The following are notes and questions I jotted down as I watched the first season of “Killing Eve” on Hulu. There are loads of SPOILERS in this write-up. I don’t provide a lot of context, so this stuff won’t make much sense if you aren’t watching the show. Footnotes include a mix of random asides and follow-ups I posted after I finished the show.
What’s this show about?
Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is a British intelligence analyst. Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is an assassin working for a murky organization with murky goals. As each becomes aware of the other, mutual interest turns into mutual obsession / infatuation / attraction (maybe?). Hilarity and a substantial body count ensue. Also, the show has brilliant production, a spot-on cast, unexpected bursts of dark comedy, and a fantastic soundtrack. You should absolutely watch it.
Episode: S1, E1, “Nice Face”
Eve is American, right? How does an American get involved in the British secret service? I’m sure it can happen, but I’m curious how it happened in this case. 1
So, in a nutshell, Eve is in MI5 but what she really wants is to be in MI6. Of course, I had to look up the difference between the two because I’m an ignorant American. And carrying that ignorance further, I guess MI5 is like the FBI (domestic) and MI6 is like the CIA (international).
I love shows where the relationships are lived in. Eve’s banter with her coworkers is an excellent example of this in action. The way they bust on each other makes it clear they’ve been through a great many things together. I imagine it’s incredibly hard to pull this kind of camaraderie off, particularly in a pilot / first episode where most of the cast doesn’t actually know one another.
Who does Villanelle work for and how did she become an assassin? I don’t need all the details. In fact, I hope they resist the urge to do a full flashback episode. But I’d like to get a few clues as to where she came from and how she got where she is.
My initial sense of Villanelle is that she’s a psychopath who needs to kill, but she’s found a semi-appropriate outlet for her bloodlust by killing for hire. I’m fine with that even though it’s been done a bunch already. 2 But I’m also hoping there’s more to her than that. I think there might be because in this first episode they’re already layering in quirky details about Villanelle: She pranks her handler by pretending to be dead; she hides in a suitcase; she writes the name of a silk-sheet designer on her hand while she kills her target, then she buys those sheets later. Are these just rich character details, or will they connect to something larger? 3
Eve is the character I don’t understand yet. What’s her motivation? Where does her obsession with assassins, and Villanelle in particular, come from? And does she really want to be a spy, or would she prefer to do what she does and hold onto the idea of being a spy?
The first meeting between Eve and Villanelle in the hospital bathroom was fascinating. They don’t just notice each other. They take note of each other.
The banter and good natured vibe of the show took a fast and dark turn in the hospital scene. What’s impressive is that they pulled it off. Within the span of a few shocking minutes I realized this show isn’t going to sit in a neat little box. That’s exciting.
I wonder if Dom’s fate was hotly debated by the writers. If they killed him, the entire show could have felt much different to the viewer. And if Dom had died, how does Eve get out of that? She’d be responsible for the grisly death of a minor at the hands of an assassin, all because she’s got an infatuation with this case.
“You’re a dick swab.” I’m filing this away for the perfect moment.
You can draw a straight line between the adoption of reduced episode counts and the golden age of TV we’re living in. When I see a show that’s got eight episodes in its first season I get excited because there’s the potential for a tight narrative. No filler episodes. No unnecessary diversions. That’s a beautiful thing. 4
Episode: S1, E2, “I’ll Deal With Him Later”
OK, so Eve is British. She was born in England but grew up in Connecticut, then moved back to England later in life and joined MI5. That explains her American accent. And Eve says her interest in female assassins stems from her studies, but I’m guessing there’s more to it than academic curiosity. 5
A lot of questions popped up while Villanelle was being psychologically assessed. 6 First, she doesn’t speak Russian anymore. Does that mean she’s originally from Russia, or does she just have a distaste for the language? Second, who is Anna? Why does Villanelle dream of her? Why does her handler know she dreams of her? And what’s up with the faceless drawing of Anna?
The MI6 team believes Villanelle is showing off. The murder of the perfume executive is a perfect example of this in action. By simply placing a bottle of perfume on a counter, Villanelle initiates a series of actions that end with the executive’s self-inflicted—and fatal—asthma attack.
At the end of the episode, Eve and Villanelle both know about each other. For Villanelle, that’s no big deal. She’s an assassin and assassins have a way to take care of such things. But Eve? She’s got something to worry about. And I imagine everyone Eve knows, including her bridge instructor (?) husband 7, has something to worry about, too. I fear this isn’t going to end well for those in Eve’s orbit. 8
Poor Sebastian. I knew he was a goner from the moment he tried to woo Villanelle with his homemade trousers. But I didn’t expect him to die in the same episode. It was a whirlwind romance: full of ice cream, national anthems, sex, take out food, and toxic perfume.
This show is full of delightful details and wonderful profanity. Such as:
- Carolyn Martens pauses outside the office of the Special Villanelle Unit (SVU, natch) to reminisce about the time she watched a rat drink a can of Coke with both paws. “Extraordinary,” Carolyn says with genuine appreciation. Her hushed “extraordinary” killed me.
- Carolyn and Kenny apologize for the smell in the SVU office. Where the smell is coming from and what it smells like are unaddressed, but the smell is bad enough to warrant apologies from two people. I worried about that smell every time they returned to the office. 9
- Villanelle’s favorite music? National anthems. National anthems. And she doesn’t understand why Sebastian finds this unusual. I love all of this.
- “Monkey dick.” Eve demands that Bill stop acting like one of these. He claims not to know what this means, but he damn well does.
Episode: S1, E3, “Don’t I Know You?”
We already know Eve is obsessed with female assassins. But now we know she’s fascinated—maybe even full-on infatuated—with Villanelle. This is made clear in the thorough and delicate way she describes Villanelle to a police sketch artist.
I know I’m going on and on about the details in this show, but this show is really good with the details. For example, the banter shared between the “patients” at the “clinic” in the early moments of the episode is the kind of thing most shows overlook. Was it necessary to add levity into the waiting room scene? No, it doesn’t advance the plot or serve a specific purpose. But it creates a fascinating atmosphere. Many shows live in the background these days, taking space in the absent-minded band of our attention spectrums while we look at our phones. But not this show. I want to watch it.
Oh. Villanelle is clever. Using the alias “Eve Polastri” at the kinky clinic is a master stroke. The moment Eve finds out about this is chilling—now she knows that Villanelle knows who she is. And then, when Eve doubles down on her pursuit of Villanelle after this, it shows the depth of Eve’s obsession. Now, if it was me who had just been unmasked by a superstar assassin, I would have wrapped it up right there. “I’m out, guys. I’m gonna go change my identity and find a panic room to hide in for the next decade. Good luck.”
The Eve-Villanelle fascination goes both ways. Villanelle steals Eve’s suitcase, seduces a woman whom she calls “Eve,” and then dresses her new lover in the real Eve’s clothes. She also wears Eve’s green scarf (the one Bill dislikes) 10 and gives Eve an anonymous fashion assist when Eve is struggling to find the right accessory at a dress shop. 11
Let’s talk about Bill. 12 In the first two episodes he seemed like a bored analyst who was counting the days to retirement. But no! That’s not the case at all. We learn that Bill:
- Lived in Berlin for eight years and said “yes” to everything for five (what a great line). This is why he’s well versed in the craftsmanship of fetish work.
- He’s in his 60s and has a very young child.
- He’s married, but he and his wife have extramarital interests. They “make a good team.”
- He’s gay. Or bisexual. The specifics don’t matter. What’s relevant is that Eve learns that her good friend and long-time colleague is large and contains multitudes.
Bill spots and stops Villanelle at the train station in Berlin before she can follow Eve. This seems like a smart move by Bill, but it’s actually a trap and we all kind of know it. Villanelle then leads Bill into a crowded club and this entire scene is amazing. Just when Bill thinks he’s caught Villanelle, she smiles and walks toward him. It’s horrible. Villanelle catches him in the middle of the dance floor and stabs him a thousand times with a tiny sharp knife, which looks like a really bad way to die.
I need to deconstruct the sequence where Bill pursues Villanelle and Eve dines with Jin, so bear with me for a minute. The tone across 90% of this segment is fairly light. Things are all very intriguing, but looming tragedy is not really present. It seems like Bill is going to keep an eye on Villanelle from a distance. And the intercut dinner between Eve and Jin is basically a comedy scene (Eve has a bit of toilet paper stuck in her armpit, which Jin finds hilarious). But when Bill enters the club and you see how crowded and disorienting it is, you get the first whiff of doom. Yet, it’s still not the dominant tone. Bill struggles through dancing bodies. Villanelle swims through them. And then, when Bill makes eye contact with Villanelle and she holds his gaze and grins, a switch goes off. Bill is screwed. It is a fantastic bit of television.
The scene with Jin in the restaurant is the first time we get any insight into why Villanelle’s organization is killing off high-profile people. The group’s motivation is still murky, though. 13 What’s interesting is that I’m three episodes in and I honestly don’t care why Villanelle does what she does. That’s rare for me. I usually fixate on the larger mythology of a show.
Episode: S1, E4, “Sorry Baby”
Villanelle’s relationship with Konstantin (her handler) is bizarre. 14 I can’t tell if she stages elaborate greetings because she’s bored (maybe), or she wants his approval (unlikely), or she’s looking to kick start some heart failure (very possible). Nonetheless, I was struck by a couple things in their exchange. First, Villanelle is taking full advantage of her access to Paris’ exceptional bakeries—the icing work on that massive cake would earn a handshake from Paul Hollywood. Second, not only does Villanelle wear a fake beard that looks just like Konstantin’s, she also strokes it thoughtfully while they’re talking. Third, Villanelle’s gift giving is both thoughtful (a pair of expensive headphones for Konstantin) and terrifying (a doll for Konstantin’s daughter; a person Konstantin wishes Villanelle didn’t know existed). And fourth, Villanelle’s murder of Bill got her in trouble with the powers that be and now she’ll have babysitters on future assignments. She’s clearly not thrilled about this last bit. 15
It’s clear Villanelle is a psychopath, but she’s also just plain mean. Case (har har) in point: She returns Eve’s stolen suitcase. Inside, she’s swapped all of Eve’s frumpy clothes with very expensive replacements. And, to twist the knife oh-so-slowly, she includes a bottle of “Le Villanelle” perfume and a handwritten note that reads “Sorry baby.” Jesus. That is the most unsettling suitcase in the history of luggage. With one carry-on bag, Villanelle taunts Eve’s fashion sense, sorta reveals her secret identity with the perfume, exploits Eve’s grief with the note, and makes it clear she knows where Eve lives.
The thumb drive Eve got from Jin in the last episode proves problematic for Frank, the tall British secret service administrator everyone hates. It appears he’s taking money from dubious sources to pay his kids’ private school tuition. Worse still, the house where he was staying is linked to a Russian operative. Carolyn summed it up best: It’s disappointing when the mole is the person who looks most like a rodent. 16
Speaking of Frank, his biggest issue in this episode turns out to be the league of assassins that’s pursuing him. The assassin team includes Villanelle, Nadia, and Diego. There’s a lot going on with this trio. It appears Nadia and Diego are together in some way, but Nadia ends up killing Diego so that relationship was tenuous at best. More intriguing is the link between Nadia and Villanelle. I fear I missed a lot in their exchanges, but here’s what I think I picked up (you’ll notice I’ve got far more questions than answers):
- Nadia calls Villanelle “Oksana.” So the mysterious “Anna” referenced in the second episode is actually Villanelle. Right? Maybe? 17
- Villanelle “took” Nadia’s place. I don’t understand what this means. Was Nadia tapped to be a super assassin before Villanelle, but Villanelle betrayed her and stole her spot? 18
- I think Villanelle is referred to as “the ex,” but I might have heard that wrong. This confuses me because Villanelle seems to be part of an assassin group. Yet, calling her “the ex” implies she’s been booted from the program. So, are Nadia and Diego part of a separate assassin group?
- Villanelle plays Nadia’s emotions so well, which makes me think they’ve got a long history. With a couple lines of dialogue and a few knowing looks she’s able to make Nadia turn on Diego. Then, moments later, she convinces Nadia she’s on her side juuuust before she crushes Nadia under a van.
There’s a reason I haven’t written much about the deteriorating relationship between Eve and her husband. I don’t care about it. It’s not a bad storyline, because nothing on this show is bad, but it doesn’t grab my attention.
And finally, here’s some excellent life advice from Carolyn we’d all do well to heed: “Stay nourished. Buy some chops.”
Episode: S1, E5, “I Have a Thing About Bathrooms”
The mythology in this episode is thick, but I love the way it was doled out. Not too much, but not too little. That’s hard to do. 19 I’m sure I missed a few things, but here were the mythology-related points that caught my attention:
- Villanelle works for a group called “The 12.” 20 Who they are, where they’re based, and what they’re trying to do is unclear. However, Frank tells Eve and Carolyn that the recent assassinations are part of a pattern and he thinks the goal of that pattern is to sow chaos. The pattern part seems legit, but I don’t put much confidence in Frank’s overall conclusion.
- Villanelle’s past is a little clearer. Sort of. Her real name is (or was) Oksana and she is (was) Russian. I’m flipping tenses here because Oksana is listed as deceased. 21 We also learn she was born in 1993, she spent five years in prison for killing a guy, and she “chopped his knob off.” Whether that chopping occurred before or after his death is unclear, but let’s say it was after because the alternative is not a nice thing to consider.
- Someone broke Villanelle out of prison. Was it The 12? And, tying back to last episode, I’m guessing Villanelle and Nadia knew each other in prison.
I was clenched—physically balled up in an uncomfortable position—during the two scenes between Eve and Villanelle. The first scene, when Eve gets out of the car moments after Villanelle takes a few shots at it, was really something. Eve seems to think she understands Villanelle in a profound way, but I don’t think that’s true at all. When Villanelle puts her gun under her chin and prepares to kill herself, Eve screams “No!” and Villanelle smiles. She was playing Eve the entire time. (Also, Eve is a shitty friend. I can understand ignoring Frank’s desperate pleas from the back seat of the car, but Elena was also scared out of her mind. And Eve just closed her eyes and then popped open the car door to go meet the assassin she’s obsessing over. 22)
The second Eve-Villanelle scene almost made me forget about their first interaction (which was a hell of an interaction, and that tells you something about the second scene). During this dinner scene Eve once again does the weird thing where she thinks she’s an equal to Villanelle. But she’s really not. Villanelle cries and smiles. She’s calm and then sad and then angry and then threatening. There’s no way to know if any of what she’s saying or doing is authentic. The one moment that may have been real is when Eve called her a psychopath and Villanelle seemed to take issue with that word. But who knows? That could have been part of the act, too.
At one point during the dinner scene, Villanelle says that if Eve goes high enough up the chain she’ll find she and Villanelle work for the same people. I’m guessing that’s a statement about powerful people in general. But what if it isn’t? What if they do work for the same people?
Frank sucked. When Villanelle got to him in the safe house, it felt like a reasonable conclusion. Or so I initially thought. When Eve looks at Frank’s dead body and sees that Villanelle put him in the same dress Eve wore earlier that evening (the dress Villanelle gave Eve), I realized that Frank’s end may have been far worse than we were led to believe. And then we learn that it really was worse because Villanelle got nostalgic and “chopped his knob off.”
Cut to … Villanelle browning sausages in a pan. No joke. This was the actual cut, and it was disgusting and delightful.
At the very end of the episode, after Villanelle finishes browning those sausages, there are two important things that happen.
First, Konstantin says Nadia is still alive. That’s a surprise since Villanelle drove over her. Twice. With a van. It’s also a problem because Villanelle will now need to go to Russia to visit Nadia and this doesn’t sit well with Villanelle. She’s clearly upset about traveling to Russia. She asks “what about Anna?”
Yes. What about Anna?!
When we learned that Villanelle’s real name is Oksana I assumed that “Anna” was short for “Oksana.” And that could still be true. 23 But is “Anna” a personality within Villanelle that comes out when she’s on Russian soil? 24 Or, is Anna a totally separate person? 25
Second, Villanelle asks Konstantin which number he is in “The 12.” And this stops Konstantin cold.
“Oh dear,” he responds.
What’s that mean?! Is Villanelle not supposed to know about The 12? And what’s going to happen now that Konstantin knows she knows about it?
Finally, let’s take a moment to appreciate Kenny. Prior to this episode all we really knew about him is that he’s creepy-good with technology and he’s got a not-subtle crush on Elena. But in this episode we learn he’s Carolyn’s son and that his dad died suddenly—and somewhat recently—and this affected him quite a lot (whether it affected Carolyn is open to debate). He also doesn’t know how to spell “professional.” All of these details concern me because, as we learned with Bill, a secondary character that starts getting a backstory may not be around much longer. Let’s hope that’s not the case here. Kenny seems like a good egg. 26
Episode: S1, E6, “Take Me to the Hotel”
Why is Nadia in jail? Is it because she works for The 12, and that organization is separate from the Russian government? And, presumably, the Russian government doesn’t approve of The 12’s extracurricular activities? Perhaps, but how did Nadia end up in a Russian prison? Villanelle — henceforth known as “Oksana” because that’s what Eve and crew now call her—drove over Nadia with a van while they were in England. So, who found Nadia and brought her back to Russia? This is a very tangled web.
Speaking of tangled, Carolyn has quite the history with Russian operatives. 27 She admits to engaging in “Ugandan discussions” 28 with both Vladimir (a Russian government sort) and Konstantin. That’s right. Carolyn and Oksana’s handler have a past.
And it gets worse! Carolyn tells Eve that back in the day, Konstantin—who appears to be friends / colleagues with Vladimir—gave up secrets about some plutonium. Everyone knows plutonium secrets are among the most important secrets you can have. Carolyn knew Konstantin gave up the goods, but she refused to tell Vladimir.
This sounds like a lot of interesting but unnecessary backstory, but it’s not. That’s because Carolyn tells Eve about this plutonium business and Eve then goes behind Carolyn’s back to try to make a deal with Vladimir. Eve offers to give Vladimir the plutonium information in exchange for Nadia’s release. Why? Because her obsession with Oksana is limitless and she believes Nadia is a key to finding her.
Let’s pause a moment and reflect on Eve’s obsession. Her infatuation with Oksana has led to her firing from MI-5, her hiring by MI-6 (in a much more dangerous job), her travel across Europe in pursuit of a talented assassin, a home invasion by that same assassin, and a very high overall body count. Oh, and Eve just added domestic abuse to the list because she smacked and shoved her husband when he challenged her about her Oksana-fueled recklessness.
And now—because why not?—Eve’s off making deals with one of Carolyn’s ex boyfriends to turn in one of Carolyn’s other ex boyfriends. To top if off, she’s recruited Carolyn’s own son in this caper. 29 This is ill advised. We don’t know much about Carolyn, but it’s clear she is not someone you cross.
Also ill advised: Sending an unstable assasin into the prison she once escaped from so she can kill her “friend.” And then double-crossing that unstable assassin after she’s been tossed in solitary confinement. Let’s be clear: Oksana is getting out of the hole. We know that’s going to happen. And when it does … yeeesh. The prison doctor best watch himself.
Earlier I poked at the relationship between The 12 and the Russian government. This deserves more poking because we’re six episodes in to an eight-episode season and I have no idea who is in charge. It doesn’t appear to be the Russian government. It does seem to be The 12, but I can’t trust that because we know very little about this group. Konstantin might be a member of The 12. Hell, Carolyn might be a member. And it seems like The 12 is responsible for breaking Oksana and Nadia out of prison and training them to be assassins (maybe?) so they can further The 12’s not-at-all-clear agenda.
And then there’s the mysterious “Anna.” It would appear that Anna is a real person who is separate from Oksana (thus eliminating my Anna-is-Oksana’s-other-personality theory 30). We learn Anna is the wife of a guy Oksana killed and castrated. Was Anna’s husband the very first person Oksana killed? And did Oksana perhaps kill the guy for Anna?
Episode: S1, E7, “I Don’t Want to be Free”
Let’s quickly answer a few of the questions I posed in the last episode:
“Was Anna’s husband the very first person Oksana killed?”
Probably. But it’s unclear. We do know, thanks to Kenny’s sleuthing and Eve’s visit with Anna, that Oksana’s path toward assassin-hood started with Anna. We learn that Anna is a language teacher at a school that Oksana attended years back (Oksana had / has a knack for languages). Anna took Oksana under her wing and the two grew close. How close is an open question, but it was close enough for Oksana to develop an infatuation with Anna. This, as these things to tend to do, ended poorly. Oksana killed and castrated (let’s put the actions in that order please) Anna’s husband. Oksana went to prison and Anna was told sometime later (by Konstantin) that Oksana was dead. Eve has the unfortunate task of telling Anna that the Oksana-is-dead-so-you-can-rest-easy thing isn’t quite true.
“Did Anna want Oksana to kill her husband?”
No. Unless, yes. But probably no.
“Does Oksana have a thing for thick, wavy hair?”
Yes. (And I realize I never actually asked this question.) Anna warns Eve to watch out because she’s Oksana’s type. And she’s right. Anna and Eve don’t look alike, but they both have impressive hair.
Anna should heed her own advice as well because it appears Oksana has plans for a reunion. Eve discovers Oksana’s passport and a wad of cash hidden in a fancy coat Oksana had sent to Anna. Generally, you don’t include a Go Bag in a gift unless you intend to use it some day.
The Anna-Oksana reunion could be imminent because Oksana is busted out of prison (which I’m sure everyone expected, right?). Post escape, she’s taken to see Anton. Who is Anton? He claims he’s replacing Konstantin as her handler. We don’t learn a whole lot about Anton because he gives Oksana a loaded gun and somehow thinks a bullet won’t soon pass through his head. But the bullet does and Anton dies. Oksana then discovers that her next target is Konstantin.
So, Oksana kidnaps Konstantin’s wife and daughter and then confront hims in his charming lakeside house. 31 For a moment there it seemed that Konstantin was actually going to die, but you don’t get into The 12 without being crafty. As he prepares to croak from a massive intake of indeterminate drugs, he tells Oksana how much he loves her. Oksana is moved. And that creates just enough of an opening for Konstantin to chuck a whiskey tumbler at Oksana’s head and smack her with a log. 32 He escapes in a boat and flips Oksana the bird as he motors off. 33
So, if Oksana is no longer working for The 12 (she’s probably not, following that whole shooting-Anton thing), and Konstantin is no longer working for The 12 (following that whole targeted-for-assassination thing), then what’s the deal with The 12? What I mean is that we really don’t have any visibility into the organization beyond these two characters. There’s no entry point for us anymore.
Unless … Carolyn is part of The 12. I mentioned this in passing before, but it’s no longer silly conjecture on my part because at the very end of the episode, Eve and Kenny 34 see security footage that shows Carolyn meeting with Oksana in the Russian prison. 35 What’s that all about?
I am truly confused about the relationship between Oksana and The 12. We know (I think) she worked for the organization. We know (I think) Konstantin is / was a member of the organization. We know (maybe?) that The 12 is losing patience with Oksana’s messy insubordination. And we know (I don’t actually know this) The 12 wants Oksana dead.
But wait a minute. Is The 12 responsible for keeping Oksana in solitary confinement after she killed Nadia? Did it plant “Razor Blade” Inga in Oksana’s cell to kill Oksana, or was Inga a separate target of The 12 and the plan was for Oksana to do what she does in pressure situations? And who was responsible for Oksana’s escape from prison? Was it The 12? Was it Carolyn working for The 12? Was it Carolyn working for someone else? Was Anton part of The 12, or was he in cahoots with a different shadowy group? And, if you follow that thread, is Konstantin actually a target?
See what I’m saying? I’m 75% sure I’m twisting myself in knots, but I’m 25% sure those knots are correct.
Episode: S1, E8, “God, I’m Tired”
The season one finale was defined by interesting pairs.
Pair No. 1: Oksana and Irina
For a moment at the beginning of the episode I thought the child walking next to Oksana might have been a hallucination. Oksana appeared to be arguing with her tween self. 36 The kid wasn’t all that concerned about a gun being shoved in her face, and the girl yelled and poked and prodded at Oksana like she knew her.
It wasn’t a hallucination. It was Konstantin’s daughter, Irina. Oksana, who previously kidnapped Irina and her mother, took Irina on the road after the previous episode’s run-in with Konstantin. So now Oksana is stuck with one of those “profound” kids that even her own father describes as “amazing, but so annoying.”
But she’s annoying in ways that appeal to Oksana. They’re kind of like sisters that just met but already have a shorthand. Both know quite a few languages. Both have a fondness for Konstantin. Both want to be his favorite. They bicker and undermine, but they also kind of get each other. 37
Alas, the sisterhood begins to sour when they visit Anna and Anna opts to kill herself rather than kill Oksana. This act, and an offhand reference to activities Oksana and Anna shared on a chair in Anna’s living room, answers the question about the extent of Oksana and Anna’s relationship. They were lovers. 38
Pair No. 2: Eve and Konstantin
Through a series of plot machinations I can’t entirely remember (but that made sense in the moment), Konstantin and Eve work together (sort of) to find Oksana. There are two important developments from their collaboration:
- Konstantin says he’s the one who originally broke Oksana out of prison and trained her. But in the next breath he lies and says he hasn’t seen Oksana in years. So, is the part about him breaking Oksana out true? We still have no clarity around who really recruited Oksana and why.
- Konstantin is dead. Maybe. Oksana shot him in the gut during a standoff in a cafe. 39
Pair No. 3: Eve and Oksana
Working on a tip from Elena (remember her?), Eve finds Oksana’s apartment in Paris and enters it with the assistance of an elderly neighbor down the hall. Turns out the neighbor has been helping someone—maybe The 12? Maybe Konstantin?—to monitor Oksana’s movements.
Eve trashes Oksana’s apartment. She tosses designer clothing and champagne willy-nilly. But Oksana makes an unexpected return, and Eve collects a knife and gun from Oksana’s wardrobe of death. 40 And then things get weird.
Eve is exhausted and overwhelmed and confused. Oksana is intrigued and turned on and also a little confused. Amid this flood of emotions, Eve asks Oksana what she really wants — and you know Eve is serious because she demands that Oksana not “be a dick” with her answer. Oksana claims she wants what everyone wants: a nice place to live, a fun job, someone to watch movies with. And in that moment if Eve had volunteered to be her movie pal, I’m pretty sure Oksana would have been thrilled. But that’s not what happens.
Eve lies down on Oksana’s bed. Oksana lies next to her. Eve is oddly calm. Oksana is the opposite — she’s super focused in that “we’re about to see where this relationship goes” kind of way. And then, just as Oksana makes her first move, Eve STABS HER IN THE GUT! She sinks a knife deep into Oksana’s vital bits! And then—oddly, weirdly—Eve realizes what she’s just done and she starts trying to save Oksana.
I need to pause here for a moment and consider this 30-second seduction-followed-by-stabbing stretch. Eve, who typically has a nervousness about her, is not nervous at all. She’s in control of the moment and, for the first time, she’s got the upper hand on Oksana because Oksana doesn’t know where this is going. For a second it seems like Eve is receptive to Oksana’s advances. But then, KNIFE! STAB! BLOOD! And then, just as she takes the knife out of Oksana, Eve’s tension roars back. It’s a hell of a whiplash, and it makes me wonder what the heck happened to Eve. Did the combination of exhaustion and stress break her? Did it unlock a latent killer?
Loose ends and open questions at the end of season 1:
Is Konstantin actually dead? It looked bad and Carolyn appeared to receive confirmation of his death via a phone call. But we don’t know who made that call and we certainly shouldn’t trust everything Carolyn says.
Carolyn announces she’s closing down the Special Villanelle Unit office and taking on the investigation herself. If she’s part of The 12, perhaps this is a way to cut off further investigation, or at least lead it astray. But if she’s not part of The 12, what’s the point of closing the office? 41
Oksana is in rough shape with a very bloody gut wound, but she gets away with impressive speed and dexterity.
Kenny looks through security footage from the Russian prison and sees that a guard found and read the note Nadia slipped under her cell door moments before Oksana killed her. So, the trail to The 12 is still open.
The condition and location of Konstantin’s wife is unknown. Oksana claims she’s in a cupboard. Let’s hope it’s a spacious and well appointed cupboard. 42 She might be there a while.
Overall / concluding thoughts
I’ve found a direct connection between the number of question marks I put into write-ups and the enjoyment I get out of a show. If you’ve read this far you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of question marks floating through the text of this review.
So, it’s only fitting to wrap things up with the three big questions that continue to occupy my thoughts.
Who / what is The 12?
Other than sending assassins out into the world to do assassin things, I still have no idea why this group exists, what its goals might be, or who is part of it.
Why is Oksana the way she is?
Oksana is a kook. A, funny, violent, and unpredictable kook. Going to prison, getting broken out by a shadowy organization, and then becoming an assassin may have made her kookier, but her inherent kookiness appears to be part of her DNA. But that’s really all we know about her. The first season does not offer deep insight into Oksana’s inner workings, nor do we really know what she actually wants. Doing her job appears to be her sole motivation. But is she working toward a specific goal? Or, is the work therapeutic? I don’t know.
What happens next?
Oksana is alive, but wounded. Eve doesn’t really have a job anymore. Where do we go from here? I imagine Eve will find her way back to MI-6—or, at minimum, back to Carolyn, Elena, and Kenny. And I imagine Oksana will heal and once again terrorize asthmatics (because she likes those breathers) and women with great hair. But that’s all I can predict at this point. The larger players—The 12, the Russians, the Brits—remain present but out of reach.
One last thing: Put the phone down and really watch this show
I made the point during “Don’t I Know You?” (S1, E3) that “Killing Eve” is a show that made me want to pay attention. That point solidified through the remainder of the first season. You need to watch this show with great focus to get the most out of it.
- Two things here: First, I like how Eve speaks with an American accent, but she’s adopted Britishisms like “in the loo” and “piss off.” I’m assuming she’s lived in England for a long time. Second, I had the same question about Chris O’Dowd’s character in “Bridesmaids.” He’s Irish, yet he’s an American cop. What’s the story there?
- “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Dexter,” “The Accountant.” These all rely on the “killer with redirected instincts” trope.
- Do not let Villanelle watch your kids. At best, she’ll dump ice cream on them. At worst, she’ll murder a close relative while the kid is locked in a nearby bathroom.
- Unfortunately, episode bloat is still a problem. Case in point: The Netflix Marvel shows, most which have been cancelled, should have had 8-10 episodes. Not 13.
- This is a massive reach that I’ll probably be embarrassed to admit later, but … we know that Eve’s father died, but we don’t know the circumstances. And Eve believes Villanelle killed before she became an assassin. If we connect the dots, perhaps Villanelle killed Eve’s dad.
- Apparently the psychological assessment of an assassin is considerably different than what you and I would go through. Laughing at dead people and animals is the path to a clean bill of health in this world.
- I can accept that Eve’s husband has a website for his bridge instruction business. But why is Eve in a group picture on that website? Even if she plays regularly, that seems like a bit of a stretch.
- I’m saying it right now: I’m going to be very disappointed if Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s character, Elena, gets offed by Villanelle. Howell-Baptiste is fantastic on “The Good Place” and she deserves all the screen time she can get. Update: Elena wasn’t killed but she was largely absent in the back half of season 1.
- The Moscow-based office of SVU also had a bad odor.
- Did Villanelle wear Eve’s green scarf because she knew it would attract Bill’s attention? Is that possible?
- Villanelle’s fascination with Eve reminds me of Hannibal Lecter’s interest in Clarice Starling. “I have no plans to call on you, Clarice. The world’s more interesting with you in it.”
- Note to self for future episodes: Remember that any character on this show who gets an interesting backstory is doomed.
- It will remain murky throughout the season.
- I cheated and looked up the hander’s name because writing “the handler” over and over is tedious.
- During the birthday scene, the handler repeatedly asks Villanelle—in Russian—who she is. I’m guessing this is a short-form assessment to make sure she’s still in this reality. This question-asking reminded me of a similar process they used on “Orphan Black” to make sure the male clones weren’t glitching. Incidentally, you should watch “Orphan Black” because it’s a fun show and you’ll actually forget that Tatiana Maslany plays a bunch of different roles. She’s that good.
- What dick swab tapped Frank to deliver the eulogy at Bill’s funeral? BLAM! TOLD YOU I’D USE THAT!
- No. I was totally wrong about “Anna” being short for “Oksana.”
- WARNING: Spoiler for “The Americans” follows … I want “Killing Eve” to exist in the same universe as “The Americans” so Villanelle can be the child Elizabeth and Philip Jennings have after they return to the Soviet Union.
- Two of my favorite shows, “The X-Files” and “Lost,” struggled with myth-related revelations in different ways. “The X-Files” was prone to brain dumps and “Lost” liked to add to the mythology instead of tying any of it up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both shows, but I understood the criticisms from people who weren’t under the same spell as me.
- It took me a minute to remember where I’d heard “The 12” before. That’s the name of the group of don’t-call-them-vampires that cause all sorts of problems in “The Passage” trilogy.
- If The 12 doesn’t work out, Villanelle could find work with The Syndicate from “Mission: Impossible.” They’re always hiring presumed-dead assassins.
- How did Eve not get in trouble for her behavior in the car? Wouldn’t MI-6 take issue with her putting Frank in harm’s way when Frank has information vital to their case?
- It’s not true. Again. I was totally wrong about the Oksana / Anna thing.
- Nope. Anna is a real person.
- Yes. Different person entirely.
- I’m happy to report Kenny continues to be a good egg and he makes it through season one.
- Bill came alive in Berlin. Carolyn experiences the same sort of rebirth in Russia.
- Sex. Carolyn is talking about sex.
- Kenny discovers letters from Konstantin to Carolyn. Might Kenny himself be a product of Carolyn and Konstantin’s fling?
- In retrospect, this really was a dumb theory.
- It really is a lovely home.
- The humor on this show is remarkable because it’s significant but never overt. Two examples: First, When Eve enters the Moscow-based computer room, Carolyn apologies for the smell in exactly the same manner she did when Eve entered the London-based computer room. Apparently those rooms are a bit ripe. And second, Oksana isn’t outraged by Konstantin’s emotional manipulation. No, she’s pissed for an entirely different reason: “You hit me with a log!”
- I’m glad Konstantin didn’t die. Not because I like the guy. Rather, I enjoy the dynamic he has with Oksana. Those two are weird together.
- Eve and Kenny going rogue and drinking beers together is a wonderful addition to this show.
- It took me a minute to figure out when Carolyn met with Oksana in prison. I think it happened after she told Eve that the Oksana-Nadia thread wasn’t worth pulling on. Then Carolyn went and pulled on it herself.
- Yes, I know the tween didn’t look anything like Oksana. No, I didn’t consider this when I thought Oksana was hallucinating. Yes, I do have a tendency to get ahead of myself sometimes.
- Oksana and Irina share perhaps 10 minutes of screentime, which doesn’t provide much room to introduce and explore their quirky relationship. But their dynamic is pulled off well.
- 10 points to Eve for placing a note that reads “Sorry, baby” into the designer coat that previously held Oksana’s passport and cash.
- The condition and location of Konstantin’s wife is also unknown.
- Oksana has a creepy wig on a creepy wig stand in her creepy wardrobe. I found that wig more disconcerting than any of the weaponry in the same wardrobe.
- The dramatic “shutting down the office / shutting down the investigation” is a season finale trope. “The X-Files” shut down the X-Files division every two seasons or so. Then it would be reinstated within the first three episodes of the following season.
- Speaking of cupboards and people locked in them, I recently rewatched some of the “Harry Potter” films and I noticed that Aunt Petunia—Harry’s horrible relative, who really should have been brought up on child abuse charges—is played by Fiona Shaw, who also plays Carolyn Martens in “Killing Eve.”