Love You To Death: Why Eve and Villanelle are our favourite new TV couple

Killing Eve brings you TV’s hottest “couple”, Wednesdays on FOX (125) at 20:45.

“I think about you all the time. I think about what you're wearing, and what you're doing, and who you're doing it with. I think about the friends you have, I think about what you eat before you go to work, and what shampoo you have, and what happened in your family. I think about your eyes and your mouth, and what you feel when you kill someone, I think about what you have for breakfast. I just want to know everything.” Aside from that teensy thing about killing, this might be one of the most soaringly passionate declarations of interest between one character and another that we’ve seen outside of ship-sinking, pond-diving historical romances.

The words are said by one woman to another as they sit across from each other in a bedroom in Paris. From the lighting, to setting, to background music, it reads onscreen as a romantic confession. And after it’s said, they lie down on the bed together and look into one another’s eyes. But the trick of it is, viewers will still be wondering throughout this scene what the game is and who has the upper hand in spy drama Killing Eve, now on FOX (125) on Wednesdays at 20:45.

That’s thanks to the fascinating dynamic between intelligence investigator Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Every step they take toward this moment in the series makes it both easier and harder to believe that either could be feeling the emotions that they are portraying.

As they say of relationships between psychopaths and spies, it’s complicated. Even the poster image for the series shows an embrace between Eve and Villanelle. But is it loving and protective… or is it the chokehold before a snapped neck?

That ambiguity drives one of the most intriguing relationships to have come along on TV in ages. Eve and Villanelle’s whole relationship, from its earliest days, twists courtship and stalking together until they are one and the same.

Meet cute

From the get-go, Eve and Villanelle’s relationship reads as subversively sexually charged. The first distinguishing feature of Villanelle’s that Eve learns about, early in her hunt, is the size of her breasts! And once Villanelle learns Eve’s name, she uses it as her own cover name when she masquerades as a nurse as a sexual fetish clinic. That trick is practically Cinderella’s glass slipper to Eve, who picks it up to go chasing after Villanelle. And when Eve comes looking for her, Villanelle steals her suitcase to learn some personal things about her – which she immediately puts to use by finding her the perfect accessory for an outfit. Awww?

Play time!

By episode 3, things are really heating up. Villanelle seduces a woman roughly Eve’s age and gets her to play along for kinky fun times. Her game? She dresses the woman in an outfit like the one that Eve was wearing during their first, accidental meeting at the hospital when they didn’t recognise each other. Then Villanelle kisses her, tells her that her name is Eve and says, “Now I am going to hide and you are going to find me,” eroticising the entire spy and target relationship in this huge wink to the audience. And she’s not alone. The fact that the fascination is mutual is what makes it work!


We see it, they see it…

After just one 40-second brush with Villanelle, this is Eve describing her to a police sketch artist: "Her hair is dark blonde, maybe honey. It was tied back. She was slim, about 25-26. She had very delicate features. Her eyes are sort of cat-like. Wide, but alert. Her lips are full. She has long neck, high cheekbones. Skin is smooth and bright. She had a lost look in her eye that was both direct and also chilling. She was totally focussed, yet almost entirely inaccessible." Oh, honey! Eve might claim that she’s not into women, but her ex-boss Bill (David Haig), who is sexually fluid, points out that the terms that Eve uses to describe Villanelle are blatantly erotic. His insight validates all the sparks of attraction that we see between them as viewers.

The Chemistry

“There had to be chemistry between them, this extraordinary chemical reaction that’s not necessarily sexual, but has hints of it. They had it,” says Killing Eve executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle of Sandra and Jodie’s first audition together. The scene they acted out for that audition is from episode 5, and shows an encounter between Eve and Villanelle that reads like one of those passionate, sexy moments where one character has another pinned up against a wall and they are about to kiss. Villanelle even leans in to breathe in Eve’s scent. But the puzzle in the scene is whether it is about mutual attraction or threat and fear at this point. Every time these two are in a room, they are leaning into one another’s space and staring into each other’s eyes. It feels a lot like love.

The Courtship

Villanelle applies traditional courtships both as a threat and way of seducing Eve during their “relationship” (and, as we’ll later discover, in previous sexual relationships). Every gesture is barbed. She sends her fancy clothes – which is a gesture that demonstrates both an intimate understanding of a lover’s body, and a desire to control it. Villanelle sends Eve a perfume in a bottle that has La Villanelle as the brand on all the packaging, which would be a passionate “wear me” gesture… but also carries a hint of a sting as Eve is aware that Villanelle has recently used perfume as a murder tool. And from Eve’s side, she doesn’t stop at looking and sniffing. She puts on a dress the Villanelle snuck into her bag, then caresses herself all over, appreciating how it flatters her body. And she sprays that scent on her neck. That’s not just flirting with danger, that’s sending out wedding invitations with a gift registry.

Aside from all these fun little moments, Killing Eve builds parallels between Eve and Villanelle. What happens between them is often foreshadowed and mirrored in scenes with other characters, revealing how their relationship with one another differs from anyone else they deal with. It fills every moment of the show with incidents that tie them together -- whether they’re being threatened with a toilet brush, or the barrel of a gun. And it’s so cunningly done that it’ll have you leaping at the chance to play Sherlock Holmes, love detective.

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