[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Episode 2 of Killing Eve Season 2, "Nice and Neat."]
There is a moment in this episode, after Eve (Sandra Oh) is brought into the MI6, where she describes Villanelle (Jodie Comer) to her new team of operatives. "She's flamboyant, attention seeking, instinctive, spoilt, easily bored... not sloppy," Eve says with a mixture of admiration and disdain. This depiction fits the highly intelligent, glamorous, fashion-conscious killer we saw slicing her way through Europe in season one.
It stands in stark contrast to current day Villanelle, who is battered and downtrodden, slumming it in a pair of hand-me-down PJs. Catching a glimpse of herself in a supermarket mirror, Villanelle is horrified by her bruised and sallow skin. Desperate and low on ideas, she puts on some blusher and her best faux British accent and cons a Good Samaritan into offering her a place to stay for a night or two.
This whole situation becomes a domesticated nightmare for the usually free-roaming Villanelle. Her "knight in shining armor," Julian (played by a convincingly creepy Julian Barrett), is a possessive mommy's boy with a disturbing collection of porcelain dolls. His home a museum of 1960s decor: old fashioned TV, rotary phone, and mahogany furnishings. It's a million miles away from Villanelle's "chic as s**t" Paris apartment.
Julian keeps his dementia-suffering mother locked upstairs and delights in dressing Villanelle as one of his Victorian dolls — the expression on her face when he brushes her hair could kill a man. Villanelle is used to getting what she wants, as Eve said, she is spoilt. That's not the case here. Julian refuses to bring her her medication... or lemon drizzle cake... or let her watch the detestable Jeremy Kyle show.
Yes, the story is a little contrived, and it requires the wily assassin to act against her usual instincts for the majority of the episode, but I think that's the point. Villanelle is not operating at 100 percent; she's been stripped of her powers, trapped both physically and emotionally. She doesn't even look like the Villanelle we know and love. And it's one of the rare times we see her in a desperate panic when she tries calling both her former handlers and the MI6 for help.
Meanwhile, Eve begins investigating the murder of tech billionaire Alister Peel, along with her formidable boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw), computer whiz Kenny (Sean Delaney) and new team members Jess (Nina Sosnaya) and Hugo (Edward Bluemel). It doesn't take long for Eve to figure out there is a new female assassin on the scene, one with an entirely different M.O. to Villanelle's headline-grabbing flashiness.
Eve describes this new killer as a "ghost," the type of woman people look at every day and never see. Someone who is "careful" and "anonymous," most likely "late-to-middle-age" and "looks like an immigrant worker... so not white." When Hugo chimes in to ask why she thinks that, Eve cuts straight to the chase: "The fact that you just interrupted me mid-sentence makes me think that."
I mean, Eve is basically describing herself here, a middle-aged woman of Asian ethnicity who spent years being overlooked and underutilized. Eve is drawn to Villanelle because she represents a part of her that wishes she could be more flashy, confident and carefree. That's why she buys herself a £190 dress on a whim and continues to pursue Villanelle even when her current case drifts away from her. The Ghost epitomizes who Eve used to be (and still is to a degree), and that is equally as alluring to the assassin-obsessed agent.
There is a pep in Eve's step when she finds out Villanelle asked for her by name on her MI6 call. Eve knows Villanelle is dangerous; she warns Niko (Owen McDonnell) to be careful before he heads to work. Yet she can't help but be excited by that danger. She's simultaneously disturbed and thrilled when she realizes the apple in the crime scene photos from Gabriel's murder is a reference to Eve and the forbidden fruit. That's precisely what Villanelle is to Eve... the forbidden, murderous fruit.
The phone call brings Eve and Villanelle almost within touching distance of each other. While the MI6 track the location of the call, the housebound hit-woman momentarily gets her spark back, sticking a knitting needle in Julian's neck and shoving a toilet brush down his throat — an uncharacteristically sloppy kill. But as Villanelle escapes one crazy man, she runs right into the arms of another.
Waiting for her outside is Raymond, her new handler, whose mild-mannered voice masks a brutish violence. "You're going to be on a very tight leash from now on," he says after almost choking her unconscious. Raymond and Villanelle drive away just as Eve and Carolyn arrive on the scene. And so the cat-and-mouse chase continues, even if this time Villanelle wants Eve to find her.
Speaking of handlers, the episode ends on an "oh s**t!" cliffhanger. Carolyn informs Eve that she's asked for help from an old friend, Villanelle's former taskmaster, Konstantin Vasiliev (Kim Bodnia), who the MI6 boss previously said had died after Villanelle shot him in the stomach in last season's finale. Konstantin is a fantastic character, a pragmatic opportunist who shared a fascinating dynamic with the unpredictable assassin, so I'm excited to see him back.
This episode felt like it was in somewhat of a holding pattern. It essentially grounded Villanelle and kept her in one place while the Eve side things got all caught up. That's fine, and the episode had its moments; it's always fun when Comer gets to play around with accents. But Villanelle is at her best when she's active and causing chaos, so let's hope that side of her isn't suppressed for much longer.
-I enjoyed the reunion between Eve and Kenny, particularly their silent stare-down while they waited for Hugo to leave the room. Comer gets a lot of credit for her expressive face, but Oh is also brilliant at conveying a whole page of emotions with just the right look.
-The best line of the episode goes to Carolyn after Eve asks her how she always looks so good. “It's my moisturizer. It’s made of pig placenta. It costs a fortune and it smells like arse.” A close second is Eve's response: “I don’t mind smelling like arse."
-Who had lemon drizzle for Villanelle's favorite kind of cake? I suppose Death By Chocolate would have been too on the nose.
Killing Eve, Sundays, 8/7c, BBC America and AMC