The following contains major spoilers for Killing Eve season 3 episode 5.
Just about every week on Killing Eve is a big, momentous occasion. Still, it’s not every week on Killing Eve that someone (THIS IS YOUR FINAL SPOILER WARNING) kills their own mom…or mum if you prefer. And on Mother’s Day no less!
That’s exactly what happens in Killing Eve season 3 episode 5 “Are You From Pinner?” when Oksana Astankova a.k.a. Villanelle visits her old Russian stomping grounds (with Romania serving as a stand-in for “Mother Russia”) and tries to reconnect with her family. Suffice it to say, some reunions go better than others.
“Obviously what happens is enormous to her in terms of who she is and her upbringing,” Killing Eve season 3 lead writer Suzanne Heathcote told Den of Geek prior to the season’s premiere, in a masterclass of understatement.
This Russian interlude is indeed enormous and reveals more about Villanelle’s psyche and upbringing than just about any other event in Killing Eve’s run. While Villanelle gets along with her Elton John-obsessed little half-brother, her relationship with her mother, Tatiana (Evgenia Dodina), is complicated.
We get a sense that Villanelle’s childhood was more troubled than previously realized with the news that Tatiana dropped her off at an orphanage early on because she sensed a “darkness” inside her. After a tearful reunion, things begin to sour for mother and daughter at a local festival (featuring Dung Throwing!) when Villanelle discovers that Tatiana psychologically abuses and torments her little brother just like she did to her.
Interestingly, the ultimate breaking point for the girl once known as Oksana is when her mother won’t clean her face of tomato juice following an innocent prank.
“You’re not a child,” Tatiana says.
“I want to feel like one,” Villanelle says.
It’s at that moment that Villanelle’s recent baby fascination makes a little more sense. The most interesting thing in the world to a sociopath has to be a little human-like creature that everyone agrees must be paid attention and care at all times. Judging by her upbringing, that is not something Villanelle has ever experienced. After indulging her face-cleaning request, Villanelle’s mother asks her to leave.
“You will not bring your darkness into this house,” Tatiana says.
“You are the darkness. You have always been the darkness,” Villanelle says.
After telling her mother that she has killed a lot of people, Villanelle goes silent for a moment and viewers can see Villanelle’s tortured thought process playing out on Jodie Comer’s face. She knows what has to come next. We all do.
“I…I think I need to kill you.”
And so, she does. Villanelle kills her mother offscreen, which is the show’s way of revealing just how significant this event is. Killing Eve never robs viewers of the opportunity to watch an onscreen kill, whether it’s quick and slapdash or thought out and creative. This one is different, however, as evidenced by Villanelle’s tearful, restless expression at episode’s end.
“Are You From Pinner?” is an important episode in Killing Eve’s young history. It not only partially reveals the source of one of its lead character’s dysfunction, but then has her confront it head on. The episode also comes at an interesting time in season 3’s run. With episode four ending on a cliffhanger regarding Niko’s fate, it seemed only natural that this installment would address that. According to Heathcote, however, the plan was always to indulge this digression from the main story for episode five.
“We knew that the standalone episode for Villanelle would be episode five. There was something about it. It felt right that she entered this world separate from everything else,” Heathcote says. “To cut away and cut back to the business of MI6 just didn’t feel right. It felt like you really needed to be with her in the isolation of that world in that moment.”
Ultimately, that appears to have been the right decision. Niko’s fate can wait. For now we have a better understanding of Villanelle’s past, which means we are better equipped to head into Killing Eve’s future. Plus, the dung throwing looked fun.