This Killing Eve review contains spoilers.
Killing Eve Season 1, Episode 5
There’s a certain amount of tension in any cat-and-mouse drama that changes when the cat and mouse properly meet. It says a lot about the diverse strengths of Killing Eve that, even after Eve and Villanelle properly face off at the beginning of “I Have a Thing About Bathrooms”—and, again, later in the episode—this show is still firing on all cylinders.
This isn’t the first time our two protagonists have come face to face. They first breathed the same air at the end of the very first episode, when Eve ran into Villanelle in the bathroom at the hospital. Villanelle suggested Eve leave her hair down, then proceeded to leave a trail of bodies for Eve to find upon Eve finally making her big hair decision and coming out of the restroom. However, “I Have a Thing About Bathrooms” is the first time these two have spent time together since they both understood who the other is, and since Villanelle killed one of Eve’s best friends.
How does it go? Well, if you thought the tension might be cut, it is not? These two are as intense as ever in their relationship to one another. It probably helps that they are both thoroughly fascinating people in a world that, to both Eve and Villanelle, is filled with dull people they figure out pretty easily. In their first meeting this episode, Eve does something wholly unexpected that gets pretty much everyone’s attention, including the viewer’s: with Villanelle hot in pursuit of the car holding Eve, Elena, and a probably-already-peed-himself Frank, Eve slams on the brakes and decides to go say hello.
It’s a baller move, and one that Eve makes almost purely on the strengths of her killer instincts and profiling skills. She bets that Villanelle will not kill her, and she bets right. Though Villanelle aims her gun at Eve and then herself, laughing when Eve shouts in protest, the assassin does not kill the MI6 agent. She’s too fascinating to kill… at least at the moment. Villanelle loves her games and there’s no better game than one in which the mouse stops and turns around.
Eve may be ballsy, but she’s not stupid. When Villanelle breaks into Eve’s house later, she is terrified for her life. This is an encounter that is solely happening on Villanelle’s terms. Eve is even wearing the dress and perfume Villanelle sent her, having tried them both on for size prior to Villanelle’s arrival. It’s just another sign of how out of control of this moment Eve is, though not without purpose. She tries on the clothes Villanelle bought for her in an effort to understand Villanelle and the Oksana she once was. It’s why, after the two have sat down for leftovers at Eve’s kitchen table, Eve is able to turn the tables a bit.
Villanelle is not out of her depth, but she isn’t able to fool Eve, either. Villanelle delivers her sob story about how she doesn’t want to be killing people, but they make her. She needs help, she tells Eve. Bullshit, Eve tells her back. It’s a great moment, and another one in which the viewer can’t help but admire Eve’s bravery. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the ability to act in spite of it (It’s the opposite of whatever Frank has.) Villanelle is delighted that Eve can see through her. If Eve had fallen for Villanelle’s act in that moment, I wonder if Villanelle would have killed her, no longer fascinated with the enigma that is Eve.
The entire encounter is staged wonderfully, with Killing Eve playing including notes of mundane absurdity during objectively terrifying moments in the same way it did so well in the previous episode. This is a thoroughly domestic scene, taking place first in Eve’s bathroom and then in her kitchen. They eat shephard’s pie heated up in the microwave and Eve apologizes to her serial killer guest for not being a better host as how she’s been socialized to behave as a woman bubbles up over her role as an MI6 agent or her identity as a human with, you know, survival instincts.
It’s bad timing that, right after Eve promises to find whatever Villanelle loves and to kill it, Niko and Dom come home. Eve is lucky, I guess, that Villanelle doesn’t take the promise too personally. Or perhaps Villanelle realizes that she has already killed something that Eve loves. Right now, Villanelle still has the upper hand. Villanelle might not have emotions in the same way the rest of us do, but she still seems to want what the rest of us want: to be seen. Eve sees her.
But what does Villanelle love? There is another mention of Anna here, a person Villanelle seemingly wants to see. Could it be her daughter? We learn in tonight’s episode that Villanelle was imprisoned for killing a man and cutting off his penis. Did this man inflict some kind of sexual violence on Villanelle? This seems a likely, vile explanation, but Killing Eve also tends to surprise in unexpected, rational ways. Villanelle’s past may not be what it seems.
Whatever happened to Oksana to turn her into Villanelle, she’s going to have to face it soon. When Konstantin tells her that Nadia (somehow) survived being run over twice, he strongly suggests Villanelle travel to Russia to make sure she doesn’t have a chance to talk. This is the first time in the entire history of this show that Villanelle has ever looked properly scared. She does not want to go to Russia. There be ghosts.
It is interesting that Konstantin seems OK with Villanelle having killed both of her partners and wants to protect her from the blowback. From whom, though? Perhaps from the other members of The Twelve.
Killing Eve expands its conspiracy a lot in this episode. We learn that Villanelle is acting under the orders of a group called The Twelve, something Villanelle, too, seems to learn for the first time after she steals a recording of Frank confessing most of what he knows to Carolyn and Eve. When Villanelle confronts Konstantin with that information, asking which number of The Twelve he is, Konstantin balks, though doesn’t look surprised. What happens when your gun turns into a grenade? The longer The Twelve pay Villanelle to kill for them, the more likely it is she will figure it all out. As Eve points out, Villanelle is very smart.
Perhaps Villanelle has already figured it out. When Eve asks her who she’s working for, Villanelle comments that, if they go high enough, they are probably working for the same people. Does that include Carolyn? In last week’s review, I voiced my suspicions that Carolyn might be working for the other side. This episode did a great deal to ingratiate the viewer to her. First, we see tell Eve “I’m sorry you have to see this” before using the “maternal instincts” that are socially expected of her to comfort Frank and get information out of him.
The role doesn’t come naturally to Carolyn, as we see in her relationship with her son, Kenny. (Surprise!) There is no traditional maternal warmth there, though Carolyn obviously cares about her kid, asking Eve to look after him before Eve even realizes they are related, and having Kenny over for dinner. (Does Kenny live with her? Maybe.) We learn that Kenny’s father, presumably Carolyn’s husband (or ex-husband), died a few years ago. If Carolyn is one of The Twelve, it feels like this death could be connected.
While Eve is crashing Carolyn’s dinner party, Villanelle is killing Frank. Frank was an idiot who sold out his co-workers, but it’s still affecting to see him beg for his life. (Also funny: “I have kids.” “I don’t want your kids.”) Frank is a coward, but he doesn’t deserve to die for it. And his kids definitely don’t deserve to be orphaned.
The worst part? Frank dies without giving all of his information to Eve and Carolyn. At least if Frank had spilled the beans, his death would have been worth something. The way it stands, Frank’s death is a message to Eve. Villanelle cuts off Frank’s penis and dresses him in the gown she had gifted to Eve and stolen from her house. What is she trying to tell Eve? Hello. Keep chasing me. I see you, too. Whatever the message, one thing is for sure: now that the cat-mouse and cat-mouse have properly seen each other, the tension is as taut as ever.