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Series / Killing Eve

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Eve: I know you are an extraordinary person.
Villanelle: What else?
Eve: I know something happened to you.
Villanelle: What else?
Eve: I know you're a psychopath.
Villanelle: You should never tell a psychopath they are a psychopath. It upsets them.

Killing Eve is a British thriller drama series developed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based off of a series of novels, Villanelle, by Luke Jennings. The series is a co-production between BBC America and BBC iPlayer; in the U.S., it aired on both BBC America and AMC (the latter beginning with Season 2).

The series follows Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), a desk-bound MI5 Officer, as she begins to track down talented, psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer), while both women become obsessed with each other.

In genre, Killing Eve is a fairly traditional piece of Spy Fiction — the main characters are government agents, assassins, and spies (and quite a few of them are Russian). But in themes and tropes, Killing Eve is quite unique, placing the homoerotic subtext between hero and villain at the center of its narrative, while further characterizing the two leads in ways like Villanelle being a Likable Villain who is still unquestionably a horrible person. The show is set against a backdrop of politics and intrigue that it largely ignores, directing its focus instead toward an introspective look at its characters.

The first season was released in 2018, the second in 2019, and the third in 2020. The fourth and final season was delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic before ultimately premiering in late February/early March 2022note  and concluding its run on April 10 of that year. Episode recaps can be found here.

BBC America has confirmed potential spinoffs are in development.

Tropes in this series include:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Is Carolyn working with the Twelve? The final shot of her interviewing Villanelle would suggest she is at least pretending to be in Season 1, but by Season 2, Villanelle behaves like she's never met her and Carolyn never behaves suspiciously again in Season 2.
      • This was sort-of resolved in Season 3 with the revelation that the interview was actually Carolyn offering Villanelle a job with MI-6, which Villanelle turned down.
    • Nadia, too, is involved with the Twelve throughout Season 1. This is not mentioned again in Season 2, and so is the open question of who else might be part of the Twelve apart from Konstanin.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The series is character-driven which makes the carnage even more brutal even if it happens off-screen.
    • Villanelle meeting Eve for the first time in the bathroom left her so at a loss for words that she lost control and killed everyone in the hospital room, though Konstantin had emphasised that she needed to make it look like suicide to fend off any suspicion from the authorities.
    • The beginning of episode 5, with Eve trying to approach Villanelle after she repeatedly shoots at the vehicle where her target is in.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While Villanelle’s overconfidence, loose cannon behavior, and flippant dismissals irritate Konstantin, irk Anna, and infuriate Eve, they can’t deny that she elicits smiles and guffaws especially when she unexpectedly jokes in the middle of a tense situation or where she’s being reprimanded for her misbehavior.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Villanelle's real name in the books is Oxana Vorontsova, in the TV show she is Oksana Astankova.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Villanelle is much kinder and more innocent in the books. She's still shockingly lovable and sympathetic in the TV show because of some incredible acting, but a much worse person.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Eve is impressed with the precision of the murder incident in Vienna to the surprise of her colleagues and superiors.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Villanelle is 25 at the start of the series, while Eve is presumably in her forties, like her actress.
  • Almost Kiss:
    • 1.05. Villanelle has Eve again the wall, with a knife at her throat and is looking at her lips. The Moment Killer: Niko arriving home.
    • The Season 1 final, when Villanelle and Eve are lying on the bed — before Eve stabs her.
    • 2.04, between Eve and Hugo. The Moment Killer is when Eve’s phone goes off.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Eve tells Bill she's pretty straight. But Bill suggests Eve is bi because of how she recalls Villanelle. Bill should know, as he's fallen in love with both sexes himself. The show's narrative definitely agrees with him.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • In the first season finale, is Eve genuinely considering having an affair with Villanelle, until she changes her mind and stabs her instead? Or is she merely faking reciprocation of Villanelle's feelings for her, so that Villanelle would let her guard down?
    • In the second season finale, would Eve have ever gone with Villanelle to America, and if so, was it really her realizing Villanelle had a gun when she killed Raymond that changed her mind? Was she merely trying to preserve her idea of herself as a hero, or did she only go alone with Villanelle due to being in shock, and then snapped out of it?
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up: Villanelle locked Konstanin's wife in a closet (off-screen) so she could kidnap their daughter Irina and use her to blackmail and threaten Konstanin.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Eve has lots of questions for Carolyn when she is summoned to work with her again in the first episode of Season 2, but is silenced when Carolyn asked: "What really happened in Paris?"
  • Artistic License – Sports: The gymnastics scene from 1974 seen in Season 3 is in some respects extremely accurate (the leotard Dasha wears, for instance, is a near-exact replica of a Soviet team leotard from the '70s, and the gym looks very similar to those seen in the Eastern Bloc at the time), but in others is completely inaccurate. What will leap out to any gymnastics fan is the very 2010s-era uneven bars set on which Dasha, wearing a very modern pair of Velcro grips, is doing an admirably accurate but very modern uneven bars combinationnote . In the '70s the uneven bars were set much closer together, meaning that routines looked one heck of a lot more like this than like this. In the intervening years, the apparatus changed so much that it's practically a different event now. Possibly justified though — where on earth are you going to find a gymnast these days who can do '70s-era bars?note 
  • Batman Gambit: Carolyn’s incredible insight into Eve’s character in Season 2 enabled her to get the effects of her plan to her favour. She successfully manipulated Eve that any course of action she’ll take will end up with her working for Carolyn and getting her plan realized. Especially in the season finale, that whether Eve joins her or not, her plan was already in her favor that even Kenny, whom she knows wouldn’t subvert her and had reservations about her actions, also became part of the clean up crew to cover their tracks. She used Eve’s eagerness to work the case that she didn’t notice there’s no paper trail on her, making it convenient for Carolyn to disavow Eve
  • Beneath Notice: The new assassin managed to kill the victim by disguising as a beauty salon worker who gave him a pedicure, puncturing his toe that caused a bubble in his bloodstream making him die from an embolism.
  • Betty and Veronica: Okay, Eve, you have two people vying for your affection. One is your nice, pacifist husband who has a stable job and wants to protect you — though, granted, this does manifest in ways that you do not like, and he doesn't seem to quite understand you and what makes you tick. The other is a gorgeous young woman who kills people for a living, is utterly obsessed with you, and takes a worrying amount of pleasure in violence and bloodshed — but she's arguably the person who understands you most in the world. Decisions, decisions...
  • Big Damn Kiss: Villanelle and Eve kiss during a fight on a bus in Season 3.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: A psychotic version between Eve, an apparently straight married woman, who becomes obsessed with lesbian serial killer / assassin, Villanelle. Eve's husband, Niko, is completely disgusted by the violence that Villanelle brings into their lives, and Eve's growing attraction to it, meaning that Eve has to choose between Villanelle and homicidal chaos or Niko and boring normality.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Eve and Villanelle successfully team up to destroy The Twelve once and for all. But immediately afterwards, just as the two are celebrating, Carolyn shoots and kills Villanelle, leaving Eve devastated and it permanently damages their friendship, causing Eve and Carolyn to become bitter rivals in the future.
  • Black Comedy: All over the place. There's a whole page dedicated to that.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Villanelle tells Konstantin that she doesn't even think about Eve while she has the woman's scarf wrapped around her neck. It can also count as Suspiciously Specific Denial since the creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, stated that the characters don't spend a waking minute without thinking of each other.
    • Niko’s friend, Dom, asks Eve if it’s legal to interview the Polish witness under the guise of being her cousin when it’s clear that she’s not suited for an interview yet. Eve replies that it’s fine... but didn’t answer Dom’s question if it is.
  • Book Ends:
    • The song “When a Woman is Around” by Unloved played when the viewer first sees Villanelle on the job in the first episode. The season finale shows Eve walking to Villanelle’s apartment with the same song that underscores Eve’s determination showing that they’re not so different. Only this time, Eve’s target is Villanelle — who spent most of the season eliminating her own targets but has never been one herself.
    • Season 1 ends with Eve attacking Villanelle and stabbing her, believing she can't love. After Eve tells Villanelle that she can't love at the end of Season 2, Villanelle attacks Eve and shoots her.
    • Season 3 ends with "Tell Me" by Johnny Jewel and Saoirse Ronan playing over Villanelle and Eve's eventual realization that they're in love. Season 4 has the song replay when Villanelle sees Eve at the wedding in the series finale.
    • Season 3 ends with Villanelle and Eve declaring their love for each other and smiling on Tower Bridge. Season 4 ends with Villanelle and Eve embracing in front of the Tower Bridge before Carolyn shoots and kills Villanelle, leaving Eve devastated.
  • British Humour: It mostly comes from Eve's family and friends, but Eve delivers some herself. Most notably is her Catchphrase of "piss off," and flatly describing how she'd brutally murder her husband to him.
  • Brutal Honesty: Villanelle’s interaction with Gabriel concerning his injuries is mostly this. Justified by Gabriel since he says that doctors and nurses are preventing him from knowing how bad they are when he just wants to know the truth. He also knows that Villanelle isn’t one to mince words and asks her to look under his bandages for this very reason.
  • Bury Your Disabled: In the first episode of Season 2, Villanelle meets Gabriel, who has been severely injured in the car accident that killed his parents. She kills him due to believing he's better off that way.
  • Bury Your Gays: In Season 1, Villanelle kills Bill, in the same episode he reveals his bisexual past. Villanelle also kills her ex, Nadia. Anna kills herself after her sexual relationship with Villanelle is revealed. In Season 3, Villanelle kills Felix in the same episode he is introduced, and reveals he has a boyfriend. Carolyn later kills Paul, who had an ex husband. In Season 4, Villanelle kills May after May shows romantic interest in her. In a flashback, Carolyn's father kills himself after being blackmailed for being gay. Pam kills Fernanda, an ex of Helene, who Villanelle later kills. In the finale, Carolyn kills Villanelle in the same episode Villanelle finds love.
  • Bystander Syndrome: A woman on a bus in Bulgaria spots one of Villanelle's victims, wounded and banging on the window of his office building, trying to attract attention and get help. As Villanelle advances on him and the bus pulls away, the woman pulls out her call her mother, asking if she wants anything from the shops.
  • Can't Default to Murder: Subverted. In Season 2, Villanelle is forced by British intelligence to agree to avoid killing anyone while she's working with Eve to take down Aaron Peel. She doesn't hold up her end of the bargain. However, British Intelligence was hoping from the beginning that she would disobey their orders.
  • Character Title: The books are titled after Villanelle, while the show is titled after Eve.
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway:
    • Gabriel survived the car accident in which his parents died, admittedly badly burned. Villanelle then snaps his neck in the hospital in what she thinks of as a Mercy Kill.
    • Konstanin survived being shot in the heart by Villanelle (which she admits she did to kill him) in Season 1 and having a heart attack in Season 3. He's then murdered for real by Pam in Season 4.
    • Villanelle survives being betrayed by Dasha and sabotage that could have killed her, and survives being stabbed in the stomach by Eve. She then dies at the end of Season 4, being shot by Carolyn.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Villanelle momentarily looks at Konstantin’s wrist when she pulls him in for a hug after her assessment. When she makes the threat to his daughter, he shakes his wrist to conceal the bracelet — the accessory that she used to deduce that he indeed has one.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Villanelle advises Eve not to tuck the knife at the front of her pants so that it won’t slip and cut her. Eve remembers this all too well when she later conceals a knife at the back of her pants to stab Villanelle.
  • Contrast Montage: Done to wonderful effect at the end of the second episode. To the tune of “La Marseillaise”, Eve and Villanelle simultaneously search each other’s identity which results in both women being astounded that they’ve already met in a situation where they’re least likely to suspect each other. This emphasizes that while they lead different lives, one in a domestic situation and the other living it up in her gorgeous flat as a single, affluent woman, they each inhabit an environment dominated by men and share a macabre fascination with murder. Even their reactions to their realizations are contrasted; the normally unflappable assassin Villanelle tosses her laptop onto the bed and appears to be genuinely shocked, while Eve is grinning and perfectly calm, despite the fact that she might now be Villanelle's next target.
  • Cowboy Cop: While Eve initially skirts the rules when she investigates Villanelle on her own, Villanelle comes across as a criminal version of the trope right down to being pulled off assignments due to reckless behavior and a handler who acts much like Da Chief.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All of the assassins can dole them out, but the most significant is probably the banker whose neck she snaps by trapping his tie in an elevator and yanking it until he dies.
  • Deadly Hug: In Season 1, Villanelle kills Nadia while giving her a hug, and then gives a male hospital patient a hug just before snapping his neck in Season 2. Pam does this to Konstantin with a pizza cutter in Season 4.
  • Deadly Sparring: This is suggested to be Dasha's specialty. While we don't see it, Konstanin and Villanelle both make reference to a part of Villanelle's training where Dasha sabotaged Villanelle and nearly caused her death.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Nadia, who comes across as much more fragile than Villanelle but is still a trained assassin who's had relationships with Diego and Villanelle. This is downplayed by the show having other bisexuals as well: Bill, who is a really good guy, and probably Eve herself.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Villanelle tunes out while she’s staring at a passerby — a woman with thick, wavy hair — causing her male date to ask her if she happens to know the woman by any chance.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Due to Villanelle's fondness for penectomies, the many mentions of sausages throughout the show (raw, cooked, being eaten, etc.) make this feel like it was deliberate. Phoebe Waller Bridge has something to say about that.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The show's title could be referring to:
    • A time of killing ("eve" in the context of "on the eve of the elections")
    • Villanelle going after Eve
    • Eve Gaining the Will to Kill
    • A part of Eve dies, or the old Eve dies to make way for the new.
    • Eve losing her chance at spending a happy life with Villanelle due to Villanelle being killed off by Carolyn.
  • The Dreaded: Raymond, Villanelle’s new handler, is described as this by Konstantin. He handles errant assassins who are on the verge of being eliminated by the organization which employs Villanelle. He’s indeed so dangerous that he’s considered someone to be wary of even by effective contract killers, and it reflects their precarious situation as a liability for an all-powerful organization like The Twelve, adding more danger in an inherently risky profession. Of course, Villanelle is flippant and continues to taunt Raymond, even saddling him with credit card bills for her expensive purchases.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Our story focuses on Eve (a woman who has a morbid fascination with female assassins and may or may not be infatuated with one), Villanelle (a female assassin who is definitely infatuated with Eve, and is also a psychopath), Frank (a whiny dick-swab with major financial issues who is The Mole), Carolyn (an Iron Lady who may or may not be entirely on the level and is certainly hiding something), and Kenny (a brilliant, introverted hacker). Elena and Bill are the only protagonists who aren't somewhat messed up, and Bill's dead before the first season is halfway through.
  • Ethereal White Dress: In the promotional posters for the fourth and final season of the television series, Villanelle is depicted wearing a white long sleeved dress as she is undergoes a religion-themed journey to redemption. Doubles as a White Shirt of Death since Villanelle gets killed in the series finale.
  • Epunymous Title: Eve is the name of the the heroic co-protagonist.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • Eve ties her hair up in the bathroom then was suddenly reminded of the young woman who told her that she looked better with her hair down. This leads to Eve suspecting that she might be a clue to their suspect.
    • Eve figures out that Frank is the mole being paid by dubious organisations for giving intel by remembering a conversation where he’s worried about his children’s future because of money issues.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Villanelle isn’t above using a child as an accomplice to a crime, killing a human rights activist, sweet-talking a former lover then running her over with a vehicle next, but was mortified at Irina’s question if she’s a pedophile when she kidnapped her.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: It's constantly discussed that Villanelle has a very high sex drive, and she's shown having threesomes and hooking up with lovers of both sexes easily; she managed to pick up the two girls on her way back from Aaron Peele's house in the middle of the night in rural England. She also had previous relationships with Nadia (who now has a new boyfriend, Diego) and Anna. Eve makes an effort to be faithful to Niko, although she's always fantasizing about Villanelle, but the minute they break up, she sleeps with Hugo. Carolyn has been married three times but had relationships and flings with men all over the globe, including many in Russia alone, including Konstanin, who himself is married.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Certainly downplayed, and yet, there are shades of it. Characters who have shown at least some indications of bisexuality: Villanelle, Bill, Nadia, Anna, Eve, Elena. The show avoids applying any terms to sexuality — not just in the "never say bi" way, but any way. Even when Bill asks Eve if she's ever been interested in women and she denies it, the word "straight" is not used. The one exception — the Eve asks Bill if he's gay — he shrugs off that classification. ("Were you gay?" "Ehhh... I just fall in love with whoever I fall in love with.") This all comes together in a theme of fluidity in sexuality — not just calling bisexuality "fluidity" but actual fluidity. There can be patterns and exceptions. People can have awakenings later in life.
  • Evil Counterpart: While Konstantin couldn’t be exactly described as an upright man, he is quite benevolent towards Villanelle compared to her new handler who warned her with a chokehold that would have killed her while she’s still weakened from her injuries. This scene could be compared to Konstantin warning Villanelle in the first season when he wrapped his hand around her neck, but it wasn’t intended to hurt her and only to frighten her when she went behind his back to assasinate the French business magnate.
  • Evil Is Petty: Villanelle attempts to make a young girl smile back at her and was irritated when she didn’t. She observed that the young girl reciprocated a male attendant’s smile then proceeded to imitate this by following the facial details that make a genuine smile to the T. The young girl finally responded in kind and Villanelle rewards her... by tossing her ice cream over her lap.
  • Fake Assassination: Eve hires Villanelle to kill her as a gambit to get her attention so that they can work together.
  • The Fashionista: Villanelle is one. It is a way to express herself and a sign of her financial independence.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Sort of. The audience is introduced to Bill's lovely baby, and some of his personal backstory. Of course, he doesn't make it to the next episode.
  • Fatal Flaw: For all of her impressive intellect and unique talent in making connections that makes her a maverick, Eve is lacking in self-awareness that she’s unable to (or doesn’t want to) know what she wants or where her motivation to chase Villanelle is coming from. This leads her to compromise the safety of her friends, ruin her marriage, and lose her jobs.
  • Fire Alarm Distraction: In the Season 2 episode "The Hungry Caterpillar", as Eve is seducing her husband Niko in his classroom, he pulls her in for a kiss and she notices an apple on a desk. Thinking that Villanelle is nearby, Eve immediately walks down the hallway and triggers the fire alarm, making everyone evacuate the building.
  • Forced Euthanasia: Villanelle meets Gabriel, who gets maimed in the car accident that killed his parents. He hasn't yet seen his burns, but she sees them and concedes that they are bad. She then immediately gives him a Neck Snap without further discussion.
  • Foreshadowing: The promotional posters depicting Eve wearing a black dress and Villanelle wearing a white dress foreshadows not only Villanelle's redemption arc and Eve's corruption and descent onto evil and seeking revenge but also Villanelle being killed and Eve mourning her loss of Villanelle in the series finale.
  • Foil: Zigzagged as the season progresses.
    • Eve’s home is mostly functional, comfortable, and crammed with furniture and books showing that it’s a little stifling but reflects her cerebral nature. Villanelle’s apartment has lots of space and is mismatched with souvenirs that she gathered from her travels arranged haphazardly with antiques and modern equipment. The final episode shows Eve trashing Villanelle’s apartment making it haphazard for real.
    • Eve’s surroundings have a grey template and the places she frequents are functional such as work spaces and not much for hedonistic delights. Villanelle is travelling in many parts of Europe with sweeping locations, bright colour templates, and catering to epicurean and sensate pleasures showing Villanelle’s high need for stimulation. But then, Eve becomes just as addicted to the adrenaline rush towards the end of the season in her pursuit.
    • Eve is too tired to have sex with Niko and is relieved when he reassures her that he prefers to sleep. Then cut to Villanelle woken up by Konstantin while in bed with a beautiful girl and a beautiful boy during a languorous afternoon.
    • In the first episode of Season 2, the new assassin’s modus operandi is presented as distinctly different from Villanelle: where she is flamboyant and ostentatious, this person is discreet and meticulous.
  • Food Porn:
    • In the pilot alone, two fairly long scenes are devoted to Villanelle savouring mildly sophisticated food. Right before committing a crime. It ties in her status as a Hedonistic killer associating killing and indulgence.
    • Sharp eyed viewers might have noticed the many, many shots of sausages throughout the show.
  • Forced from Their Home: Villanelle's mother did this to her twice. First, she sent her away to live in Moscow because she feared Villanelle would hurt her or her siblings due to her psychopathic urges. (Or so she said, but she was a huge Unreliable Narrator.) Then, when Villanelle returned, she sent her away because of "her darkness". But Villanelle killed her and burned the house down instead.
  • Freudian Excuse: Invoked by Eve during the dinner when she learned about Villanelle’s family background and history of violence. Anna considered the possibility that Villanelle’s violent behaviour could be a result of poor upbringing and thus she gave Villanelle extra attention, more than any other student she’s ever had. This led to an illicit affair which ended with Anna’s husband being murdered by Villanelle.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!:
    • Villanelle has to do this to Eve in a darkly hilarious moment in "I Have a Thing About Bathrooms." Upon finding Villanelle in her apartment (to have dinner with her), Eve of course freaks out and starts screaming for help. When screaming "I'M NOT GOING TO HURT YOU!" and choking Eve doesn't work, Villanelle shoves Eve into the bathtub and turns on the cold water to shut her up. Amazingly, it works.
    • She also gives her a slap in the Season 2 finale after Eve kills Raymond.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In 2.05, Villanelle interrogates The Ghost offscreen. Whatever she does or says to her, it's enough to not only get all the information Eve wants, but also reduces the tough, silent professional killer to tears.
    The Ghost: Monster.
  • Groin Attack: Villanelle has a certain habit of this. First she cuts off Frank's penis before killing him, then it's revealed she did this to an old lover's husband as well.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Villanelle tries to invoke this in Season 4. She's baptized into a church and becomes a Christian formally (although she isn't clearly a believer) but it's a bumpy ride. After a young woman in the church hits on her, Villanelle nearly kills her by dunking her head in the baptismal font, but then resuscitates her.
  • Hidden Buxom: The first Villanelle killing Eve hears about was supposedly committed by a flat-chested woman, but we see that Villanelle had strapped down her breasts as part of a disguise.
  • Hidden Depths: The following, much to the surprise of other characters.
    • Bill: Queer, really gets around, kinky.
    • Carolyn: The consummate professional, excellent spymaster, gushes like a schoolgirl.
    • Konstantin: Handler of a sociopathic assassin and maybe more, but a true family man.
    • Eve: She fumbles in social situations, is oblivious to her own feelings but is keenly perceptive and adept at making connections, which others, even her own supervisor, weren’t able to notice, thus catching the attention of Carolyn Martens.
    • Villanelle: She’s extroverted, a charmer, but actually a lone wolf. It works to her advantage, given that she herself is aware that it’s difficult to work with people like her. When she’s working with others, if push comes to shove, she’s shown to be a natural leader and easily takes to calling the shots. After she's undercover as a woman with two philosophy degrees and gets grilled on the subject with questions she can't answer, on the next day Villanelle is shown reading from the same book the questioner had thrust on her (ordering a copy later), reading it for herself with what seems like genuine interest.
  • Hollywood Healing:
    • After being stabbed by Eve in the Season 1 finale, Villanelle spends half a day being stitched up in the hospital after spending days wandering around Paris. Her wound is clearly giving her serious trouble, plus she jumped on a guy's car to disguise her injuries. Apparently she can still get into a passerby's car and be driven across to England, in a trunk. Then, when she gets to England, she spends another few days wandering around until being taken in by Julian.
    • By this point, it's implied that her wound is infected, but Julian won't get any medicine for her. She spends days in his house getting sicker and sicker...but is still able to overpower and kill him when necessary. Then Raymond comes to pick her up, and he probably got her medical assistance in the time skip, but she manages to kill a guy by breaking his neck with his own tie merely a couple of days later.
    • Although a Non-Action Guy in Season 2, Konstanin appears to have suffered no ill effects of Villanelle shooting him, despite the fact that she aimed for his heart and that he reappears to Eve mere days after the shooting, according to the show's chronology.
  • Inappropriate Hunger: Eve was taken aback by the smell of the corpse in the morgue then was suddenly surprised that she wanted to eat a burger. Justified by the medical examiner when she said that the smell of formaldehyde makes people crave meat.
  • It's Personal: Villanelle's most notable crime was castrating a man before murdering him. Later, it's revealed she had been fixated on his wife, with whom she was having an affair.
  • Idiot Ball: Characters tend to catch it often.
    • Bill chases Villanelle into a nightclub, despite being in no way prepared to deal with her
    • No one decides to give Eve protection or put surveillance on her house, even after Villanelle knows where she lives and is clearly obsessed with her.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Villanelle kills easily; she never shows any remorse and most of the time she relishes in her job. She seems not to think of children as people as she threatens to kill Irina (Konstanin's 12-year-old daughter), but doesn't actually go through with it. Also, when she breaks into the house and kills a protestor, she learns that the woman has a baby after hearing the child crying. She walks into the nursery and runs into the baby's nanny, who's naturally horrified. Villanelle acts as though she's going to kill the infant, observing the woman's protective nature, surprised she'd be protective over a child that's not hers. She kills the nanny, but actually spares the baby girl and brings the child with her. Admittedly, this is a prank on Dasha, but she still plans to pose as its mother for fun. While Dasha (also a murderer) puts the baby in a dustbin when the child begins annoying her, the baby is immediately rescued by bystanders who instantly notice the crying child and call the authorities. (All the drama is seen in the background as Villanelle and Dasha simply have their conversation.)
  • Ironic Echo: One of the idioms Eve has picked up during her time in England is her catch-phrase of "piss off". When she visits Niko in hospital after he's nearly killed by Dasha, she promises to try and make things right and find who did it. His response? "Piss off."
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Subverted. Carolyn is trying to get information out of Frank, but he's not cooperating, and is instead whining and nearing a breakdown. Carolyn sighs, rolls up her sleeves, tells Eve, "I'm sorry you have to see this," and then... gives Frank a hug. It works, and he starts spilling his guts.
    • Possibly played straight in Season 2, with whatever Villanelle does to the Ghost to break her.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Villanelle tells Eve in the fifth episode that it’s possible they’re working for the same people if they follow the chain of command up high enough. Upon arriving in Russia and seeing Carolyn being quite chummy with Konstantin, it appears that maybe Villanelle wasn’t too far off.]]
    • Niko might be boring, but his "Reason You Suck" Speech to both Villanelle and Eve are accurate.
  • Love at First Sight: The director says that Eve and Villanelle meeting in the bathroom for the first time counts as this.
  • Matricide: Villanelle kills her mother due to the latter rejecting her when they reconnect.
  • Meaningful Echo: Both Villanelle and Eve wipe a drop of blood off themselves in the first episode, largely hinting that they are not so different.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Bill was Eve’s immediate supervisor but they had a reversal of positions when she took the job for Carolyn. Nevertheless, he educated her on her possible bisexuality, how kinks can be specific and about his openness to sexual exploration in spite of his advanced age which shows that any person including Eve, can have an awakening. He also was the person she respected to be her anchor. When he died, she went full throttle on her pursuit of Villanelle and her obsession. His death compelled Eve to double down on her actions, for better or worse.
  • Mercy Kill: At the hospital in Paris, Villanelle meets Gabriel, a tween who has lost his parents and had his face disfigured in a car accident. Because he is nice to her and is likely to have a difficult life after he recovers, Villanelle does what she thinks is a favor by snapping his neck. However, it's something of Protagonist-Centred Morality as there's no indication he would agree.
  • Mexican Standoff:
    • Between Nadia, Villanelle, and Diego in the climactic scene of the fourth episode.
    • Between Eve and Villanelle in the season finale.
  • Mood Whiplash: In spades. The series employs this as well as its characters. Villanelle uses this as a diversionary tactic when Eve starts to ask her why she castrates her victims, as well as about her past. Villanelle appears to cooperate... until she asks about Eve’s wardrobe and how it confounds her which made Eve smile for a bit and appeared to be on the verge of laughing, then Eve asked about Bill.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Villanelle killed her girlfriend's husband, because he was an obstacle to them. Naturally, her girlfriend was horrified.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Subverted. When MI5's quartermaster comes in to outfit Villanelle with some classic spy stuff, she asks for the watch with a laser.
    Q: Do you know how many times I've heard that one? Never. Our operatives are professionals.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Villanelle has tampons stored along with her guns and weapons showing that they’re just as essential to her life and job. This also serves as a ploy to get her assessor to stop asking questions about anxiety by mentioning her heavy period. She also gets another caterer to allow her access to the bathroom during a mission by saying that a guest asked to bring her a tampon.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Whatever Villanelle does to the Ghost.
  • No, You: Carolyn’s conversation with Eve concerning relationships is a variation of this. It results to a lot of unnerved chagrin on Eve’s part given how it’s possibly accurate, and since Bill has said something like this to her earlier.
    Eve: I’m sorry, I don’t like your boyfriends.
    Carolyn: I’m sorry you don’t like your husband.
    Eve: What?
    Carolyn: (Takes a pull of her drink) It’s alright. You can still love him. For me, it is always the ones I like the least that I love the most. Maybe it was the fact that I love them made me dislike them so much. Oh dear (finishes her drink), I’m bordering on the profound. Bed.
    Eve: Bed.
  • Obviously Evil: With a name like Villanelle... it obviously sounds like villain, except as a feminine name.
  • Oh, Crap!: Happens to quite a few characters.
    • Bill’s reaction when he realized that Villanelle was luring him to the club so she could kill him without anyone noticing.
    • Konstantin almost says this word for word when Villanelle asks him about “The Twelve”, the organisation he works for, of which she has no prior knowledge until that moment.
  • Once per Episode: Villanelle kills someone.
  • Parental Abandonment: Both of Villanelle's parents died in the past, leaving her to be put into an orphanage. It later turns out that her mother is alive. Villanelle kills her in the end.
  • Parental Substitute: Konstantin is one somewhat for Villanelle, who lost her parents as a child.
  • Plot Armor: Eve, Villanelle, Carolyn, Konstantin, and Niko all survive at least one, and in some cases as many as three, situations that might prove fatal in another show. In short, while Anyone Can Die among Killing Eve's supporting characters, the show is much more reluctant to off any of its leads. At least until the final episode.
  • Plot Parallel: A major topic of the show is admiration, obsession, and attraction between women, and how these feelings are quite similar and often intertwined. The A-plot for this is between Villanelle and Eve, but the way Elena views Carolyn mimics this.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Julian was so distraught over upsetting Villanelle that he appears to be remorseful and miserable over what Villanelle must be thinking about him. She answers by saying “I think you will bleed to death”, reverting to her Russian accent before kicking him in the head.
  • Precision F-Strike: Villanelle in great distress and agitation which is uncharacteristic for her, had to call MI-6 and ask for Eve Polastri to try to escape Julian’s house. The automated operator didn't understand her well and repeatedly asked for the person’s name, causing her to break down in frustration and scream:
    Villanelle: Eve Polastri, you piece of SHIT!!
  • Professional Killer: Villanelle's profession.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Villanelle, who is romantically attracted to women and is a trained, ruthless assassin.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Villanelle delivers a chilly one to Bill, right before she turns the chase on him and kills him.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Made use of by an interpreter struggling to understand Katya's Polish: she is not only drunk but much younger than the interpreter and using slang — Eve calls on her husband and their young friend Dom (both Polish) to decode it.
  • Retcon:
    • What Nadia wrote on the note. As she did it as a desperate ploy before Villanelle killed her, and she and Villanelle share a Dark and Troubled Past, it seems unlikely that it was always all about the Peeles, a family that have never appeared or been mentioned in Season 1.
    • In Season 3, there's also no mention of Villanelle killing Anna's husband (a major element of her backstory in Season 1), with her mother only mentioning that she burned down an orphanage, something which wasn't mentioned in Season 1 nor that she was abandoned by her mother, as Eve only reads about Villanelle's father.
    • Carolyn and Kenny's relationship is stated to be strained and potentially abusive, as Carolyn is able to manipulate Kenny into doing her dirty work, keeps him under her thumb and working for her despite him being a tech genius, and she admits that she lacks maternal instinct. Their relationship is portrayed as totally different in Season 3, where Carolyn says that she and Kenny understood each other, were very similar, and she loved him more than Geraldine.
  • Running Gag: In the fourth episode, Diego keeps asking everyone if anyone needs to pee before they continue with the job. Villanelle taunts him by refusing to comply and says that she can she hold it in. According to the actor, Diego is described in the script as a “theatrical douche with a weak bladder.”
  • Scenery Porn: The viewers are treated to beautiful locations such as sun-kissed Tuscany, sweeping shots of Berlin, Konstantin’s home by the lake, and trees lining up the road as Villanelle drags Irina from their home, showing Villanelle’s glamorous lifestyle as a jet-setting assassin with an all-expense paid privilege. In contrast, the sullen and dour atmosphere outside of Moscow when Villanelle returns to her native country mirrors her unravelling, loss of control, and incomplete knowledge of what is actually happening around her and the true motives of the organisation she’s working for.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Villanelle of course. She fell into the Hedonistic killer category. She seems to thoroughly enjoy the thrill of killing and uses the money to treat herself to nice gifts.
    • Raymond and the Ghost are assassin variants.
    • Aaron is a sadistic version who slashes the throats of pretty young women on his cameras.
  • Sex Is Violence: The romantic/sexual tension between Eve and her stalker Villanelle is juxtaposed with Eve and Villanelle attempting to physically harm each other, fight back against one another, Eve luring her stalker close in an attempt to kill her and Villanelle murdering someone if not seducing them beforehand.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Villanelle and Eve are this to each other. Villanelle might be enjoying her life as a sensation-seeking assassin all too much but she’s drawn to Eve’s life of stability and a legitimate job with friends and co-workers who like her. Eve has a good job, a good husband, has good friends in Bill and Elena, and has enough time to do her hobbies, but she’s drawn to female assassins and dreams of a life — like Villanelle's — where she gets to live out her desires and impulses without any compunction or self-consciousness.
    • The Ghost is this to Eve. Both are older Asian women who are generally viewed as being Beneath Suspicion despite being highly intelligent and competent, and both use their skills for violence, about which they don't take particular pleasure.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Director Jon East cited Ingmar Bergman's Persona as an influence in the fifth episode.
    • There are several camera shots used by Jon East as a homage to films by Stanley Kubrick, namely the chapel scene in episode four which is reminiscent of the camera position in the bunk scene in Full Metal Jacket, and the use of the 1-point perspective in the stand-off between Eve and Villanelle where she points the knife on her chest as a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • The Mexican stand-off between Villanelle, Nadia, and Diego is a homage to the finale in Reservoir Dogs.
    • One of Villanelle's wigs is named Lulu, after the character developer Phoebe Waller-Bridge played in Crashing.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: In Season 3, Eve and Villanelle have a physical fight on a bus before culminating in a kiss and then back to fighting.
  • Slasher Smile: Villanelle gives one to Bill when he and Eve follow her into a nightclub, and it is terrifying. It also reminds Bill that he's chasing down a highly-trained, utterly-psychopathic professional killer...
  • The Sociopath: Villanelle displays most of the symptoms, however she still seems to have genuine feelings for Eve, Konstantin and of course Anna. Whether these feelings are genuine love or simply obsession is not immediately clear, but Konstantin claims that Villanelle "loves you to death" and will destroy Eve in the end, just as she did him, Nadia, and Anna.
  • Spotting the Thread: Villanelle correctly deduced that Frank’s mother — who is actually a Russian Intelligence Agent, and not related to Frank at all — is lying when she said that he’s not at home by noticing that his car is still in the garage.
  • Spy Fiction: The story focuses on assassins, spies, and government agents. Plus it has quite a few Slavs, as is classic.
  • Spy Speak: In the fourth episode, the conversation between Villanelle and Diego is assassin-specific and a signal that they will be working together. Villanelle proceeds to do this but then she couldn’t resist taunting Diego about his hood.
    Villanelle steps out of the train platform then approaches someone with a birdwatcher’s sign.
    Diego: Welcome to England.
    Villanelle: (Reads the sign) I’m so excited to see the Siberian Chiffchaff.
    Diego: Unlikely, they haven’t been seen since two thousand and nine.
    Villanelle: Hmmm.... (points to his hood and traces it with her finger) Do I get one of these...things?
    Diego: (Annoyed, zips down his jacket and pulls off his hood)
  • Stalker with a Crush: Villanelle develops as one for Eve, going as far as stealing her clothes, spying on her and asking a sexual partner with similar thick wavy hair if she can call her "Eve."
  • Stepford Smiler: Discussed by Irina, her kidnap victim, by observing that Villanelle is distraught about her former lover’s suicide, further saying that she’s a good person underneath because she tries to hide her tortured soul with a smile, and that sad people have more capacity for empathy since they feel things more. Of course, Villanelle was flippant and dismisses her as one of those “profound kids.” The show and the character herself are aware that people are expecting her to be this while she has repeatedly shown to feel joy and awe in witnessing carnage and murder.
  • Stepford Snarker: Villanelle flips between this and Stepford Smiler as discussed above, and Niko also has his moments when he and Eve's marriage is falling apart.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Much to Villanelle’s dismay, the lyrics to Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart” playing on the radio as Konstantin drives them away from London actually applies to her jealousy over Eve investigating the new assassin. She demands he turn it off, but he refuses.
    • In Season 3, a cover of Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do".
  • Switch to English: Villanelle speaks English most of the time, even in a Russian prison (never really satisfactorily explained) or to the French (after a few niceties she prefers to switch to English, even though allegedly French was her favorite subject at school).
  • Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Villanelle and Eve on a bus in Season 3.
  • Take That!: On a meta-level, Villanelle mouthing off to the Instagram influencer who asked for her photo reflects what the writers think of this job and those preoccupied with them.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Villanelle fell in love with her teacher Anna as a teenager, and they had an affair. She ended up castrating and killing Anna's husband to "free" Anna to be with her.
  • Technician vs. Performer: The Ghost and Villanelle respectively. The former was a fired medical professional who’s very analytical and meticulous in her kills, the latter is a theatrical attention seeker who approaches murder like an artist would and treats them like works of art.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Villanelle has an offscreen threesome with two random women whom she ran into (possibly a same-sex couple), and treats it with her usual casual manner after they leave when Eve's there in Season 2. Also, in Season 1 she had a threesome with a couple when it was established that Villanelle Really Gets Around.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Villanelle and Eve. It gets resolved at the end of Season 4.
  • Villain Protagonist: Villanelle, the other co-protagonist.
  • Wicked Cultured: Villanelle in spades — stylish clothes, fancy (if messy) Parisian apartment, appetite for designer products and nice food, taste for classical music, polyglot and European.
  • Within Arm's Reach:
    • Parodied in Season 1. While Villanelle is attacking Eve, she panics and grabs a toilet brush. This actually does stop Villanelle, but just so she can laugh about how ridiculous it is.
    • Played straight in Season 2. Villanelle is in a knock-down, drag-out fight with Julian while she has a serious infection. He's strangling her...when she realizes that there's a vase within arm's reach that she uses to hit him and regain the upper hand.
  • Won't Do Your Dirty Work: Villanelle is used to doing the dirty work for the Twelve, to the point where she's prepared to kill her mentor, Konstanin, who is one of the few people who care for her, just because they tell her to, and to kill a (to her) random woman who was nice to her because Konstanin asked her to and because she wanted him to help her find her family. However, later in Season 3, she finally starts to break away from this attitude, refusing to help Konstanin or kill Carolyn when it looks like Carolyn is about to kill Konstanin.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Both Eve and Villanelle resort to this in the first episode of the second season. Eve says tells train security that she had a bad oyster, which was why she had to leave her things momentarily, and she is allowed to board the train. Villanelle gets to leave the hospital by telling the orderly she got her results and needed a moment alone, which gives her the opportunity to escape from the hospital.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Villanelle especially tends to suffer with this.
    • Villanelle's obsession tends to cause her to underrate how personally Eve takes Bill's death, and assumes that Eve will respond better than she does to being corrupted, taking Eve's From Nobody to Nightmare arc much faster than Eve can handle it.
    • However, especially towards Anna. Villanelle seemed to genuinely have no idea for years that Anna at least kind of hated her for killing her husband and fully assumed that love was a good enough excuse.
    • Anna herself seemed to think that her and Villanelle's relationship was a sort of Rescue Romance... having very little idea that Villanelle was a sociopath.