On Killing Eve, Being a Spy and Assassin is Fun

Killing Eve season 4 episode 4 makes the case for how much these spies and assassins actually enjoy their jobs.

Killing Eve Season 4 Episode 4 review
Photo: Anika Molnar/BBCA

This Killing EVE article contains spoilers.

Killing Eve Season 4 Episode 4

Killing Eve is full of folks trying to kill each other and nearly getting killed, many of whom have had chances to walk away. Not only do they stay, however, some have actively sought a more dangerous life. This episode more than any other makes the case for why these people are in the business – and while some have the law slightly more on their side on paper, Killing Eve has made an equally compelling case that there’s not a whole lot of difference between any of them. They genuinely seem to enjoy the cat and mouse, torture and murder, power and manipulation that comes with the game. Konstantin’s hearty belly laughs, Villanelle and Carolyn’s light and easy repartee, Hélène’s flirtatious overtures and the way Eve is drawn to it all, thrives in it, even Pam’s steely stare, show how they enjoy their line of work.

At times it has been hard to find a story-based reason why some of these characters would continue this type of work, which has chewed them up and spat them out over and over again. Obviously for the sake of the show, we need them to continue leading these lives, but they’ve each faced at least one major turning point where it would have made sense for them to leave the life. After Kenny died, no one would have blamed Carolyn for quitting, and Eve actually did walk away for a time.

Konstantin’s family seems to have been wiped from everyone’s collective memory, but for a while it seemed like his daughter would be the reason he would get out, if not by way of a body bag. There are so many turning points for Eve that essentially the show’s theme is: what is going on with this woman that she keeps choosing death, danger, and Villanelle instead of doing literally anything that a rational person with a sense of self-preservation would do? Villanelle did her level best with Christianity, but apparently that hasn’t exactly worked out.

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Across the different plot lines, this episode celebrates smaller moments of our characters enjoying their jobs. The imagination and the stagecraft of torturing and killing someone, or wheedling information out of somebody while making it look like you’re actually the one doing a reveal, or maybe even still being a bit withholding. Hélène and Eve play cat and mouse throughout, but their opening scene at a West End theatre – complete with refreshments and verbal thrusts and parries – is particularly excellent. Carolyn manages to get Villanelle to go from killing her to killing for her essentially out of professional curiosity, sheer interest in the torture (past and future) of the obnoxious misogynist Russian.

Often, the whimsical spy craft and inventive assassinations have felt like a stylistic quirk of the show. While much of it came from Villanelle, it wasn’t limited to her and served more as an overall motif. In “It’s Agony and I’m Ravenous,” Killing Eve posits that this sort of thing is both a joy for those who do it and an inherent character trait, though it comes more naturally to some than others, hence Eve and Helene’s awkward bath. As Carolyn says when she’s trying to convince Villanelle to stop worrying so much and just enjoy being an assassin (and, coincidentally, to not kill her), the imaginative approach came naturally to her from a young age. Blunt, ham-handed kills are beneath someone as creative as Villanelle. Eve, on the other hand, is still learning, and Helene’s pleasure lies in pain, power, and withholding.

Carolyn and Villanelle’s scenes are especially enjoyable since they haven’t shared as many over the course of four seasons. There was a palpable respect between the two women, who felt like they were meeting as equals. When Villanelle comes against an adversary, it often feels like they try to belittle her or talk her out of it by appealing to values she simply doesn’t hold. Instead, whether she believes it or not, Carolyn showed how well she knows Villanelle and offered her a form of absolution: Killing is primal; why waste your time being good when you could just be good at what you’re good at? By leveling with her and intriguing her with a fun new assignment (which she had just assured Villanelle she shouldn’t feel bad about), Carolyn reminded Villanelle why she actually enjoyed her work and liked Carolyn to begin with.

It’s interesting that Villanelle didn’t deny or sound sarcastic about being a Christian, nor did she attempt to use Truth or Dare to make Carolyn harm herself or someone else, as she probably would have done with just about anyone else. The fact that Benita, the (ahem) Cuban woman who owns and runs the not-actually-Cuban casa particular is still living and breathing is also a big step forward for Villanelle, who might be mellowing out as part of accepting her talent for torture and death, but also learning not to kill basically everyone she comes into contact with.

Of course as with Carolyn, there’s always the question of how much all of this is an act, for themselves as much as each other. No one brings that more to mind than Helene and Eve. Helene certainly came across as thirsty with her frequent texting, short lacy robe, and invitation to spectate her bath. Her and Eve’s meetings feel more like dates – cooking dinner at home, the theatre, a quiet night in a bath – and the menu and attire never hurts. Clearly Helene often operates this way with marks, even if she’s good at making Eve feel like it’s real and the fact that she’s played by Camille Cottin doesn’t help. Eve is used to this dynamic from Villanelle, but it still feels like Eve is in control here.

There are a handful of small details here that feel worth noting for future episodes – whatever Hélène is doing with those tiaras, Hélène knowing about Konstanin’s frame job with the stolen money, Villanelle finding out Hélène lied to her and the whole deal with someone torturing The Twelve, and Carolyn once again having an old liaison dangereuse with a potential bogey from the Cold War resurface in Lars.

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Seeing Pam at the outset of her journey, presumably one that bears at least a passing resemblance to Villanelle’s own training, offers a chance at insight into Villanelle, as well as an opportunity for Konstantin to do better by his newest protégé. You could see Pam pushing Konstantin into the water from a mile away, but it was still a good moment, and Konstantin loving it is why we love him. Pam may have fallen into this life because she felt less-than, but she’s starting to find the thrill of it, one way or another.