The morning after slapping Aaron Peele in the face with a philosophy book and calling him a bully, Villanelle receives an apology and an invitation to lunch; turns out Konstantin was right, and the consummate control freak is a bit of a switch, and likes a little domination himself now and then. Peele rents out the entire restaurant because he “doesn’t like eavesdroppers,” and invites her to sit down for “round two.” He orders for her, but won’t have anything to eat — which is very Jack Dorsey of him — because he’d rather turn Villanelle into the star of his privately commissioned mukbang videos.
He quickly invites her to Rome, and when she says she won’t sleep with him, he smiles. He doesn’t want to touch things; he wants to watch them. He doesn’t want to eat food; he wants to watch it being eaten. He doesn’t want to live; he wants to slip into other’s people’s lives through the Argus of a million ubiquitous digital interfaces and silently spirit those lives away into his private collection. The beauty of surveillance and information as currency is that you don’t need to touch something valuable to steal it, and most of the time no one even knows it’s been stolen.
Villanelle returns home to a pleasingly excessive number of voicemails and missed calls from Eve, who is deeply concerned about Villanelle’s well-being. She’s also deeply concerned about the status of their relationship after the AA meeting where Villanelle said she didn’t want anything, didn’t feel anything. What did it mean, what did it mean? When Eve asks if that was real or just part of the deception, Villanelle is quizzical, almost like she doesn’t understand the question.
“You don’t know if you’re telling the truth or not?” asks Eve, scrambling in the dark for some sort of emotional handhold. Villanelle says she doesn’t know, and this at least seems honest. She lives for chaos and caprice, and what could be more unpredictable than someone who doesn’t know what they’re going to say or do until the second they do it, and even then has no idea why or what it means?
“You don’t feel anything?” Eve tries again, with the clear for me subtext crackling behind it. “I feel things when I’m with you,” Villanelle insists. It’s the most obvious answer, the one that will keep this little psychodrama barreling ahead, and so Villanelle says it whether it’s true or not. What’s true is whatever is most interesting, until it isn’t. It’s always Schrödinger’s honesty with her — completely real and completely a lie at the same time, until the box of her boredom opens and we see whatever is left.
Carolyn, Konstantin, and Eve sit down to plan the Rome operation, where Villanelle “really mustn’t kill anyone” and Eve will be in charge of keeping Villanelle “calm.” This seems unlikely, given how openly and dramatically unstable they make each other. But Eve’s still in denial, still sticking to the story that will fool her superiors (and her conscience) into letting her proceed deeper into the death spiral: She’s just the handler, just doing her job, just the facts, ma’am.
Carolyn asks Eve three questions, first about Villanelle’s behavior and then about Eve herself: “Any escalation? Increasing attention-seeking? Recklessness?” The answers are yes, yes, and yes on both counts. Eve stares back at Carolyn with the eyes of a liar who’s been caught out, but Carolyn seems unfazed — almost like it’s all going according to plan. She’s not a stupid woman, so she has to know they’re throwing matches at a powder keg. Deep down Eve knows it too, that there’s an explosion at the end of the path she’s walking, even if she can’t stop herself from following it.
Shaken, Eve goes back to the MI6 psychopath expert who had recently visited the team and asks for tips on how to moderate or defuse Villanelle — to keep things under control if they get out of hand. She’s a bit like an addict asking for advice on how to be a more functional addict, and the psychologist quickly points out that things are already out of hand: Eve is in a relationship with a serial killer, spends more of her day thinking about her, has lost her husband, is behaving in radically different ways, feels unsafe. But the more important thing, the reason she’s unwilling to turn back no matter how many “Danger Ahead” signs she sees, is the other way it makes her feel: wide awake.
“When someone comes to me and wants to talk about someone else, they almost always want to talk about themselves,” says the psychologist, but Eve isn’t ready to admit that yet, any more than she’s willing to hear his advice about stepping away from the operation. She isn’t ready to quit this addiction, or the way it makes her feel. She’s too far from bottom, still, so when he begs her to step away from the operation, she thanks him politely for his advice and sets out for Italy.
When Villanelle arrives at Peele’s palatial lodgings in Rome, her bags are immediately confiscated and she’s asked to dress in the clothes that he’s selected for her. This is a trick she pulled with Eve once, of course, when she stole her clothes and sent her a designer wardrobe in its place. It’s also an echo of the creepy dude who locked her in his house and dressed her up like a doll until she stabbed him to death, which bodes more poorly for Peele. Or maybe Eve. Or maybe all of them.
Eve and Hugo set up surveillance across the street and listen in as Peele pitches a buyer for his surveillance superweapon by revealing all the intimate secrets that have digitally seeped out from his life: his affairs, insecurities, lies, dreams. Later, Villanelle asks if he ever gets lonely, watching all these people from a distance and never getting close. “You don’t want to talk to them, touch them, sleep with them?”
No, he says. Voyeurism provides all the human contact he needs, and like with so many predatory voyeurs, the urge stems not from a desire for intimacy or even curiosity but control. His voyeurism is about the thrill of violation and the power he derives from it, about stealing past people’s boundaries to claim the most salacious details of their private lives as trophies and tokens of power he can wave over their heads to gain submission.
Villanelle knows he’s surveilling her, too, just like Eve is. And so when Villanelle climbs into bed and starts whispering breathy little nothings about someone listening to her all night and how she wants to help them let go, she could theoretically be talking to both of them. And why not, when it’s always both true and a lie? Why not mean everything, when it’s so much more interesting? But like all secret lovers convinced that they’re special, Eve hears what she wants to hear, walks to the bed, and fucks Kenny to the sound of Villanelle’s voice.
Elsewhere, Niko has wisely decided to pull the ripcord on this entire clusterfuck, but when he and the basic-bitch schoolteacher show up at his storage unit to sort through and discard years of accumulated memories — the most delightful part of any breakup — he finds Villanelle is waiting for him. “What do you want?” Niko asks as Villanelle brandishes a knife. She says it’s his shepherd’s-pie recipe, but Carolyn’s already told us the real reason: escalation, attention-seeking, and recklessness. She knocks Niko out and suffocates the schoolteacher to death, supposedly because he still loves Eve but more likely because she’s just bored. It’s almost like Villanelle’s becoming predictable. She’d hate to hear it, of course, because when you’re bored all the time — so bored you could die, or kill, or both — is there any fate worse than being boring?