Killing Eve Finally Makes Us Care About The Twelve
A flashback fills in some much needed history on Killing Eve while a stunning ending calls a character's future into question.
This Killing EVE article contains spoilers.
Killing Eve Season 4 Episode 5
In black and white in 1979 Berlin, we meet a young Carolyn who was apparently always dry, startlingly quick (quicker than the audience, perhaps?), and maybe always a disturbingly cool customer, if her reaction to her father’s suicide is any indication. If Kenny’s death wasn’t enough, this is why she’s so dogged in her fight to take down the Twelve: both she and Konstantin were founding members, sort of. It feels like you perhaps had a bit more info to add to the murder board and share with the class, Carolyn.
A gaping whole at the center of this final season of Killing Eve (and a bit of a problem with the previous one as well) is the fact that the audience has no real investment in The Twelve. Sure they’re bad or whatever, but who cares? Clearly we’re here for Villaneve, murdering bad men in interesting ways, great fashion, dreamy Francophone music, Carolyn Martens being amazing, Sandra Oh’s hair, off-kilter humor, sapphic vibes, Konstantin being a gregarious-but-untrustworthy Russian teddy bear, and forever mourning Kenny. Beyond that, the whole good-vs-evil thing feels like a malleable afterthought. But in comes this episode, with some emotional stakes and scathing looks at idiots who say things like, “I’m writing a novel…like Kafka, but better.”
Often origin stories feel like box-checking and dot-connecting, where writers come across as apparently feeling so obligated to plant the seed for every signature catch phrase, character quirk, and relationship that all anyone can see is the strings they’re pulling, making the whole thing feel anything but vital. This episode ends up being the reverse. Other than Villanelle and Carolyn dropping the hints last episode that Carolyn’s father was a closeted gay agent and that she knew “Lars” romantically, so much that occurred in the 1970s portion of the episode was a revelation. On the other hand, the modern section was fine, nothing wrong, but comparatively less riveting.
It probably comes as no surprise that the burly Russian, the “mute in the suit” is in fact a young Konstantin, and is played by Kim Bodnia’s real life son, Louis Bodnia. We’ve long heard references to Konstantin and Carolyn’s sordid history, but this episode – and specifically the way Konstantin was directly involved in Carolyn’s father’s death – so fundamentally changes how I think of them that it’s hard not to immediately rewatch the series, or at least look for a supercut of their scenes together.
One of the hour’s best sequences cuts between 1979 Carolyn and modern Carolyn as they do spy craft in parallel, keeping the audience a bit more back on our heels due to the disorientation. Another strong scene is her confrontation with Konstantin, putting all the cards on the table about him being a KGB agent, sleeping with her to get to her father, blackmailing her father for being gay, her father taking his life, and, improbably, Carolyn’s offer of a deal.
If there’s a downside to all this, it’s that Johann and the rest of The Twelve are so much less interesting than staying with Carolyn and Konstantin. Carolyn’s moment of vulnerability with Konstantin (“Do you think we might have kept our children?”), coming from a character who so rarely shows even an inch of it, feels so important. Let us stay with that, or even how The Twelve spun so far out of their control and Konstantin wound up lower on the chain of command, rather than a whole episode on Lars/Johann, a guy we barely know or care about.
It might seem surprising that vaguely socialist anarchists gave birth to the criminal organization that we’ve seen take out billionaires, high ranking government officials and everyone in between, but The Twelve likely exists because our world is an anarchic system, in the classic international relations sense of the term: there is no overarching authority above sovereign nations. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Twelve see themselves as a necessary counterbalance in light of the anarchic political order.
Killing Eve was not filmed in Cuba, and given the reality of the pandemic, one can’t blame them, though it feels like more could have been done to ensure the episodes actually reflected reality in that country. Cuba is a unique place, with its own complicated history. It’s a shame that Cuban music didn’t make much impact on the soundtrack. Cuban Spanish is very specific, making the firefighter asking Villanelle “You okay, chica?” in clearly articulated Spanish stick out like an off note.
Cuba’s a place where an exorbitant breakfast spread like the one Villanelle has would be incredibly hard to come by, even if you have a ton of cash. There’s a saying on the island: si no hay, no hay. Due to the embargo, if it’s simply not there, no amount of money will buy it for you, even if you go por la izquierda to try to get it. Word spreads about the availability of eggs, meat, poultry, because they can’t always be found. I overlooked the whole “multiple kinds of fancy cheese” issue last week, which was downright absurd, because the cheese slicer was necessary for plot reasons, but multiple dishes overflowing with hard boiled eggs just for one woman? A fantasy.
It feels like Cuba was used rather generically, having characters comment on the food but not seeming to be eating an actual local dish like ropa vieja or arroz moro. We didn’t even get any real fashion moments out of the deal, since the airy bold, boxy orange fit was back in Europe. Villanelle would have slayed a guayabera. Of course, the stereotype of the philandering Cuban man made its way onto the show. While it’s always good to see Villanelle get back to inventively killing men who mistreat women, it’s frustrating to see Cuba portrayed with practically none of its actual defining features, but a stereotype often applied broadly to Latin American men remaining.
Villanelle’s experience in Cuba doesn’t just strain credulity, the logistics also bring to the fore a narrative question. Who is bankrolling her at this point? She thinks she’s working for The Twelve, but is she? She failed to kill Carolyn, as Helene must surely know at this point. Was killing Carolyn a business or personal request from Helene? Since Helene is still alive, that likely means she’s successfully remained an active double agent, working for The Twelve while torturing and killing them. Are Konstantin and Pam working under Helene for The Twelve, or her personal mission? There’s a messiness at play in the writing, and it would benefit the audience if it were cleaned up. A few seasons ago, stepping even a toe out of line had severe consequences, but now it seems like Helene can keep many people in the dark or possibly run her own shadow organization and never get caught.
Moving forward, pending one (1) arrow to the chest, Villanelle is finally ready to start killing (the right) people again, and Eve is finally by her side. As our favorite assassin said, charity begins at home. Onward.