If you’re used to Villanelle’s antics on Killing Eve, it’s hard to be shocked by anything she does these days. Hairpin through the eye? Check. Castration? Check. Murder on the dance floor? Check. A public, upside-down gutting in Amsterdam’s red light district? Check. There’s pretty much nothing the wickedly theatrical assassin won’t do — especially when the object of her obsession is involved. On Sunday night’s installment, “I Hope You Like Missionary,” Villanelle (Jodie Comer) somehow managed to take her showy sadism to new heights — and it wasn't just a show for Eve (Sandra Oh). Villanelle has often made me quite literally yell “Oh my GOD!” in my empty apartment, but this move not only elicited a shriek, it sent a chill over my body.
The aforementioned gutting in Episode 4 (“Desperate Times”) might have been a love letter to Eve, but Villanelle’s latest slaying reads as both a symbol of devotion and a threat. About halfway this week’s episode, Villanelle — whose compliance with MI-6’s orders thus far was never going to last — can’t help but resort to what’s in her nature. She’s on thin ice with Eve, having just used Eve’s real problems as material for “Billie’s” AA story, and to try to win back the skeptical group, Villanelle legitimately seems to go to a vulnerable place. (Comer’s delivery of this monologue — one that clearly speaks to Villanelle’s sociopathy — is absolutely extraordinary.)
When Villanelle emerges from the meeting, proud of having convinced the group of her sob story, she returns to her goal of tryiing to befriend Amber Peel (Shannon Tarbet). Amber’s handler, however, has other plans. When she interferes with Villanelle’s mission and tells her to back off, it’s obvious that Villanelle would like nothing more than to stick a knife in her, but we’re certain she wouldn’t do such a thing, because it could jeopardize the entire operation. As Eve watches from a coffee shop window across the street, Villanelle apologizes to the handler for her attitude and gives her a hug. Eve’s no dummy — she’s totally unsettled by this interaction, but she seems to hold out faith that Villanelle will continue the mission as planned. How wrong she is. How wrong we all are for thinking that this killer can be controlled.
As Villanelle releases her from the hug, she gives Eve a long, suspicious smirk — and then knees the handler right into the path of an oncoming truck. It’s an utterly shocking moment, one emphasized by the swell of music and screams as Villanelle stares right into Eve’s soul. Maybe we're the fools for not seeing it coming, but the show does such an excellent job at making us comfortable with this new, supposedly compliant Villanelle that this move was enough to quite literally take our breath away. We’re one with Eve in this moment, so totally overcome with horror that it’s impossible to do anything but stand there with her mouth agape. And then that horror turns to intrigue, and finally an almost humorous expression of resignation as she realizes this is Villanelle’s way of pushing the Amber Peel plan along a little more quickly. Villanelle isn’t changing her ways anytime soon — even for Eve. This terrifying reminder of who she is at her core caught me so off-guard that my Apple Watch literally clocked a dramatic spike in my heart rate.
This simple push — perhaps one of the least gruesome but certainly the most shocking of Villanelle’s murders — says more than any monologue ever could. That any act performed by Villanelle on Killing Eve still has the power to shock is a testament to just how masterful this series is. Her unwavering gaze in this moment speaks volumes (and also cements Comer as one of our brightest, most stirring stars). Is this a cat’s proud presentation of her prey at her master’s feet? A defiant teenager’s refusal to let anyone else exist under the illusion that they’re in control? A lovesick psychopath’s unconventional expression of devotion? Villanelle is all of these things and more, and the way she locks eyes with Eve through the chaos erupting around her and the embrace she shares with Amber makes one thing painstakingly clear — it’s her way or the highway. Literally.
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Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. She was previously a reporter/producer at Decider and is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.