SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Are You From Pinner?” the fifth episode of the third season of “Killing Eve.”
Villanelle (Jodie Comer) just committed her most personal murder to date. But it was not one she took lightly.
In the fifth episode of the third season of “Killing Eve,” the spotlight was entirely on Villanelle as she returned to Russia and reconnected with her mother (Evgenia Dodina), brother Pyotr (Rob Feldman) and their extended family, which now included a stepfather and stepbrothers. By the end of the episode she had deeply bonded with the youngest in the family, Bor’ka (Temi Blaev) — but murdered her mother and caused an explosion in the house.
But, it was a murder that was kept off-screen. The episode went from seeing Villanelle reluctantly tell her mother, “I think I have to kill you” to seeing her mother’s dead body on the floor of the kitchen.
“Villanelle has always looked into the eyes of those she’s killed, and in one draft the kill was actually [depicted], and I was like, ‘Maybe she can’t look at her; maybe she has to cover her mother’s face. This isn’t as easy as she thinks,’” Comer tells Variety. “I think Villanelle’s having a real identity crisis after the events of Episode 5.”
Comer liked that the show opted not to depict this particular murder because she felt the emotions, and therefore the stakes, were already clear.
“You can see the regret that she is already feeling but feels she has to go through with it — because I think she feels it’s the only way she feels she can fully kill her past and the woman that she was,” Comer says. “But actually in some ways, it’s like she kills Villanelle; it’s Oksana who is her true self and who she can’t get away from. So I think actually by doing what she has done, it has the complete opposite effect of what she was hoping for. For me now, at this point, I think Villanelle is her own worst enemy, and she’s coming to the realization that that may have been the case all along.”
Historically in the first two seasons of “Killing Eve,” the fifth episode is the one where Villanelle and the titular Eve (Sandra Oh) come face-to-face. But new head writer Suzanne Heathcote “didn’t want that to become an expected moment” and therefore worked with her writers’ room to construct an episode all about getting deeper into the history, emotions and mind of Villanelle.
“Villanelle reveals a version of herself — she shows a version of herself to the world — and that’s all the audience has seen up to this point. But this particular area of vulnerability for her is one that is so specific and so unique, it needed its own moment. It just felt wrong to go into that bubble and then suddenly cut back to MI6,” says Heathcote.
While with her family, Villanelle played card games, looked through childhood photo albums, attended a Harvest Festival (where she won a dung-throwing contest) and told her mother she wanted to feel like a child.
“We see glimpses of her truest self, but she’s still chameleon-like, even with the family, because she’s trying to figure out her own story and she cannot be completely honest with them in doing that. She’s still about having the power and the control in that situation — even more so, I would say, because it’s a family. So, for her it’s about figuring out her own narrative and what happened to her, and of course she’s never going to come and completely drop her guard, but even the type of guard she’s wearing is different to what we’ve seen previously,” says Heathcote.
Such genuine moments of emotion — and yes, vulnerability — are rare for Villanelle. But Comer feels they have been within her all along, it has just taken certain experiences and exploration to really pull them out.
“She is so open to this experience when she arrives, and I think it totally takes her by surprise, actually how enamored she is by the village and the festival and these kooky people living their lives and having no sense of care for what people think. I think she really relates to that,” Comer says. “I think she’s coming to this realization that she maybe isn’t as invincible as she once thought.”
In order to find the right moments to keep Villanelle’s guard up and when to drop it, even just slightly, Comer shares that she just “threw [her] trust” into director Shannon Murphy, who stepped onto the set newly this season and helmed both the fifth and sixth episodes.
“How we found those moments was really just playing around,” Comer says.
Additionally, meeting and working with Dodina lent itself to how much emotion she wanted to portray in certain moments, notes Comer. “When we shot the scene where I’m trying to escape the house and she comes in and drops her bags, I see her for the first time, and it’s really, really surreal,” she says. “There’s a connection, undoubtedly, and I think it goes unsaid and I think it’s hard to describe, but this is the first time that Villanelle experiences any of this. For me, Villanelle was absolutely born the person that she is, but I think the relationship with her mother is a huge factor in the kind of loss that she’s felt her whole life and this constant sense of belonging that she wants. It was all at the top of the surface for me.”
After seeing how her mother was cruel to Bor’ka, Villanelle wanted her to admit she had a darkness — not unlike her own — inside her. Villanelle admitted to her mother that she had killed many people, and her mother only used that darkness against her, saying it was something she and Villanelle’s father worried about from the time she was a little girl. Villanelle asked her one more time to admit she was just her “mother’s daughter,” and her mother rejected her yet again, telling her to get out of her house. That was when Villanelle realized she had to kill her.
Heathcote shares that the “Killing Eve” writers’ room spoke to a psychologist to better understand the psychopathy of a character such as Villanelle, and the particular person they worked with happens to work with prisoners who, she relayed, “are always going on about their mothers.”
“It’s a very interesting relationship: Just because you’re a sociopath doesn’t mean you don’t want your mother to love you,” Heathcote says. “And that was such a key thing for me because I think it’s so easy to say a character has no regard for anyone, but actually, of course, there is still need. You can be someone with violent tendencies, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to be loved. So I thought that was important to key into.”
Prior to her mother, the two people closest to Villanelle that she attacked were Eve and Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), but she was not successful in killing them, nor did she have the innate connection to them that she did with her mother. After killing her mother, Villanelle hopped a train and, once again, got visibly emotional from her experience.
“There’s a sense of conscience and weight and severity of what is going on,” Comer admits. “I think the act of what she did stuns her a little and I think it also puts a lot of things into perspective about the kind of control she’s under.”
“Killing Eve” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on BBC America and AMC.