Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of Killing Eve’s first season, we can note that the show is far from the tightest mystery ever written. Female prickliness, especially in professional settings, is expected to carry the series — a gender-flipped attitudinal flair we’ve seen in countless male anti-heroes and villains. But to what end? Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s titular character in Fleabag was willfully inappropriate too, but her journey was also a study of grief. Similarly difficult fictional women, like Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley and Jessica Jones in her eponymous Marvel series, deal with the after-effects of violence and trauma, as well as the irresistible impulse to fix a probably irreparably broken world.
Which raises the question: Is Killing Eve about anything? Not that every series has to be, of course. But I’ve consistently found Eve and Villanelle’s lashing impatience with the mediocrity they’re surrounded by more tonally jarring than darkly charming. I’m all for women behaving badly — I seem to be the only person alive who loved Marie’s shoplifting story lines on Breaking Bad — but I feel like Killing Eve promised at least some ideas about what distinguishes female violence from male aggression. That’s the whole reason Eve became obsessed with Villanelle’s murders in the first place, but after four episodes, we haven’t thematically gotten anywhere.
“Sorry Baby” begins at Bill’s funeral, where his friends and family are told that he was killed by a mugger. Eve has a massive overreaction to the fact that one of the speakers at Bill’s service is their former MI5 boss Frank, whose most notable scene thus far involved both of his underlings calling him a “dick swab” before he fired them. After click-clacking her way out of the church in the middle of Frank’s eulogy, Eve reveals that her anger at Frank’s presence isn’t the only emotion fueling her conspicuous retreat. “I want to kill her,” Eve tells Elena of Villanelle. “With my bare hands.”
Over in Paris, Villanelle continues living my best life by throwing a surprise birthday party for Konstantin. It’s not actually his birthday, but who cares — the tasteful balloons and four-layer cake in her bobo-chic apartment are what Pinterest boards are made for. Best of all, she shows up in the most hilarious costume imaginable: Konstantin himself, complete with a bulky peacoat and full, gray beard. He is not amused, and though his reaction is deeply lame, it also makes sense: Villanelle mostly threw him a party to let him obliquely know that she knows he has a daughter. Their short encounter leaves them both unhappy. She won’t tell him her real name, and he notifies her that — after Bill’s high-profile murder — she’s been demoted from solo killer to group assassin.
The step down from varsity to J.V. is rough. Villanelle is downgraded from first-class everything to sleeping in a van with her two co-workers and having to pee outside. The first of her colleagues, Diego, is a run-of-the-mill douche. The second, Nadia, hurls herself at Villanelle as soon as she recognizes her. Diego breaks up their fight, but Nadia gets a final move in, spitting in Villanelle’s face. Our killer looks like she knows she deserved it.
This episode made me realize that I just don’t care about Eve’s unhappy marriage, as the series has yet to explain the sub-zero blasts that the ex-MI5 agent aims at her husband anytime he tries to be nice to her. (Again, I’m theoretically into the idea of a female protagonist being the Bad Wife, but not if Eve is a jerk for the sake of it.) At Bill’s funeral, Eve swatted away Niko’s hand like she was Melania. At home, after he offers her some comfort food and expresses something to the effect of, I hope you continue to stay alive, she coldly tells him that he has nothing going on in his life except her. (Ouch.) Niko does manage to do one thing that doesn’t inspire Eve to proverbially shiv him in the back: He lets her know that her suitcase — the one that Villanelle had stolen — has arrived from Berlin. The case has literally landed on her doorstep. And, by the way, Villanelle knows where Eve lives now.
Instead of her usual dowdy clothes, Eve finds exquisite designer wares in her suitcase. Villanelle must have known that Eve wouldn’t wear the sensational clothes the killer buys her pursuer. So are those lovely sweaters and that giant bottle of La Villanelle perfume (which includes the note “Sorry baby”) an apology or a taunt? Eve decides she’ll accept something from Villanelle’s package as a gift: The “asshole” she’s chasing will now be named after her scent.
Eve brings the luggage into the office, where Kenny the computer guy informs her that they’ve found money wired from a Cayman account into a prep school. Eve deduces that the double agent inside MI5 hindering their investigation is Frank, who got drunk after a party once and cried about not being able to send his kids to private school. (White-people problems sound amazing.) Eve wants vengeance, but Carolyn advises her to stay calm and collect information. Frank is just “middle management,” the MI5 legend observes. Their target should be whoever is using him.
Villanelle and her unwanted teammates are told that their next victim is a member of the British intelligence services. They end up driving to Bletcham — “as English a village as you’ll find” — which happens to be the same town Eve is headed to with Elena and Kenny. The mercenaries get to Frank’s house first, where they meet a woman claiming to be Frank’s mom. Villanelle and Nadia get invited in and take a break from their mutual punch-a-thon. The elderly woman calls Frank to let him know he has guests waiting, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s actually headed back to London. Villanelle notices that Frank’s car is outside, though, and is probably the least surprised later when the MI5 agent, who had actually been hiding in his house, makes a run for it in his SUV.
The mercenaries give chase, and we learn why they never made it past the J.V. squad: They suck. Armed with assault weapons, they miss hitting Frank despite shooting dozens of bullets into his vehicle. When they finally catch up to him, they shoot up his car seven ways to Sunday … while Frank hides in the bushes, calling Eve for help. Diego tries to boss his female colleagues around, which isn’t a very smart tactic when they’re both armed with guns. He’s just clever enough to figure out that Villanelle is the psycho ex that Nadia, his girlfriend, must have complained about a ton — and dumb enough to believe love is on his side. It isn’t. Nadia shoots him, and she and Villanelle (née Oksana!) plan a luxurious, romantic future together. But love isn’t on Nadia’s side, either. As soon as she can, Villanelle runs her ex-girlfriend over twice, the sickening crunches in the sound design underscoring her icy betrayal.
Finally, Villanelle notices that they hadn’t actually killed Frank. She runs after him, as he runs toward Eve. “Are you running or are you crying?” Eve asks her former superior at one point, to which he answers, “Running and crying.” He launches himself into Eve’s car with just enough time for them to make a clean getaway. But Eve recognizes Villanelle and waits a fateful second too long. A shot rings out, the screen goes black, and our long, restless wait until the next episode begins.