A review of “I Hope You Like Missionary!”, this week’s Killing Eve, coming up just as soon as I get a watch with a laser in it…
We’re in a very strange point of the story, aren’t we? Over the past half-season, Villanelle has gone from a hounded fugitive, to, briefly, a slave of The Twelve again, to a freelance assassin, to an unofficial member of Carolyn‘s operation. I’ve watched (and recapped) every episode and I still feel a bit baffled as to how we arrived here, and at such relative speed.
On the one hand, putting Villanelle and Eve onto the same team leans into Killing Eve‘s most effective formula: Comer plus Oh equals fun. When Eve is constantly chasing Villanelle and/or Villanelle is constantly trying to kill Eve, it puts a limit on how often they can interact and in what way. So it’s understandable that showrunner Emerald Fennell might’ve just said, “Screw it, they work together now!” And “I Hope You Like Missionary!” does indeed generate a lot of electricity between the two leads. Though Eve’s life technically isn’t in danger right now, there’s frequent tension from Villanelle’s reluctance to be managed, and from her refusal to let Eve talk down to her.
In one of the latter moments, Villanelle even warns our heroine, “Don’t forget: The only thing that makes you interesting is me.” That’s not entirely true, though. One of the episode’s strongest scenes isn’t about Villanelle at all, as Eve marches into Gemma‘s house to confront Niko about the fragile, potentially finished, state of their marriage. Niko walked out in part because of Villanelle, but really because Eve has been lying to him and treating him like an afterthought. Eve spends much of the episode being startled by Villanelle’s recklessness, when she’s utterly off the rails in Gemma’s house. The scale is much different — Gemma loses a music box ballerina, while Amber Peel‘s handler loses her life — but Eve’s personality has definitely been infected by her favorite assassin.
And if it feels utterly nonsensical that Villanelle is off the most-wanted list and on the regular roster, then at least the episode keeps reminding us, and Eve, that she’s still dangerous. It’s not just that she shoves the handler into traffic, that she punches Aaron in the nose, or that she has some ominous (potentially Hannibal Lecter-esque) plan involving a shawarma cone of meat and/or those two girls she runs into at night. It’s all of those at once, and it’s the speech she gives at the 12-step meeting to convince the group she’s for real. Her monologue — about how she doesn’t feel anything other than boredom most of the time — resonates with the addicts in the room, but it’s also textbook psychopathy. (Or maybe sociopathy? This show and Dexter have muddled my ability to differentiate the two.) Carolyn feels that indulging Villanelle is worth it to get to Aaron Peel — never mind that, as Eve pointed out last week, they already have him on murder conspiracy charges — but it’s like trying to make a cheetah into a housecat. And the show, at least, seems aware of that, by ending the hour on the ominous note with the two frightened women.
It would be better if Killing Eve hadn’t taken such an ungainly route to letting the two main characters temporarily(?) work together. But it’s reassuring to know that the series understands what a terrible idea it is, and how badly it’s likely to end up.