Niko returns home, haggard and soaked to the bone by a rainstorm — as you do when you’ve finally been confronted by your wife’s mistress. “She came to see me,” he tells Eve. “She told me what you did.” No matter that Eve and Villanelle have never even kissed and what Eve “did” was stab Villanelle in the gut; this is about the intersection of lies and intimacy and power, and how it has both everything and nothing to do with fucking.
In the immortal words of Janelle Monáe, “Everything is sex / Except sex, which is power / You know power is just sex / You screw me and I’ll screw you too.” Niko decides to enact that last line very literally, and throws Eve up against a wall in the kitchen in a shot more than a little reminiscent of when Villanelle visited and did the same.
“Do you like all of this? Does it excite you?” He asks, his eyes flashing, angry and heartbroken, most of all when he can see that it does. “What do you want from me, Eve? Do you want me to love you or do you want me to frighten you?” She says that she doesn’t know, and so Niko turns hard into dom mode, and tells her to crawl up to their bedroom. Eve eagerly complies, and the next morning she greets him with coffee, giddy about their power play.
Niko is considerably less thrilled. He’s a man who tried to put the spark back in his marriage by role-playing as his wife’s lover, and he’s distraught — not because it didn’t “work,” but because it did. He tried to reclaim power, reclaim love, reclaim his wife’s desire by admitting that he’d lost it, that it had already been stolen or given away. And now that he has admitted it, what else is there to say? There’s a dramatic thrill in the idea of the heart as a heist drama, where two thieves steal the same treasure back and forth, but Niko is not a thief, and the only way he knows how to play this game is in a costume of someone he hates.
When he leaves, it’s less like a slap and more like an exhale; in a way, he was already gone. The end of a relationship doesn’t always come in a thunderclap, and even when it does there are usually a thousand little moments that precede it, a long series of choices you make that lead you toward them or away from them. It doesn’t have to be about throwing someone away so much as not fighting for them, not holding on, opening your hand and waiting until a stiff breeze comes along and they finally float away.
Elsewhere, the subplot about Aaron Peele and his evil tech company inches forward, and we learn that he’s collecting the secrets of the world via digital surveillance and using them to blackmail people. That’s the superweapon that everyone wants, and we are asked to believe that this threat is so cataclysmic that it necessitates a the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend team-up with Villanelle and Konstantin.
This is weird not only because it means turning the active serial killer they spent the entire show chasing (and who recently murdered one of their good friends) into a de facto agent, but because the threat they’re using as justification is hugely underwhelming. Not because privacy isn’t a real concern, but because it has already been so degraded by the digital age that it’s difficult to perceive as a transformative, existential threat.
Oh, so people might be constantly surveilled by invasive technology, and then shamed or extorted with any fragment of damaging information that is uncovered? That’s every other day on social media, and both tabloid journalism and kompromat have already made their way into the viral reality of the modern age. There’s also something a little quaint about how the terrible power of this information superweapon lies in is its ability to reveal the truth.
We live in a time when sophisticated misinformation campaigns can influence millions with obvious lies and swing elections, and it’s easier than ever to impersonate individuals or groups of people with fake social media accounts, or even manufacture near-perfect videos of them saying and doing things they haven’t said or done. The viral nature of the internet and deep public distrust of independent authoritative sources make it virtually impossible to debunk or repair this sort of damage. So sure, surveillance could be more inescapable and bad actors more aggressive, but that’s not a transformative new weapon so much as it is a bigger version of a bomb that has already been dropped. But what’s arguably even scarier than the idea of everyone finding out your terrible secrets is that it often doesn’t matter if they’re true anymore.
The far more interesting thing, as ever, is the relationship between Eve and Villanelle, who are tasked with getting close to Aaron Peele’s sister Amber. She’s a recovering addict, so Villanelle infiltrates her AA meeting as Eve listens through an earpiece. Despite a relatively convincing performance by Villanelle, the group immediately sniffs out her bullshit — addicts, after all, live and die by their ability to be honest, something both Villanelle and Eve would do well to note.
And so Villanelle tries another tactic: the truth. “Most days, I feel nothing. I don’t feel anything. It is so boring … I try to find ways of making myself feel something more, and more, and more. But it doesn’t make any difference. No matter what I do, I don’t feel anything. I hurt myself; it doesn’t hurt. I get what I want; I don’t want it. I do what I like; I don’t like it. I’m just so bored.”
It lands, and Villanelle gets an invite to dinner at the sleek Peele compound where everyone wears gray and everything looks like an Apple store. Aaron is predictably rude and repeatedly attempts to embarrass Villanelle — or “Billie,” the bubble-headed American she’s pretending to be. When Eve tries to warn Villanelle to chill out because he “doesn’t like people who stand up to him,” Konstantin has a counterpoint: “Maybe he does.”
Cut to Villanelle smacking Aaron across the face with a book when he finally goes too far with insulting her, because, as she says, “there’s only one way to communicate with a bully.” She walks out, and it’s hard to tell whether she’s botched the op or succeeded through unconventional means, though I suspect the latter.
Earlier, as Eve tried to prep Villanelle for the assignment, they had a similar interaction, where Villanelle decided to neg Eve, serial-killer style. “I like you but I don’t like you that much,” she said. “Don’t forget: The only thing that makes you interesting is me.” Villanelle’s always been a bit of a bully, too, and we know how much she likes it when people surprise her. What would happen if Eve decided to stand up to her again, to give her a metaphorical slap across the face? Would she like that? Would that excite her? Would Eve survive it? Either way, it wouldn’t be boring at all.