KILLING EVE: Season 2, Episode 4: Desperate Times

WARNING: Contains heavy SPOILERS for Killing Eve Season 2, Episode 4

Everyone has to answer to their boss at some point. Both Eve and Villanelle over the course of one and a half seasons have had their fair share of altercations with their superiors. Carolyn Martens, as it turns out, is not immune to the hierarchical structures of a large organisation either.

“Desperate Times”, the fourth episode of Killing Eve season 2, opens with Carolyn meeting her boss, Helen (Zoë Wanamaker). Whilst it’s a fairly vague meeting, still shrouded in mystery as we don’t get an official title for Helen or a briefly mentioned Paul, having Carolyn appear shaken and more flustered than usual is a beguiling move to make. 

There’s a few points to be made about this meeting. The first, being a mention of a “Russian asset gone rogue”. This could either be Konstantin or Villanelle, as it’s significant to note that Carolyn once visited Villanelle in the Russian prison back in season 1. Whilst it’s easy to conclude that the asset being referred to is Konstantin, there’s a chance that Villanelle could in fact be the target here. Carolyn asserting that “it’s all going to plan” is equally pertinent. Her motivations remain shrouded, but with movement on the Alistair Peel case and the ongoing investigation of ‘The Ghost’, it’ll be illuminating to see exactly what that “plan” is.

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Fiona Shaw in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Parisa Taghizadeh, BBC America

Don’t Give Up The Ghost

A lot of this episode seems to be focused on the character’s emotional sore points, wrenching them to near boiling point. Structurally, this makes sense for the mid-point of the season, as this should absolutely be the time where the narrative kicks up a notch as we head into the latter portion of it.

Eve appears to be channeling her dogged determination back onto tracking ‘The Ghost’, which is surprisingly satisfying. On the surface, she seems to have sidelined her preoccupation with Villanelle for the moment, even responding to Hugo’s question of “What about Villanelle?” with “What about her?” As always with this pair though, what’s on the surface is rarely reflective of their depths.

Villanelle on the other hand, is becoming despondent and frankly rather bored by her current circumstances. Konstantin continues to goad her, but to what end it’s still unclear. After warning her to be careful in the previous episode, he tells her to “Show Eve Polastri what she’s missing”. This is an odd dichotomy that keep occurring, where he gives the impression of wanting Villanelle to forget about Eve by consistently reminding her of Eve’s new target, ‘The Ghost’, but equally uses Eve as emotional leverage to get Villanelle to do his bidding. Flitting between the sentiment that Eve isn’t thinking about her anymore, and then asking Villanelle to show Eve what she’s missing, seems like a warped and dangerous game to be playing. As we have seen, Villanelle’s behavior can be highly erratic and volatile when she’s overly emotional, a fact that Konstantin is aware of, so provoking her could prove to be a grave mistake.

Konstantin further incites Villanelle’s more primal tendencies by saying “I think Eve Polastri has made you go soft”, whilst it’s been enchanting to see Villanelle mooning over Eve in these past few episodes. She’s seen writing a postcard to “Darling Eve” whilst observing her future target interact with his family, in a wistful manner. Villanelle’s reaction of immediately tripping up a passing woman, followed by faux concern before slipping Konstantin a smug grin was refreshing to see. There’s a fine line to be walked here with Villanelle’s characterization. Whilst we want her to be a merciless killer and a terrifying and brutal assassin, her feelings towards Eve and the off kilter tenderness that she displays due to this are equally important to convey. These fleeting moments of dark humor, senseless violence and a disregard for random civilians are wonderful reminders of Villanelle’s gleeful darkness.

Corpses, Canals and Crumbling

On the subject of darkness, this week sees a return to form for Villanelle’s prowess as an assassin with a penchant for the dramatic. Dressed in a dirndl and a cartoon pig’s head, Villanelle recreates the macabre scene depicted in the painting “The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers” by Jan de Baen, which also happens to be the cover of the postcard she sends to Eve. Eve’s comment that Villanelle “plays to the gallery” immediately springs to mind whilst watching this scene play out, followed swiftly by a commendation for Jodie Comer’s acting abilities. Emoting effectively whilst wearing a pig’s head can hardly be easy one would imagine, yet her body language conveys Villanelle’s myriad of emotions to staggering effect.

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Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Parisa Taghizadeh, BBC America

Despite this grandiose and typically ‘Vilanelle’ kill, her boredom wins out. “I felt nothing” she tells Konstantin and immediately asks to go “home”, which upon elaboration, she explains to be London and by implication, Eve. In this same scene, Villanelle actively questions who she is killing saying “Is that what it’s going to be now? Scorned wives and scumbags.” This line of questioning, this contemplation is telling of Villanelle’s lack of gratification after her kill. When this is added to the mention of Eve alongside the premise of home, it reveals a lot about Villanelle’s current priority.

The same cannot quite be said of Eve this week – because as Villanelle gets progressively more soft, Eve gets steelier week by week. In the ongoing saga of Niko and Eve’s crumbling marriage, the argument this week is regarding Eve failing to tell Niko about their new security guard, Jordan. This leads to an altercation in which Niko once again highlights that “none of this is normal…and it’s not kind.

Whilst this isn’t different from their usual line of conflict, Eve’s response of “Well maybe I’m not kind”, is. Niko responds “No, Eve, you are. You are so kind. You’re the best person I know. Always have been. It’s why I love you. Come back.” after which Eve retreats to her office. This physical response, Eve walking away after Niko specifically implores that she comes back (of course he meant it more figuratively) hopefully signals the beginning of the end for Niko and Eve. Their incompatibility is becoming more exaggerated each week, and the happiness of both characters is deteriorating because of this. Plus, less Niko screen time means more Villanelle and Eve screen time.

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Owen McDonnell and Sandra Oh in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: BBC America

Doctor Death

Meanwhile, Eve’s work situation is improving vastly. After questioning Alistair Peel’s son Aaron to little effect, other than finding out that his feelings towards MI6 can be summed up by him saying “How can it go on, when companies like this one own more information than the Pentagon and MI6 combined?” Jess and Eve return to the office to discover that ‘The Ghost’ has struck again. From this, Eve gleans that ‘The Ghost’ is most likely a Doctor or nurse, due to the presence of an an aesthetic in the toxicology report. This is a killer with a knowledge of drugs, someone who knows how to make a death swift and painless – a considerate assassin.

Of course ‘The Ghost’ isn’t the only assassin who has struck this episode. The Project Manderley team learn of Villanelle’s latest kill, and a perturbed Carolyn sends Jess to the crime scene as opposed to Eve, advising Eve to “Try focusing on the job at hand.” Eve trying to sound nonchalant when asking about the kill and suggesting that it’s “too dangerous” for Jess is a thinly veiled attempt to offer up her own services in order to be in Villanelle’s orbit once again.

In the mean time, back in Amsterdam, Villanelle anticipates Eve’s presence at the crime scene and waits eagerly at a brothel window for a glimpse of her. Upon seeing Jess who has been sent in Eve’s stead, something switches inside of her and she’s sent spiraling into despair. We follow her down the seedy back lanes of Amsterdam where she picks up some ambiguous pills, before heading into a nightclub. Losing her temper, she lashes out, nearly strangling a girl to death in the bathroom. Konstantin arrives in time, hauling a completely enraged and heartbroken Villanelle out of the club to her screams of “I hate you!

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Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: BBC America

Maybe Everything IS About Sex

In London, whilst waiting for the results that could reveal the identity of ‘The Ghost’, Eve and Hugo head out of the office for dinner. In an episode full of heightened emotions and revelatory reactions, the pinnacle sits here. Hugo has largely been a tertiary character up until this point, being painted as a sex obsessed irritant and little more. However, he manages to pry some much sought after information regarding the dynamic between Eve and Villanelle. There’s a mutual understanding between the two, as evidenced when Hugo claims “I wanted this job for exactly the same reason you did…I didn’t want to die of boredom.

Eve confirms that she’s “excited” by the prospect of catching ‘The Ghost’. Whilst she admits that “it sounds gross to say that”, she doesn’t denounce these feelings or deny them, she just acknowledges that in terms of societal norms, what she’s saying is frowned upon.  Furthermore, when Hugo asks “What’s the deal with you and Villanelle?”, Eve answers, “I don’t know.” Continuing to push her, Hugo delivers the final question of his interrogation “Do you like watching her or do you like being watched?” to which Eve responds with “Both.

It’s taken four episodes, but finally we received some frank conversation regarding Eve’s obsession with Villanelle and a further insight into the psychology behind it.

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Edward Bluemel in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: BBC America

In this interaction Hugo came across as Eve’s ID, the part of her with the base instincts, like hunger and sex. Hugo is clearly hyper sexual, but he’s also very candid and upfront, two characteristics that could be used to describe Villanelle. It makes sense that Eve would confide in him considering he seems extremely non-judgmental and unconcerned about ethics or morality when it comes to a lot of behaviors. 

Even from this dialogue alone, he seems to be largely ruled by base reactions and instincts, almost like a mirror for the darker side of Eve. His function here is to make her question her morality. It’s hardly killing people, but to see Eve eating junk food, smoking and making passing comments about the deep fried chicken being made from “crack and orphans” is a start. That’s without mentioning the near kiss between the pair, nearly adding infidelity to the list or moral slip ups.

Angel of the Morning

The episode plays out with a chilling yet enthralling moment in which Eve confronts ‘The Ghost’, saying “Do you want us to shoot you in front of your kids?” Eve did not come here to play, leveraging someone’s children, even if that someone is an assassin is ruthless. It’s seemingly throwaway lines such as this that make the final two way mirror shot at the end of this episode all the more prescient. 

In this shot we see Carolyn on one side and Eve on the other, implying perhaps a shift in Eve, seeing her adopt the same deadpan and callous demeanor when it comes to her work. Of course, it also has that same tension and near visceral swirling connection between Villanelle and Eve that we saw previously with the two between the hotel room door.

With Eve gathering herself, essentially detaching emotionally for the interrogation of ‘The Ghost’, we see Villanelle openly sobbing in front of a mirror. The most striking part of this reaction, is the realization that this is perhaps the first genuine emotional response we’ve had from her. This is normal, as these are standard human reactions and emotions that stem from within. Villanelle is not merely reflecting emotions that she’s taught herself to emulate, this is honest feeling. Who knew a ruthless assassin could be so soft?

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Jung Sun de Hollander in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: BBC America

Smell Ya Later

From the teasers for next week’s episode, it would appear that we’re getting a Villanelle and Eve reunion. This couldn’t be timed more perfectly, as episode 5 in season 1 was also the first time that Villanelle visited Eve’s house. Episode 5 will forever be held as date night. We’ll also have ‘The Ghost’ interrogation which will hopefully provide some hints as to the trajectory for the rest of the season, as we may or may not find out who she works for, what kind of information she has and what her terms for said information will be. Killing Eve is at the midway point now, so let’s stop messing about and get our girlfriends back together.

All Killer No Filler

  • Konstantin sleeping on the floor beside Villanelle protectively after her episode in the club bathroom
  • Jess: Sit around talking about which Dr Who companion they’d most like to spaff off to. Eve: Rose Tyler. Come on, she’s adorable.
  • Villanelle stopping at are The Fall Of Man by Cornelis van Haarlem in the Rijksmuseum

Bored Jodie Comer KES2Ep4

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Parisa Taghizadeh, BBC America

Killing Eve will return next year for a third season and it is set to air in the UK starting June 8th on BBC One.

Published by Rachel Chandler

Rachel Chandler is an English Literature with Creative Writing graduate from the University of Birmingham. Born and bred in about as middle England as you can get – The Midlands are real and she will fight you on it – she spends her time slinging pints for the masses by day and obsessively watching films by night. Her favourite film is staunchly Donnie Darko despite its edge-lord following, any French or Australian cinema as well as anything that’s gay even if it’s pure trash. Her writing has feautured in RADICL Mag, HighClouds and Screen Queens. You can scope out her many ramblings at @RShanaynayChand or @RachelC978 on Twitter as well as getting in touch via her film blog

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