By the end of Killing Eve’s first episode, the titular detective and Villanelle ended up in roughly the same place: too good at their jobs and self-destructively lashing out from boredom. Eve was fired for attempting an illegal interview with a bedridden murder witness, who Villanelle killed — along with four other people — while the MI5 officer was in the bathroom fussing with her hair. (“Wear it down,” Villanelle advised.) The assassin was supposed to make her target’s death looks like a suicide, but slashed the victim’s throat instead. Eve and Villanelle diverge for most of the second episode, but like two strands of a double helix, they meet once again in the closing minutes, if only in their memories.
Like many second episodes, “I’ll Deal With Him Later” is a transitional installment meant to get us from Point A to Point B. As far as bridges go, it’s breezy and effective, but I can’t help feeling a little let down by the plot and character shortcuts that are already appearing to show.
Female impudence, in all its subversive appeal and antisocial implications, ties Killing Eve to series writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s earlier work, Fleabag. This episode begins with practically a diorama of it, as a young woman on a bus sees a bloodied businessman in an office building across the street chased by Villanelle. The woman on the bus takes her phone out and makes a call … to her mother to talk about food, the soon-to-die man as important to her as a bug on a windshield. It’s a scene that’s almost funny, but the character’s rebellion against human decency feels a bit too misanthropic for my tastes. It’s a difficult tonal trick to pull off, and Waller-Bridge keeps narrowly missing the bull’s-eye in this hour.
Cut to Villanelle, looking like the most fashionable girl on campus in boxer braids and a satin bomber jacket. (With splatter so frequent in her line of work, her dry-cleaning bills must be through the roof.) “Why are you doing this to me?” her victim asks as she’s about to shoot him. “I have no idea,” she replies, then smirks as she watches him die. I believe her.
Back in London, Eve meets up with her MI6 idol, Carolyn Martens, and stammers her way into a job she didn’t even know existed. Eve’s work computer revealed that she’d been collecting information on female killers on her own, because she’s fascinated by “what makes a woman able to …” she trails off. We learn a little more about her: Eve was born in the U.K., grew up in Connecticut, and studied criminal psychology. She’s a bit of a loon, too! She calls herself a “fan” of the female mercenary she suspects is racking up a hefty body count in multiple countries — a killer with no signature, but a lot of style. It’s also honestly jarring to hear a female law-enforcement protagonist blithely declare of a murderer, “If she’s not killing me, then frankly it’s not my job to care anymore.” That provocative line makes me like Eve a bit less, but also a lot more interested in what Waller-Bridge is up to.
Carolyn takes Eve up to a dingy apartment nearby: a secret office funded by a discretionary budget, where the senior official tracks down her pet cases. “It’s like I’ve walked into the inside of my brain,” remarks Eve. The disgraced agent gets assigned a computer geek and two staff members to help her with her pursuit of Villanelle, who she assumes is responsible for all the unsolved cases she believes involved a female killer. (That’s a lot to place on women’s intuition.) Eve immediately hires her former MI5 boss Bill, who was fired along with Eve, and her former assistant Elena, who is thrilled to quit her job. If I were Carolyn, I’d investigate the morale problem at my nine-to-five.
As Eve gets promoted to Worker of the Month, Villanelle is proving to be a problem employee. Her handler Konstantin is worried that she’s not following instructions, and that a screw’s loose in her head somewhere. He drags her to see a psychologist, who asks Villanelle if she still “dreams about Anna.” Villanelle looks upset for a long time, then laughs. “Your face,” she says. The three of them then talk about a drawing of a woman with no face, but the only thing I got out of this scene is that Jodie Comer’s Tommy Wiseau accent is supposed to be Russian. The psychologist agrees that Villanelle should take a break, and Konstantin tells her to go do something “normal,” so she bangs her hot Spanish artist neighbor Sebastian. Sebastian, you in danger, boy.
Workaholism is both Eve and Villanelle’s default mode. Eve’s husband tells her she’s “glowing” after her first day investigating the cases she’d been hoping to crack all along. Villanelle is supposed to stay home, but she goes into the “office” anyway, dressed as a catering server to assassinate a powerful entrepreneur. The founder of a cosmetics company, Madame de Mann is annoyed to be accosted in the bathroom by a rando who wants the wealthy woman to give her homemade perfume a try. But the entrepreneur’s soft heart leads to her downfall: Villanelle has poisoned the perfume. As the older woman dies, the assassin looks at her face with pride and fascination. I hope Waller-Bridge gives Villanelle’s sociopathy some dimensions soon.
Konstantin is so pissed that Villanelle went ahead and killed Madame de Mann despite being put on leave that he throttles her the next time he sees her. The handler is interrupted by Sebastian walking in, and the sweet, doomed hottie asks Villanelle if he should stay to help mollify the tension between the two. The young man leaves, but not without the bottle of perfume that Villanelle had used to kill Madame de Mann. Villanelle hashes things out with her handler her way, by which I mean she puts a knife to his throat and reminds him that if she killed him right there, “they” would just send him a new Konstantin. Harsh. Even harsher: Sebastian’s accidental death after trying on Villanelle’s scent. Harshest yet: the truth that Konstantin drops on Villanelle that MI6 is searching for her. Villanelle Googles the name of the detective after her and is shocked to discover that they’ve already met.
Meanwhile, Eve casts a wide net in her search for Villanelle. She tasks Kenny the computer guy with finding the names of any women between 16 and 45 who has been “detained, hospitalized, or whispered about displaying psychopathic tendencies” anywhere in the world, which honestly sounds like the plan B punishment for Sisyphus. Eve also has a pretty interesting argument with Bill — who’s now her subordinate, and maybe less-than-thrilled about their reversed positions — about whether it’s more important to look for Villanelle or into the agenda of the people who hired her. But we’ve got a hunt to get to, so a blind leap will have to do: Eve is convinced that the killer she’s looking for is the nurse she met in the hospital bathroom. I’d be more annoyed if the scene didn’t ring so true. A fair amount of seemingly intractable life problems have definitely been solved through chance encounters in women’s bathrooms.