Over its four seasons, Killing Eve has not been the kind of show that can be put in the box. Its premise of an MI6 agent on a mission to seek out the elusive, yet salient female assassin is only the surface-level deliverable of the show. If anything, it’s more so the port of entry rather than the means to an end. At its core, Killing Eve consecrates itself to a full-blooded depiction of the absolute feverishness of two women who want each other. The shape this desire takes on throughout the series is what is so singular about Killing Eve’s legacy. It plays on how Eve and Villanelle evolve in response to the magnetic pull that each has on the other. Amazingly, it does this while never explicitly meditating on the subject of a lesbian relationship itself.
Act One: The Meet Cute in the Bathroom
In the pilot of Killing Eve, Eve and Villanelle first meet in a hospital bathroom, both positioned in front of a mirror. Neither knows anything about the other. The international assassin doesn’t know that she is neck and neck with an agent. And the agent doesn’t know she’s in arm’s reach of the woman responsible for the recent murders that she has just begun investigating. Yet, the tension is achingly tangible. It gives the audience a taste of the cat-and-mouse chase that is to come with two women on the indefinite warpath to sink their claws into each other.
Villanelle marvels at Eve’s luscious hair. And Eve, shaken by Villanelle’s tenderness, takes Villanelle’s advice to leave her hair down, despite never listening to anyone else’s suggestions. This is the only moment in the entire show where their mutual desire is untainted. By the end of the first season, the sexual undertones to their mutual fascination is undeniable. Eve finds Villanelle in her Parisian apartment. Villanelle delivers an infamous confession.
“I masturbate about you a lot” falls from her lips and they then lie face-to-face on the large bed. The next moment is one iced in thrill and possibility. Will their lips meet? Instead, Eve plunges a dagger into Villanelle’s abdomen. It’s a classic How I Met Your Mother predicament. Throughout the series, this sort of thing repeats over and over until it pivots.
Act II and III: Tense Tussles and Longing Gazes
Over the next two seasons, the temperature between Eve and Villanelle continues to climb. It spikes at moments of violence and lust, both acts deepening their bond. Their relationship breaks every mold that one could try to fit in, becoming partners on a mission, accomplices in murder, enemies, all the while on the trajectory to become lovers. It’s a very twisted take on soulmates, but it’s nothing if not genuine. After all, Villanelle does put a bullet in Eve’s back in the finale of season two.
They collide once more in the third episode of season three, unexpectedly, in a long-awaited moment by fans. The scene may not resemble in any way most fans’ head canons for how this moment could unfold. But if you have been following the story and truly sunk your teeth in every sleight-of-hand, every gaze, every word uttered, and have fully entwined yourself in the DNA of the show, you know that this tense tussle and kiss could not have happened any other way.
By the time season three comes to a close, there is so much turmoil between Villanelle and Eve that it all becomes water under the bridge. They have bigger fish to fry with the Twelve, and also with the fresh insinuation of romantic love growing between the two. They share a dance and imagine growing old with each other. The pair are physically closer than in the season one finale yet emotionally at a head. This newfound intimacy carries over to the season’s final moments on the London Bridge. Eve confesses, “When I try and think of my future, I just see your face over and over again.” But in an Ovidian vein, they walk away from each other. In not trying to possess one another, the waxing love between the two of them is at its most visible.
Act IV: The Glow of Love
The fourth and final season breaches with a shift in tone and passage of time. We are finally watching the climax of a love story unfold with little grey space remaining. The first seven episodes only work to edge us further into it, but the push-and-pull is less of a game and more of a necessity. As icing on the cake, Villanelle is often referred to as Eve’s ex, notably by Hélène, her boss. Eve turns Villanelle down on multiple occasions. She’s rife with an unfound hostility, even sending Villanelle to prison. This coldness remains until the moment she cannot repress her feelings any longer. Villanelle is shot in the back with an arrow, emulating the Cupid and Psyche myth.
When Eve and Villanelle finally come together in the finale, a number of episodes of filler drama later, there is nowhere left to run. They are together by choice, and the results are unbelievably delicate. Of course, they are on their way to take down the Twelve but, maybe for the first time, the writers fully indulge the audience. The intimacy feels untainted once again, for the first time since before Eve and Villanelle were aware of each other. It’s authentic now, and suddenly, 31 episodes of gazes, missed opportunities, and yearning come into fruition.
They accept one another entirely. Eve acknowledges their fated collision, and Villanelle traces Eve’s scar. They don’t really need the words, anyway. The two ride their getaway car to imminent peril. They share curly fries, sing along to the radio, kiss in the street, refuse to let go of one another as they move toward the camper van, and consummate whatever it is between them. Amid the unfettered chaos, moving closer to their target, they are both still happier than they have ever been throughout the series.
When the duo arrives at The Twelve’s location—a boat—they split up after Villanelle pulls Eve into a final kiss. Eve is thrown into spontaneously officiating a gay wedding, while Villanelle singlehandedly annihilates The Twelve’s entire leadership in the lower deck. The romantic in Eve bleeds through in her analogy of Kensuke, “…the Japanese artform of gluing pots together with gold. It actually strengthens the pot. It’s a way of bonding to create something new. Something completely your own.”
She and Villanelle steal glances, before V sets back off to finish the job. On the other side of madness, the task completed with panache, Villanelle finds Eve on the dance floor of the wedding. The wonder painted on Villanelle’s teary, smiling, and exhausted face immortalizes the two of them, if only for a second. As if, no matter what comes after or what came before, these ephemeral moments of peace between them would anchor them to Earth. As though this slice of heaven would allow them to escape the lethal fingers of antiquated lesbian storytelling tropes from the days of yore. (Because in 2022, storytelling should be better than the ending they got—we deserve better than that.) Frozen in time, they’re just Eve and Villanelle, against the world. And that’s the ending I choose to hold onto.
Featured Image: Laura Radford/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle