Last we saw Eve and Villanelle, the well-nigh lovers’ backs were facing in the cold London night. They’d reluctantly walked in opposite directions across Tower Bridge, sparing each other additional heartbreak. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me watching the season-three finale as it aired two years ago. I don’t know how much time has passed since then in the
world of the show. Maybe months, but it could be longer. When the final installment of Killing Eve begins, every significant character has entered some new season of life. Carolyn’s a diplomat; Konstantin’s a politician. Eve’s a private contractor; Villanelle’s a Christian. It’s the difficult work of the premiere to draw them convincingly back into each other’s orbit without diminishing the pathos of that moment — the painful decision to put a body of water between yourself and what thrills you.
Helmed by Laura Neal, Killing Eve’s fourth showrunner in as many seasons, the series remains excellent at being cool. It’s about cool women. The opening sequence, which pans across some industrialized regional city in middle-of-nowhere Russia against the percussive thump of Unloved’s “This Is the Time,” makes the Slavic hinterland seem kinda chic. I like the show’s blocky location tags and the bold colors they come in. MOSCOW. LONDON. MALLORCA. Villanelle’s wardrobe — that Loewe mustard coat, the pink tulle Molly Goddard dress that launched a thousand dupes — makes James Bond seem dowdy. If you’re only watching Killing Eve for the story, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a sensual confection doing business as a spy series.
And if you’ve only been watching Killing Eve for the love story, you’re almost definitely disappointed. What started as a lethal cat-and-mouse between Villanelle and Eve has become something far less sexy and strange. Villanelle, whose amoral bravado Eve once found intoxicating, wants to be good. Eve, who was seduced into badness simply out of fascination, has morphed into a kind of anti-hero intent on destroying the Twelve and, if she has time, the dark alleys of espionage that the Twelve operate in. On Killing Eve’s season premiere, new players are introduced with the scantest of characterization, and old names are dropped into conversation with little guidance as to who they are. It’s always been a loose show, but this week I couldn’t help feeling that no one cared how much I understood about the plot. And, to be fair, I didn’t care that much! I just wanted to swim in Killing Eve’s cool universe.
When the episode opens, a visitor arrives by Ducati at the provincial offices of Konstantin with a silencer in her saddlebag. Inside, Konstantin’s getting massaged with one of those motorized scalp massagers that looks like a giant metal seedhead. We’re expecting to see Villanelle, but when the motorcycle helmet comes off, a waterfall of dark hair follows. It looks like someone gifted Eve the Lady Assassin Starter Pack, figure-skimming leather riding suit included. She shoots Konstantin through the palm, which is a pretty fucked-up injury. “That was for Kenny,” she tells him. An eye for an eye; a young man’s life for an old man’s left hand.
But revenge isn’t why Eve has come all the way north to Wherevergrad. Actually, it is, but Konstantin’s not the target; he’s a source. Eve is looking for Helene, who I vaguely remember is among the Twelve’s assassin handlers from last season. Konstantin doesn’t know where she is, but he gives Eve the name of one of her assassins — the one Villanelle pushed in front of a train in the season finale, which I sorta vaguely remember, as well, kind of. He also gives Eve some unsolicited advice, which sounds less like a threat than heavy-handed foreshadowing: “You are going to die, you know,” he tells her. “Whatever this is, you won’t come out of it.”
Back in London, Eve does in fact bear all the televisual hallmarks of a woman not long for this world. She’s living out of a hotel, doing her washing in the bathroom sink. On the wall at the back of the closet, she’s pinned a web of maps and photos and leads à la Carrie Matthieson at her most unhinged. Eve’s ostensibly a private security contractor, but mostly she spends her days in a windowless surveillance van, bantering with a hot co-worker with tremendous biceps whom she’s also sleeping with. He’s kind of a boyfriend and kind of a mentor. One moment they’re kissing; the next he’s putting her in a chokehold to prove she’s sloppy in her situational awareness. He feeds her healthy food and supports her vendetta. For example, Biceps is the one to discover the funeral home that accepted the body of the dead assassin. But when Eve visits, she’s more interested in the dead-eyed lady mortician than anything else; she’s exactly the kind of girl the Twelve would recruit. On a separate tailing mission, the mortician leads her straight to Helene. She also roughs her up a bit, so I guess Biceps has a point about Eve’s vulnerability.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the U.K., Villanelle is preparing for Holy Baptism. She’s living as “Nell” with a minister who can’t stand her presence and his daughter, who is horny for Villanelle’s goodness. It may have been her idea to part from Eve last season, but now she’s determined that Eve sees her living under God’s perfect light. She sends baptism invitations printed on thick card stock. It’s approaching a role reversal, I suppose. The words “Killing Eve” used to read like a description of Villanelle’s nefarious motives. Now, Villanelle’s pious and “Killing Eve” sounds like more of a nickname for the bloodlust-y former MI6 agent. Or maybe the title of the show suggests its long arc — this is a show about killing Eve. For what it’s worth, the Eve we met in season one is dead already.
Eve is a no-show at the baptism, which is just as well because Nell isn’t actually good. She doesn’t believe in God, for one. The best shot of the episode is Villanelle facedown in the baptismal bath, eyes darting around like she expected holy water to feel different than regular water. She’s no cleaner, no holier. At one point she tells the pastor she needs a “road map” to be good, but really she’s looking for a shortcut. And why? To impress Eve? Did Eve ever want her to be good?
After the Mass, Villanelle stalks Eve to her hotel. They spot each other through the lobby fish tank, not unlike Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Eve doesn’t buy Villanelle’s big conversion — “If you really changed, you wouldn’t have come here,” she spits. Whatever spell once hung between them is broken for Eve. Even when Eve slaps Villanelle across the face, it’s passionless. For her part, Villanelle accepts the slap just as Jesus would instruct. Everything Eve does is interesting to Villanelle; that much hasn’t changed.
The episode waffles a bit on the sincerity of Villanelle’s transformation. At one point, she tells the priest that she thinks it’s good for her to be around people who believe in God despite not believing herself. But after her run-in with Eve, she pleads with God to appear to her. When He doesn’t, Villanelle gets boozy with the pastor’s daughter and, for the hell of it, forcibly baptizes her, which is to say she almost drowns her. If you really changed, you wouldn’t torment a girl just because she has a crush on you.
Meanwhile, in the Balearic Islands, Carolyn is living out her days as a cultural attaché — a cozy posting, sure, but one that relegates her to the sidelines of international espionage, which is, of course, the point. The grieving mother is in persona non grata around Vauxhall. Still, marooning her in Mallorca can’t curb her insubordination. In between mind-numbing public events, she dabbles in spycraft. Carolyn might be on the outs at MI6, but Hugo Tiller, whom I half-remember, is all the way in. He parlays his workplace injury (a gunshot wound) into a seat on the Russia desk but drops by Mallorca to threaten Carolyn against meddling. If she continues to interfere with Vauxhall’s work, they’ll see her imprisoned forever for the murder of accountant Paul Bradwell, which I fully recall that she did in fact commit. As far as blackmail goes, it’s pretty fair.
Predictably, Carolyn doesn’t listen. She discovers a spate of unsolved murders connected to Paul, which means Eve isn’t the only one hunting the Twelve. Carolyn offers the intel to Eve, who accepts the dossier, but not Carolyn’s offer of partnership. If the U.K. won’t have her on the official task force and Eve won’t accept her as an ally, there’s only one team left to play for. Looking dejected, Carolyn turns her back on queen and country and defects to Mother Russia (also à la Carrie Mathison).
For now, our characters are crashing if not coming together. We can imagine that Carolyn’s move to Moscow will force a run-in with Konstantin. Now that Villanelle’s gone to visit Eve once, it’s hard to believe she’ll stop. But the season premiere does more than set the characters in motion; it also suggests where they might be headed. In a surprising turn, as the episode comes to a close, God does visit Villanelle. He looks exactly like Villanelle wearing a Jesus costume. Be your own God. Set your own code. Choose your own salvation.
Or else give up entirely. Back in the opening sequence, when Konstantin tells Eve that she’s bound for death, Eve’s not fazed in the least. “Thank God,” she tells him, eyebrows arched, her lips nearing a smile. This is a kamikaze mission for her. Maybe I was wrong to read so much romance into those bodies walking away from each other on Tower Bridge. Seeing Villanelle doesn’t bring Eve pain this season. It pisses her off. Perhaps they weren’t saying good-bye at all. Maybe they were always foes, preparing to duel, counting out the paces until they turn and face each other for the final time.