This Killing Eve review contains spoilers.
Killing Even Season 2 Episode 2
Episode 2 of Killing Eve manages to do a rare thing: it makes Villanelle seem weak and vulnerable. The artfully claustrophobic episode is even more intense than the premiere, the tension tightly coiled as both Eve and Villanelle encounter new territory and the line between who is cat and who is mouse becomes ever blurrier.
Like a drawn-out reversal of the cold open of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Pilot, “Nice and Neat” knows we’re operating under the impression that Villanelle is beyond deadly, and any man in her path is unfortunate to find himself there. No amount of injury, illness, or social expectations could make Villanelle a victim – could they?
And therein lies the genius of this episode. The deadliest woman in the world is still a woman. She’s still subject to the needs and whims of men, even one as mundane and trying as Julian. His apartment full of creepy dolls has a real Bertha Mason vibe – it seems his previous living doll was less obedient and needed to be put on restriction.
Julian starts by being too attentive to “Elizabeth,” checking up on her just a bit too often, a bit too insistently. Then he gets physically weird with her, sticking his fingers in her mouth – supposedly to check her tonsils – in a way that is completely uncomfortable but wouldn’t sound sexual or noteworthy if described on paper. Yet we know as well as Villanelle that something here is not right. It’s no wonder she’s taken aback when he offers a “hottie-bottie,” the unnecessary suggestive name for a hot water bottle. And he, of course, knows best: she isn’t sick, she’s just being silly. His doll just needs to go back on the shelf for the night for a rest and she’ll be right as rain.
It doesn’t take long for the creepiness to escalate. Waiting at the foot of her bed for her to wake up, kissing her on her head while she sleeps, testing out referring to her as his girlfriend, giving in when she brings up the idea of leaving. Stalling on going to the pharmacy, brushing her hair, deciding what she gets to watch on tv, Julian wants to control his new prize. When things sour, he casts himself as a victim and her as a slutty manipulator. It turns out she’s actually an assassin, but he didn’t know that. Another young woman, less deadly than Villanelle, would have been in serious trouble.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Villanelle kill someone for what is, for the audience, a satisfying reason. Nothing feels so great as when she turns on her real accent and kicks him, starting a real knock-down drag-out physical, scrappy fight. After, we got to meet her new handler, Raymond, played by Adrian Scarborough of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Crashing (2016). Gone are the days of pretending to have taken her own life for fun or trying to convince her handler to watch a movie.
I’m so glad Killing Eve skipped out on the easy, obvious moment of having Eve and Villanelle briefly lock eyes as the latter is driven away. Instead, we get to wait for the day when Villanelle will one day find out that her “girlfriend in London” not only came looking for her, she almost rescued her. In the meantime, I suspect her handlers will use Eve’s absence against our favorite psychopath, in an attempt to claim that she doesn’t care for her and has moved on to searching for other killers – the ultimate betrayal. How will Villanelle handle it when she learns Eve is pursuing other assassins?
Using the word “rescue” calls to mind how out of place it feels: Killing Eve is not a show that altogether believes in the concept. A benefit to truly queering a narrative, rather than adding token queer characters, queerbaiting subtext, or claiming queerness when there’s no basis in the text whatsoever, is that it opens up story possibilities beyond what was previously imagined. Neither Eve nor Villanelle fulfills the traditional role of the masculine rescuer of a damsel in distress because that role simply doesn’t exist. It’s nonexistent from the entire show, not just their dynamic. These two operate on a whole other level.
Over on the MI6 side of things, Eve reunites with Kenny for Operation Mandalay, where she meets funny, hypercompetent Jess and louche, semi-useful Hugo. I love that Eve has zero patience for Hugo almost as much as I’m happy that Eve confides in Kenny. She needs to tell the truth to someone, and he’s certainly the best candidate right now. Also fun: how excited Eve is that villanelle will be furious about the new woman serial killer.
About that new serial killer, the ghost. Killing Eve continues to tell stories that pack a gender-based narrative punch. A new female killer feels like a deliciously fresh new place to take the story, and a killer who is as covert as Villanelle is ostentatious makes sense. But the messaging around the “kind of woman no one ever pays attention to” feels entirely unforced. It’s baked into the world of Killing Eve, not A Very Special Episode or a focus grouped buzzword pinned onto a pre-existing concept for a show. Exhibit A? Eve’s ability to deliver that cutting line to Hugo about how she knows the killer is likely an immigrant woman of color.
Exhibit B is the immaculate way the scene of The Ghost in action is filmed, and everything it reveals about what we’re used to seeing (or not) on our screens. We can’t see the woman’s face at all, but that doesn’t even read as strange or problematic, in spite of Eve’s voiceover tipping the show’s hand that we’re watching the killer. It’s like we’re so used to women like this serving as human flotsam and jetsam, the background noise that gives a place texture rather than any narrative importance, that we’re trained not to be bothered by the absence of her identity, even when that’s exactly what we’re looking for. They didn’t have to go out of their way to film this scene without her face in it, because women like her are decapitated, edged out, and barely even in scenes like this all the time, even when they’re literally front and center. Form meets function, in the best possible way.
While the final act of this episode truly feels like one hit after another, there is only one final parting shot: Konstantin is alive and in Carolyn Martens’ living room. We’re unpacked what his resurrection means for the show here, but after Nadia’s death, I’m happy that at least one person (other than Eve) who matters to Villanelle is still alive.
Eve asking Carolyn how she manages to not look tired continues the tradition of Carolyn recommending skin care products to Eve
A+ Clueless reference. Does this mean Villanelle is a virgin who can’t drive? Way harsh, Tai!
Eve’s husband Niko is definitely a target – he needs a more specific warning
Villanelle finding time to reference biblical paintings so Eve finds her kills is a special kind of devotion