A review of “Wide Awake,” this week’s Killing Eve, coming up just as soon as we run out of good safe words…
As Season Two has pivoted into this unlikely story of Villanelle being turned into an unofficial British intelligence operative, we must ask a two-part question:
1) Does Eve think this is a good idea?
2) Does the Killing Eve creative team think this is a good idea?
With Eve, the question is about whether it’s a smart play in the Aaron Peel operation, and about what continued exposure to Villanelle is doing to her. With Killing Eve, it’s about both of those things, but also the larger question of how this move affects the series — whether the value of bringing Eve and Villanelle together so frequently outweighs issues of dramatic credibility.
“Wide Awake,” the penultimate episode of Season Two, doesn’t directly address the meta part of the question. But in the way it answers a resounding “no” to the matter of the operation itself, it implicitly suggests that Emerald Fennell and company understand the risks they’ve taken in telling this part of the story.
Whatever struggles Season Two has had, it’s periodically reminded us of just how dangerous Villanelle is. Last week, she shoved Amber’s minder into traffic, but that at least could be written off as her being overzealous in an assignment. During the downtime before she joins Peel in Rome, though, she follows Niko and Gemma to his storage locker, where she emotionally terrorizes both (and gets Niko’s shepherd’s pie recipe) before murdering Gemma and placing her on display for a horrified Niko. It’s her monstrous way of sidelining her competition for Eve’s affection, with the understanding that Eve would never forgive her for hurting Niko, but might not mind a Gemma-free world.
Between Gemma’s death, Eve’s visit to Martin the psychologist and Kenny‘s interrupted warning to Eve to drop out of the mission, it’s clear the show understands what a mistake Eve has made. This was an impulsive decision, driven as much by her obsession with Villanelle as a desire to bring down Peel. And the Kenny scene implies that Carolyn and/or the larger British intelligence apparatus have ulterior motives for putting this dangerous wild card into play.
All of this is very valuable material at a moment when I was really starting to worry about the state of the season. It suggests that the writers aren’t blinded by Villanelle in the way Eve has become. The stupidity of this operation is the actual point, rather than an accidental byproduct of pairing the two leads.
Also reassuring, for that matter, is the extended time we spend with Aaron Peel. Finally, he feels like enough of a danger — a control-freak voyeur whose tech allows him to know everything about everyone — to merit Carolyn using Villanelle as an asset instead of locking her up and throwing away the key. It’s coming much later in the season than it should have (yet another reason the early episodes where Fennel had to undo Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s cliffhangers were a bad use of the season’s limited time) but at least we head into the finale without feeling like the show has lost its head as much as its heroine has.
There are moments in “Wide Awake” where Eve seems to be living up to the episode’s title. She’s willing to see Martin, for instance, even if she runs away the moment his warnings become too blunt, and she’s shaken by her brief conversation with Kenny. But by the end of the hour, she’s using Hugo as a sexual surrogate for Villanelle, who’s talking into her earpiece the whole time. (Hugo, frustrated to realize after the fact what happened, bitterly thanks Eve for the threesome.)
If Eve has gone back to the dream of what Villanelle could be to her, Killing Eve is at least heading into the finale wide awake about who this killer is and what it means that she’s been placed in this position.