“Killing Eve” Season Three is Like a Bad Breakup

No one edges quite like Killing Eve. No one yearns quite like Killing Eve. Even in its moments of becoming overwhelmed by its own plot machinations, the tension and mushrooming intimacy at its core hums. No longer exactly cat and mouse, no longer exactly unlikely buddy cops, no longer exactly Holmes-Moriarty-esque nemeses, Eve Polastri and Villanelle’s relationship lives somewhere else entirely.

It’s no shocker that Killing Eve has, uh, let’s say, resonated with lesbians. The show has managed to map an intense, countries-spanning, long-distance, yearning romance onto the relationship between a serial killer and her pursuer. For Villanelle, there are no distinct lines between what she has with Eve and a relationship. She has always talked about their bond in terms of a complicated relationship. In the time between season two and three, she has somehow managed to get a wife, which actually isn’t all that surprising given her controlled charm, general horniness, and tendency toward impulsivity. The premiere opens on her wedding day—which takes a hilarious turn for disaster, naturally—and Villanelle even talks of Eve here. She makes it sound like a breakup. Later in the season, she relates to a story about unrequited love.

And Eve’s unraveling in season three certainly looks like a breakup. Technically, she is dealing with the fallout of her relationship with Niko, which has an extra layer of tragedy in the form of his very apparent depression and PTSD after finding his new girlfriend killed by Villanelle at the end of last season. But even more potently than that, Eve’s dealing with the undoing brought on by her last encounter with Villanelle and her first experience killing. She’s working back-of-house in a restaurant, chopping chickens and crimping dumplings for long shifts after which she goes to her dismal apartment for a lot of red wine and endless packs of Shin Ramyun.

That fiery light in her eye that she always had in the pursuit of Villanelle is gone. It’s like someone has slid the dimmer down on Eve. When she overhears a grocer gossiping about her upcoming honeymoon, the mention of the romance of Rome inspires just the slightest reaction from Eve. It’s in moments like this that Killing Eve is so achingly intoxicating. The romance of Rome. The last time Eve was in Rome, her employer betrayed her. The last time Eve was in Rome, Villanelle shot her and left her to die. Yes, Eve definitely has a lot of complex feelings attached to Rome, and as she listens to this woman talking about her upcoming honeymoon you can practically see her urge to tell this woman to run. The promise and anticipation of something grand and special can sweep a person into fantasy only to bring them crashing down. Eve got caught up in the idea of working together with Villanelle, and it blew up in her face spectacularly. Of course it did. Now she’s facing the fallout, a dimmed Eve ambling through life, exhausted and uncertain and purposeless.

Villanelle, meanwhile, has taken a break from her own purpose, too. She’s not taking any jobs. And when she finally returns to the fold of The Twelve, she wants a promotion. She presumably wants more control over her life. But she’s also after the high of that passion that was felt when Eve was bound to her. Season three finds both women waffling over what they want. Villanelle was never going to settle down in a happy wife, happy life sort of way, but the fantasy of that opening wedding scene is indeed easy to get swept up in. What does Villanelle’s life look like without Eve and what does Eve’s look like without Villanelle? Neither seem to know. And thankfully, neither will have to figure it out all too soon. Eve is, after all, still alive.

Season three also introduces another complicated relationship between Villanelle and her mentor Dasha, a former young gymnast-turned-serial killer who helps train new recruits for The Twelve. Dasha and Villanelle’s dynamic is a fun, fraught one. They seem poised to snap each other’s neck at any second but also like they have genuine respect for one another. Or, at least, they know exactly what to say in order to get something out of one another. Nobody manipulates a psychopath quite like a psychopath. Villanelle and Dasha are certainly different but cut from the same cloth—perhaps the closest thing Villanelle has to a mother-daughter relationship. When Villanelle completes a job and stages the body in an homage to one of Dasha’s early kills, Villanelle says she wasn’t mimicking Dasha but rather improving upon her work. That edge of competition is fire-fuel for Villanelle, but it’s only a small hit of what she gets out of her relationship with Eve.

The show has had a change of showrunner yet again, this time passing from Emerald Fennell to Suzanne Heathcote, who needles into the darkest parts of the show. There’s a brutality to her approach to the show, but it’s warranted given the dismal place where the show picks up. And she still maintains that underlying and often surprising wit to the show, always best encapsulated by Jodie Comer’s timing and physical comedy. Gorgeous costuming and set pieces abound, too, including a new sprawling mansion for Villanelle. The show’s intermingling of beauty and terror has always been a compelling part of its visual storytelling.

For now, Eve and Villanelle are grappling with their new lives without each other. But an unnerving death in the premiere tugs Eve back down the rabbithole. She’s more skeptical now of the system, freshly burned by MI6. She hasn’t gone full rogue yet, but there’s early hints of it. Eve’s sense of sides—of good versus bad—has by now been completely eradicated. That heightens the stakes by further blurring the lines between The Twelve, MI6, and every character on the show. And since Villanelle and Eve are separated, season three gets to live once again in that foreplay place. The anticipation. The teasing. The buildup to a Villanelle-Eve reunion. It’s enough tension to choke.

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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.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve done my annual rewatching and can’t wait to see Suzanne Heathcote’s take on the story. BTW Laura Neal will take over as showrunner for season 4. I love that they announce the next showrunner every year before the season even starts.

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