mode Killing Eve uses sparingly and effectively. The first three episodes of the season are rooted more in religious imagery, which definitely told its own visual story. This episode pops — in its coloring, costuming, comedy, and charisma.
Carolyn and Villanelle’s unlikely pairing kicks off with Carolyn on her knees, bound, pulling a Carolyn by trying to be cool and sardonic. You’re usually more inventive, she teases when Villanelle pulls a large wrench out of the car. But then in a rare sighting, Carolyn loses her cool. It’s still a Carolyn version of losing her cool, so she still seems remarkably more common than a lot of people would be when faced with a trained killer. But her panic definitely comes through as she rushes through a monologue about how she has always wondered whether Villanelle remembers the first time they met. It wasn’t at the Russian prison, Carolyn clarifies. It was when Villanelle was 9-years-old and in the orphanage. Carolyn, a master manipulator like so many others on the show, taps into the questions Villanelle has been seeking answers to in her little dabbles in the church and in therapy. She wants to know about herself, about what made her a psychopath, if anything. She has technically been on this journey a while. Last season, she wondered, a little jokingly, what she was like as a baby, but there was a kernel of something real there, this curiosity about her past, a past she barely remembers, which says something in and of itself.
Villanelle still whacks Carolyn across the head with the wrench, perhaps angered by Carolyn’s blatant attempts to manipulate her. But it isn’t enough to brain her completely. Carolyn wakes up, head pounding, saying “oh good God, Villanelle” as if she’s reacting to a teenager who has done something annoying. She asks for painkillers, and then the two sit in the hot Havana sun and Carolyn tells her a story about her childhood. In the orphanage, another girl upset Villanelle, so she took her bracelet and tied it so tightly around the girl’s finger while she was sleeping that it couldn’t be cut off and her finger had to be removed. The following conversation ensues:
Villanelle: I was like this at nine?
Carolyn: Hmm, you were gifted from birth.
Villanelle: Evil from birth.
Carolyn: You know humans are like a mezze board. The best of them have a little bit of everything. And if you think that your flair for murder you know speaks to a kind of lack of humanity, you’re wrong. Killing is primal. It’s what nature intended. Who are we to quibble with nature? Why waste your time being good when you could just be good at what you’re good at? That’s what I think anyway.
First of all, “humans are like a mezze board” is definitely the new “life is like a box of chocolates.” Second of all, while I do think there’s some semblance of reality to Carolyn’s words — humans are complex, nuanced, often contradictory beings capable of significant harm but also deserving of empathy — the sentiment is also yet another form of manipulation. Carolyn saying Villanelle was “gifted from birth” is the same tactic The Twelve is always using on Villanelle, suggesting she would always become the killing machine she was and absolving themselves of any role in it. Others are constantly weaponizing Villanelle’s so-called “gifts” for personal gain. Carolyn finds use in Villanelle here, using her to torture Rustem into giving up information. A “good” Villanelle is not useful to Carolyn or The Twelve.
Carolyn’s words about murder being primal, being natural, are also a way for her to absolve herself. I see Villanelle and Eve’s obsession with each other as the axis upon which this show turns, but I see the sentiment of this exchange between Carolyn and Villanelle as the show’s atmosphere. It’s a show about the complexities of humanity. Its most fucked-up characters aren’t inhuman. In fact, they’re deeply human. Killing Eve doesn’t let us look away from their violence or their misdeeds or their selfishness. But it also finds unexpected entry points for empathy and, it’s worth noting, personality. Each character has a distinct sense of humor and distinct ways of moving through the world. It’s not that Killing Eve seeks to make its monsters likable but rather that it makes their unlikability, well, charming and titillating.
After this quasi-pep talk from Carolyn, Villanelle does go back to being good at what she’s good at. There’s always a bit of poetry to Villanelle’s killings. She uses a cheese slicer to cut off Rustem’s fingers, a self-referential callback to the time she cut off the girl’s finger in the orphanage, a memory she doesn’t remember and so reconstructs here.
The information she gets out of Rustem leads Villanelle and Carolyn to a cafe where they wait. While waiting, Villanelle proposes a game: truth or dare. Comedy and tension interplay beautifully here. “Is it true you’re a born again Christian?” Carolyn asks, and Villanelle is awed by how much she knows. “Was it true your dad was a sexy gay spy?” Villanelle asks, and Carolyn confirms. I’m obsessed with every bit of backstory we get from Carolyn through the seasons, which has been doled out in gradual, small bursts like these. But then things take a more serious turn when Carolyn asks Villanelle what intrigues her about Eve.
It is the great question, no? The thing everyone else on the show is forever curious about, the thing that can’t really be explained in a satisfying way because it’s too big, too nebulous. I maintain it isn’t as simple as them seeing parts of themselves in each other, though that’s part of it. Villanelle tells Carolyn about her bout in therapy and how the therapist said she just likes the control she has over her. “It’s not NOT true,” Villanelle says, and then the two humorously bond over their belief that therapy is a racket. I do love that Villanelle confession though. Not NOT true. As in, sure, that’s part of it. But it isn’t the whole picture.
Carolyn and Villanelle’s lunch date is interrupted by the elusive Lars Meier, who shows up at the cafe, recognizes Carolyn, and then bolts, suggesting he was Rustem’s Twelve contact. Carolyn refers to him as an old flame, begging the question: HOW MANY OLD FLAMES DOES CAROLYN HAVE? I’m obsessed with her casually slutty spy career. Kenny (RIP KENNY) never seemed to know who his father was, and I suppose it could be any of these nefarious men who have been her bedfellows through the years. Carolyn is an icon.
The game of truth or dare continues back at Carolyn’s place when Villanelle dares her to play air guitar. It’s hands down one of the funniest Killing Eve moments of all time, and I once again have to point out just how good of scene partners Comer and Shaw are. Their romp in this episode not only furthers each of their character arcs but also provides a lot of humor and fun.
Again, there’s considerable comedy in this episode. Hot Hélène calls Konstantin to threaten him because she knows about him stealing from The Twelve and multitasks magnificently, sitting cross-legged on a bed and gluing gemstones on a plastic tiara for her daughter while blackmailing. She’s a working mom, ok! (I did indeed die when she put the tiara on herself.)
And then there’s Pam. I love the Pam stuff in “It’s Agony And I’m Ravenous,” because while on the surface it just looks like more of that screwball comedy that the episode does so well, I also see it as being in conversation with Villanelle and Carolyn’s scenes. Villanelle wants to know if she was born this way. When watching Pam, we see all the methods The Twelve uses to shape killers, to enable their worst tendencies and weaponize them. Pam toddles behind Konstantin in a backpack like a little kid trying to keep up, jaunty music playing underneath. When he asks her to push a random old woman into the sea, she asks why, and he talks down to her like he would a child, much like the way Hélène treated her, too.
Pam refuses to do as she’s told and instead wanders into a carnival, where she easily beats a strength game, shocking the guy running it. People are always underestimating Pam. She enters one of those cheap spinny carnival rides that make my stomach hurt just to look at, and the camera stays on her face in close-up as she goes from being skeptical and off-kilter to being genuinely delighted by the ride, little yelps turning into full on squealy laughter. It’s a strange, hilarious sequence. It’s not meant to make us forget about Pam stabbing her brother 19 times with a scalpel before embalming him last episode. Instead, Killing Eve asks us to hold both images in our heads at once.
Keepers and other higher-ups at The Twelve intentionally treat the assassins as children. They intentionally choose candidates who don’t have parents or have been removed from their parents so that they can become their family. Carolyn presents Villanelle’s “flair for murder” as if it is merely natural, but of course nature and nurture are working together. What was Carolyn doing in that orphanage (if we’re to believe the story is true)? Recruitment? Of children? Carolyn’s “not” The Twelve, but she has long worked closely alongside members of The Twelve. And if The Twelve hadn’t gotten to Villanelle first, surely someone else would have. We don’t know the exact details of how Hélène found Pam, but it’s clear she was targeted for specific reasons. Her parents are dead; she was isolated from and tormented by her brother; she’s comfortable with dead bodies.
Pretty early on, Killing Eve exploded the idea of a good side and a bad side. The Twelve functions as a common enemy for many of the characters, but the delineations between CIA, MI6, MI5, FSB, The Twelve, basically any governmental/political/ideological organization are basically nonexistent. They’re all nefarious actors in a never-ending power game. And the individuals on the show are all nefarious actors, too, acting simultaneously in their own self-interests and also in ways that are self-sabotaging.
After her whirly rollercoaster experience, Pam calls up Konstantin and tricks him into meeting her. Then she pushes him into the sea. Much of this episode — this show, really — is about power, agency, control. Pam wants to do things on her own terms. Villanelle does, too. The Twelve can try to control them, but they’re ultimately going to find ways to make their own rules.
“I’m sorry I tried to kill you,” Villanelle says to Carolyn. It’s doubtful she’s actually remorseful, and yet, I don’t think she’s lying here. Carolyn waves her off casually as if she’s just apologized for something inconsequential. Killing Eve loves to play with stakes and contexts like this, rendering really extreme things like attempted assassinations as everyday mishaps and rendering more everyday activities as weighty and huge.
Like, for example, the act of shaving one’s legs. Something inconsequential, here rendered an erotic power game. Here’s another one of those instances where Killing Eve basically delivers a sex scene with no sex involved. Eve shaving Hélène’s legs is kinky as hell.
(Yes, though we started with dessert, I’ve saved the best for last like I usually do.)
Eve and Hélène are both trying to figure out what drives the other. We saw this before, in Hélène’s kitchen. We see it again in the theater at the top of this episode. And we see it here, at the end. As has become their pattern, Eve and Hélène go through the motions of, well, basically a date before moving into talk of work. It’s part of their game. Eve arrives at Hélène’s, and she says she has just drawn a bath. Eve wanders into her exquisite bathroom, and Hélène starts shaving her legs, but Eve takes the razor from her and does it herself. Hélène lets Eve have this bit of control, lets her have the sharp thing that can at any point become a weapon but instead is used by Eve to tend to Hélène. How much of what they give and take each other is for work? How much is for pleasure? The ambiguity of these Killing Eve moments is irresistible. I don’t know any other television show that pulls it off in this exact way.
Eve asks what Hélène’s endgame is, preying on these young and vulnerable women and turning them into, as she calls them, “femme bots” (Sandra Oh’s “pew pew” is awards-worthy in and of itself). Hélène tries to make it about women’s empowerment; she doesn’t like weak women. She wants to give them power. As with Carolyn though, this is somewhat true, somewhat charade. What Hélène craves herself is power, and puppeting these women provides her that. “You don’t know what I do, what I give to them,” she teases Eve. “So tell me,” Eve says, unbuttoning her shirt.
The scene then smashcuts to Eve and Hélène together in the tub, both exposed, both uncomfortable. The turn from sensual to humorous works quite well. It’s a small tub! And I also see it almost as Eve being too intentional with her seduction in a way that backfires. Whereas when Eve picks up Hélène’s razor, it’s more natural, less premeditated, and that makes it all the smoother and sexier. Getting into the tub makes the performance too obvious, so it crashes into awkwardness. I love it, and I love the interruption of Hélène’s daughter’s Barbie mermaid at the bottom of the tub. Little touches of Hélène’s “normal” life cut into her assassin trainer life. The mundane cohabitates with the glamor. And Killing Eve revels in the discomfort, smashing it up against the sexier parts of the show. To be this erotic and this awkward all within the span of one scene? It’s an impressive feat in my opinion! And it speaks to how this show likes to smash unexpected dualities together.
So then Hélène offers Eve some soup. They sit on Hélène’s couch, watching a cooking show that Hélène is genuinely invested in.
“The actual definition of passion is to suffer,” Hélène says. She thinks this is what Eve has with Villanelle, who she reveals to Eve she got out of prison. Here’s where Eve’s coolness dissipates. She had to have known Villanelle wouldn’t have stayed cloistered away forever, but I don’t think she expected her to get out this fast. I think she was hoping she could have a little bit of time to not think about Villanelle. It’s like her new girlfriend is bringing up her ex-girlfriend. Jarring. Piercing the fantasy.
Hélène names it: Passion is suffering. It’s not about sex, not about lust, not about romance. It’s about uncontainable emotion and, yes, a bit of suffering. Hélène really sat there and called Eve a yearning mess! But it’s true. We say it’s an obsession a lot of the time, but what Villanelle and Eve have between them really is passion in its rawest and most uncontrollable form. Words and images so often take on dual and plural meanings on this show. Even the word “ravenous” from the title can mean literal and emotional hunger.
“You love this don’t you? It delights you,” Eve says. “I think it delights you. This is what you want,” Hélène turns it back on her.
And either desperate to prove Hélène wrong or right — I think it goes both ways? — Eve leans in and kisses her.
Eve pulls away and says “you have no idea.” I thought that might be the end, but she goes in for more mouth action with Hot Hélène. I know people liked to insist that Eve’s kiss with Villanelle on the bus last season wasn’t “real” because it was a mid-fight distraction, and it’s possible some people might think the same of this, since Eve and Hélène are playing each other, to which I say: WHAT IS REAL THEN? Just because they both want something from one another means the kiss doesn’t mean something? I think Eve wants Hélène on her side, and I think she wants Hélène, too. Just like I think Eve wants Villanelle to leave her alone but also wants her to never stop the games. When Eve tells Hélène she has no idea what it is that she wants, I think Eve might as well be speaking about herself. She doesn’t know what she wants either. I think Eve is obsessed with trying to figure out the motives of others because she doesn’t understand her own motives either.
As previously mentioned, the ending mirrors the beginning. Villanelle is alone. Eve is with Hélène. Again, a surface-level reading would render this a love triangle or Hélène subsuming Villanelle’s role in Eve’s life. But I think, as with so much about this show, there are more moving pieces than that. A mezze board of passion, control, and power, if you will.
This is an episode full of dynamic duos. Pam and Konstantin, whose parent-child dynamic is equal parts humorous and harrowing. Villanelle and Carolyn, who are very equally matched even though they have completely different demeanors. Eve and Hélène, who are somehow rivals-coworkers-enemies-lovers all at goddamn once. Honestly, they’re basically dating now? And I’m only half-kidding when I say that! Based on Eve’s patterns of behavior, this is how she becomes intimate with someone. This is how she connects to others.
I can’t believe that an episode in which Eve and Villanelle are apart for its entirety might be one of my favorites ever? But I think it’s because these duos and the themes explored in each storyline are so connected and tap into exactly what it is I like about the Villanelle/Eve dynamic itself. Strange juxtapositions. This show runs on em.
SORRY BABY x
- I’m trying to act somewhat chill n normal about it, but I will absolutely need to read at least 75 Eve/Hélène fics in the next 24 hours. (If you have any to rec, throw em in the comments! This is a SAFE FIC SPACE)
- I know this is unpopular, but I really do like Yusuf! He serves a different purpose for Eve than Villanelle and Hélène do.
- In an interview, Camille Cotin says she drew inspiration from Ally McBeal and Portia de Rossi for this role????? I will be processing this for the foreseeable future.
- Cotin and Oh are also fantastic scene partners.
- Villanelle easily wins best dressed for this episode with the Havana look.