Photo: BBC AMERICA/Robert Viglasky
Last week, I said that I wasn’t sure how much sympathy we were supposed to lend Villanelle, a young woman with a high propensity toward violence, a steep body count, and no one resembling a friend. According to her ex Nadia, she pushed or persuaded her way into contract killing, but Villanelle certainly seems lost now, bereft of a purpose in life other than work. This week, we’re given her (pretty underwhelming) origin story: that of an effective orphan who became obsessed with her French instructor, Anna, and adopted the older woman’s Francophile tastes as her own. Oh, and cut off her teacher’s husband’s penis as part of her infatuation. That is some whiffy fromage.
Still, this season’s penultimate installment ends up being highly watchable for its narrative propulsion and many twists. (Though I could have done without the possibility of another “todger” on the chopping block.) The hour begins at the British agents’ Moscow hotel, where Eve catches Carolyn on a morning walk of shame, while the older woman gets news that Nadia has been murdered by a fellow prisoner. They join Konstantin for breakfast, over which the Russian operative refuses them an interview with Nadia’s (fictional) killer. Eve is livid, convinced without any proof that Nadia’s murder is Villanelle’s doing, as if it were remotely strategic to fly into Russia, sneak into prison, kill a witness, and sneak back out instead of simply paying off a guard or an inmate already inside to achieve the same objective. (In Villanelle’s case, the 12 went through the trouble of having her kill Nadia so that they could trap her in solitary confinement, but Eve doesn’t know that.) In any case, Carolyn is serenely accepting of their only lead being killed off hours before she was to cooperate.
Despite orders for her and the just-arrived Kenny to go home, Eve decides to continue her pursuit of Villanelle by paying a visit to Anna. Carolyn’s computer-whiz son happens to be a pretty good amateur sleuth, too, having found “filthy” love letters to his mother from Konstantin in a safe behind a bookcase and at least one old photo with the Russian in them. Planning to use the letters as evidence of Carolyn’s betrayal of Vladimir, Eve sets out to learn from Anna what made Villanelle become a killer.
Probably not too far away, Villanelle is returned to her solitary cell to find a catatonic woman named Inga lying in her bed. “Don’t fall asleep,” warns a guard. Villanelle stays awake until she can’t, and that’s when a razor blade snakes its way out of Inga’s mouth. Her blade is sharper than Villanelle’s teeth, but the latter do more damage as they sink into Inga’s neck. The guards drag Villanelle out of the prison and put her in the back of a truck with Agniya, the cancer patient our assassin used as a prop to kill Nadia. The truck abruptly stops, one of the guards unloads a barrage of bullets into the other guard’s chest, an explosion rings out by the back door, and Villanelle is free. A man on a motorcycle tells her to get on his vehicle, but Villanelle can’t help surveying the carnage around her: In addition to the dead prison guard in the truck, there are four other law-enforcement officers bloodied and collapsed around her. Naturally, she smiles, undoubtedly pleased that Konstantin or the 12 would go through this much hassle for her rescue. Agniya, on the other hand, is devastated by her liberation. “I don’t want to be free,” she shouts, just before receiving a bullet in the back of her head.
Thus begins a hall-of-fame stupid-ass move. Villanelle is brought to a dingy room where she’s told in so many words by her mouthy new handler, Anton, that she’s to no longer worry about Konstantin. He gives her some clothes, a gun, and a postcard with a “challenging” local target. Villanelle promptly shoots Anton in the head because duh. Her next target? Konstantin.
Just outside Moscow, Anna tells Eve how she came to know Oksana so well. The girl arrived at the school with a violent reputation, and Anna decided to nurture this bright, needy student who had no parents or friends. Oksana reciprocated that attention and then some, with a chestful of letters and expensive gifts like designer clothes and luxury perfumes. Anna’s effort to reestablish borders — once with a joke that the only reason she loved her husband was because of his penis — backfired cruelly. A month after being told of Oksana’s death in prison, she received a white coat, inside of which Eve finds a fake passport. “Be careful,” Anna cautions this other woman with a curly black mane. “You’re her type.” Eve calls Niko several times thereafter because although he was an asshole to her last week, he deserves to keep his dick attached to his body. It probably wouldn’t hurt for Eve to text, email, and skywrite over her house “She’s coming for your cock in the worst way!!!!!!!” but she neglects these other forms of communication. (If this season ends in Niko getting his phallus sawed off, I am going to throw my laptop out the window because that is the most boringly literal act you can associate with the phrase “female psycho.”) Suddenly, whatever thought Eve had about Niko’s penis disappears. On her computer screen, she sees security footage of Carolyn meeting with Villanelle in the prison without her.
That was then; this is now. Villanelle surprises Konstantin at his home, having stashed his family in “a cupboard somewhere.” She’s considerate, to a point: She’ll let him die in his preferred way and release his family afterward, as long as he cooperates. Between sips of whiskeys and swallows of pills, Konstantin tells her everything she’d been dying to hear: that he’s defended her from the 12, that he loves her, that she’s the best thing that ever happened to him. Her eyes water as he says, “I’m so proud of you.” Jodie Comer sells Villanelle’s anguish wonderfully, though the assassin has it together enough to ask for the names of the 12. Konstantin says he isn’t a Keeper, so he doesn’t know. “To dignity in death,” he toasts, right before chucking his Scotch tumbler at Villanelle’s nose with full force. He punches her hard, then runs out the back door toward his speedboat. Villanelle shoots at him and screams, “I am going to skin your family alive!” If he ever loved his wife, child, or glamorous, sociopathic protégé, we don’t see a glimmer of it as he zooms away from land, his outstretched middle finger disappearing with him into the horizon.