This Killing Eve review contains spoilers.
Killing Eve Season 1, Episode 3
Killing Eve moves at a brisk pace. By the third episode, Eve and Villanelle know each other’s faces. This is a pretty cool subversion of the spy thriller genre Killing Eve is playing with and against, but the show falters a bit in this third episode as it gives us a bit too much plot with not enough character-driven subversion.
What does that mean? There is a lot that happens in this third episode: Villanelle kills a Chinese colonel in Berlin. Eve and Bill go to Berlin to gather information. Villanelle lures Bill into a crowded club where she repeatedly stabs him. It’s that last plot point that is particularly horrifying, important, and sloppily handled. While we’ll have to wait until next week’s episode to see the emotional and logistical fallout from Bill’s maybe-death, it feels a bit too contrived in the context of this episode.
Bill is meant to be the more experienced spy-type, but he follows an active assassin into a strange, crowded location with neither backup, nor, it seems, a weapon. The plot further contrives to give Bill one last narrative sympathy before the big attack: he has an adorable, infant daughter. It’s a nice character detail, but one that feels shoehorned in at the last moment to make Bill even more sympathetic.
The thing is: I didn’t need the cute kid to like Bill or care that he was maybe-murdered. Bill is great. Eve cares about him and he cares about her. He has been a good friend to our protagonist. He was a good boss, throwing himself under the bus with Eve in the first episode. And, perhaps even more impressively, he is a good employee, swallowing his own pride (after a beat) to recognize Eve’s authority.
The episode does a better job giving Bill layers in his hotel room conversation with Eve. Of course he fancied Eve—she’s a badass. He has a pretty casual relationship with his wife. He experimented with both men and women while he was a young, hip MI-5 agent in Berlin back in the day. That kind of non-sexual, domestic scene not only subverts spy thriller genre expectations, but also gives both Bill and Eve added context.
Speaking of Eve, we continue to get clues that we should be questioning not just Villanelle’s, but Eve’s degree of care when it comes to whether her actions will hurt other people. Eve is not a sociopath, like Villanelle, and she was honestly traumatized by the killings at the hospital in the first episode, but she is also a little bit in love with this new life she’s living. When her husband asks her if they’re in any danger, she blithely tells him no, even though Villanelle is actively trolling Eve, having left her name as her own at her latest killing.
Bill’s stabbing was not Eve’s fault, but I don’t think that Eve ever really took the possibility of Bill getting hurt seriously, in the same way that she hadn’t taken the possibility of herself getting hurt seriously. Maybe it’s not that she doesn’t take it seriously so much as she cares about leading this exciting life a bit more. There’s something pretty relatable about that, especially as a woman.
Women tend to get told that any kind of risk is selfish when men are not only allowed to, but actively encouraged to take risks, especially when it comes to work. Rather, women are expected to prioritize emotional labor, to think of the others in their life and their own emotional and physical well-being. It’s not a bad goal, but also one that, when taken to an extreme degree, like anything, can be harmful and, you know, frustrating.
Bill’s stabbing is particularly frustrating when you think about what Eve was doing while he was wandering into danger. She was being forced to dress herself up to get information out of the Chinese attache. What would have happened if he had just given her the information, rather than making her go through this gendered pantomime? Would she have been with Bill when he had to make the decision of whether or not to follow Villanelle? Or would she have been able to answer one of his phone calls and talked him out of it? We’ll never know.
Like in earlier episodes, Villanelle and Eve are on the same emotional page for most of the episode: they’re both having the times of their life. Villanelle gets to kill possibly multiple people and Eve gets to go on a proper work trip to Berlin. They are both getting to show what they are capable of in the workplace, albeit in very different manners. It’s a shame that it has to end with Eve in such distress.
Can these two both be happy forever? No. But this show is at its best, at least so far, when Eve and Villanelle have the kind of symbiotic relationship that allows them to live in this state of chasing and being chased. As Killing Eve progresses, no doubt this balance will become more complicated, hopefully in wonderful ways, especially as the identity of the chaser and the chased is flipped on its head. Sorry, Bill. You were just a casualty in the story of this co-dependent relationship.