This Killing Eve review contains spoilers.
Killing Eve Season 1, Episode 8
Much of Killing Eve‘s season finale is devoted to uncommon pairings: Villanelle and Konstantin’s pre-teen daughter, Irina, and Eve and Konstantin. It’s a fitting theme for a show that is so very good at balancing things that established tropes tell us shouldn’t go together: humor and tragedy; domesticity and spycraft; women and anger.
The season finale begins with the unlikely duo of the assassin and the child. The pairing is even more off-kilter for that fact that our assassin, Villanelle, is a woman. Generally, female characters are portrayed as unable to avoid at least some maternal instincts. Villanelle subverts this in every way: she has no problem shooting either Anna (though Anna beats her to it) or Konstantin in front of Irina. She doesn’t even realize she should probably feed the kid, so uninterested in the skills of a nurturer Villanelle is.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Villanelle isn’t clever enough to play off of society’s assumptions about women and their maternal instincts. She uses gendered expectations like weapons, in this case getting Irina to steal money from unsuspecting people before deflecting their suspicions with a warm, faux mother-daughter relationship. It’s a parody, and it’s one that is vaguely reminiscent of what we saw from Carolyn earlier in this season when it came to comforting Frank in order to get information about The Twelve out of him. The women of this show, even the ones who have empathy, are not interested in being defined by it.
While Villanelle drags Irina all over Moscow in an attempt to lure Konstantin in to his death, Konstantin has sought out the help of Carolyn, which leads to the help of Eve, giving us our second unlikely pairing. Konstantin and Eve’s interactions are a thing of beauty. These are two characters we have known from the beginning, but have rarely seen interact. In many ways, they have a lot in common. They are the two people Villanelle, for lack of a better word, cares most about. They are both very good at their jobs, which is to say they are very good at seeing people as they are.
This pairing is particularly illuminating for the viewer’s understanding of Konstantin’s character. Up until a few episodes ago, we had never properly seen Konstantin interact with anyone besides Villanelle. His entire context was his role as her handler. It is hard to get a grip on a character when they are constantly on guard. Here, in Konstantin’s ever-intoxicated state of panic, we learn a bit more about this man. He is a killer who, unlike Villanelle, seems very capable of love—he loves his daughter. And, when faced with his death for the second time in as many days, he does not flinch.
And, after all of this, armed with the knowledge that Villanelle is most likely about to kill him, he still cares for Villanelle. Killing Eve is very good at walking this line between truth and lie, and never really let us know which is which. Konstantin’s admission that Villanelle is his favorite may just be the man telling her what he thinks she wants to hear, but I don’t think so—that being said, I think an alternate interpretation is not only valid, but equally encouraged. This is a show that lives in the gloriously messiness of human emotion in which there are hardly ever any clean lines or sure things.
The same is even more true for Villanelle and Eve’s ultimate showdown. Though they face off in Moscow, Eve begging Villanelle to come with her, it is in Paris, outside the jurisdictions of their respective jobs, that they their emotional showdown. The big twist in this moment is that, for once, it’s not Villanelle betraying someone’s trust; it’s Eve. Stabbing Villanelle is the smart decision; more than that, it’s the moral one. But damn if it doesn’t hurt.
It speaks to the organic unpredictability of this show, a trait that comes along with any storytelling that bucks tropes and refuses to follow sexist patterns, that, until Eve actually plunged the knife into Villanelle, I had no idea what she would do. Perhaps Eve didn’t either. Villanelle certainly didn’t seem to think it possible. After all, she’s used to having the upper hand, especially when it comes to women she is actively or has actively seduced.
But does Eve stab Villanelle for the “right” reasons? Does it matter? During their confrontation, Eve blames Villanelle for the loss of two jobs, as well as her marriage. The thing is: those aren’t the things Villanelle has taken away from Eve, not really. Villanelle has taken Bill and Frank and countless other lives, but she never made Eve avoid being truly honest or vulnerable with Niko. And she never forced Eve to chase after her, neither before Bill told Eve to stop investigating Villanelle, nor after Carolyn demanded she stop, nor any of the times in between.
When Eve injures Villanelle in a very intimate act of violence, it doesn’t feel like Eve is bringing Villanelle to justice for her many murders; it feels like Eve is punishing Villanelle for the vulnerability and emotions Villanelle has brought about in Eve. This is Eve asking Villanelle to stop making her feel inconvenient, uncomfortable things. It’s a “crime” of passion, of romance, of fucked-up-it-ness. It’s a form of foreplay for these two, until it’s not.
Because, of course, Eve immediately regrets it—or, if not regrets it, then panicks. She’s not a killer. Not like Villanelle. She got caught up in the dark glitter of Villanelle’s world and forget about the bright blood. She got torn between trashing Villanelle’s flat like an ex and her aspirations to be taken seriously in a job she is excellent at.
The lines were blurry, as they so often are in real life. Eve was no longer an MI6 agent, if she arguably ever was, given Carolyn’s still-unexplained shadiness and mentions of “off the book” operations. And, when you’re lying in bed with someone else, it’s impossible to ignore their personhood, not to recognize their context outside of whatever role you’ve come to understand them in.
In many ways, this felt like an anti-climatic season finale—not because nothing happened, far from it, but because this is a show where something always happens. There’s no where else to go when tensions are already so high and you care at all about the groundedness of a show. Well, there is one place to go: deeper, emotionally, and boy did Killing Eve pull that off. Eve may have gotten Villanelle right in the gut, but we all know it was really her heart Eve managed to prick.
Is Konstantin really dead? For the integrity of this narrative world, I hope so. In the context of fannish impulses, however, I want him back.
Reminder: We still don’t know what Carolyn is up to.
Eve, upon seeing Carolyn’s messy hotel room, thinking something terrible had happened to Carolyn, only to find out that Carolyn is just a messy traveler.
The way Kim Bodnia (aka Konstantin) delivers “She’s so annoying” is just so, so good.
“Are you afraid of your mother?” “Yes. Isn’t everyone?”
I love Elena, just subtly being great at her job in the background of this episode.
What happened to the note that Nadia slipped to the prison guard before she died? Kenny knows about its existence and presumably went in search of it, but never says anything about it to Eve, simply goes along with his mother’s commands at the airport. Did he never find it? Or did he and he doesn’t know who to trust? Or did he and he is frightened of incriminating his mother?
Kid thinks Villanelle is a good person because she is sad and “sad people feel things more.” I hope this character comes back in Season 2.
Villanelle laughing at the kid’s passport photo. “Stop it, I was young then.”
Do you think Villanelle has any true feelings for Eve? (In addition to the mastubatory kind.) Is this even a helpful question when talking about a psychopath? Furthermore, what do you think Eve’s messy feelings for Villanelle are? Do you think she did the right thing in stabbing Villanelle when she had the chance? Let’s discuss in the comments and on Twitter as we wait for Season 2.