With some hints of the quirky humour and transgressive plotting of series one starting to return to what has been a lacklustre second series, a lot hangs on this episode – Villanelle is back in the killing business, and Eve is hot on her trail. But there are stumbling blocks along the way, not least the elusive assassin The Ghost.
It’s getting harder and harder for Killing Eve to produce anything surprising – so when we discover that the quirky Carolyn has an equally quirky boss to report to, it hardly rocks our world. That it’s Helen, played by Zoe Wanamaker, wearing a cardigan, munching Pringles, and coming out with a lot of colourful sexual invective, hardly adds to the novelty value – okay, we get it, you want to find work for a lot of ageing actresses.
We see Carolyn leaving Vauxhall Cross (the MI6 headquarters on Albert Embankment, famously destroyed in Bond movie Skyfall) and heading back to her own scabby office, where Eve has been working all weekend on identifying The Ghost (Hugo asks whether she has Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box, a reference to David Fincher movie 7even).
Eve has figured out that all the suspicious deaths around the Peel dynasty require some medical knowledge; maybe The Ghost is a rogue doctor or nurse? A visit to arrogant Aaron Peel reveals nothing – but why are Eve and Jess so submissive when he dismisses their concerns? Nonetheless the hunch pans out – when another body is found, killed in an almost merciful manner, Hugo’s research leads to a suspect. Eve confronts her on a school playground and she surrenders – next week, then, we should get her backstory.
Villanelle, meanwhile, is kicking around Amsterdam, goading Konstantin, getting stoned, picking fights in bars and missing Eve. She only perks up when a hit-job offers the opportunity for some fun. She’s inspired by a particularly brutal painting in the Rijksmuseum, The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers, attributed to Jan de Baen, c. 1672-1675. This shows the mutilated corpses of two politicians who picked the wrong side in the accession of William of Orange; eviscerated, castrated and hanged upside-down, they hold a particularly gory place in Dutch history.
Villanelle, though, loves the example, and slaughters her next victim by displaying him inverted in a window in the red light district, and disembowelling him in front of his wife (who had presumably paid for the job).
What worried us about this routine is that it’s all too similar to psycho gore-fest Hannibal, which was one ritualistic, artistic slaughter after another – Villanelle isn’t particularly culturally attuned (apart from her liking for designer couture and massive ear-rings), so we don’t warn to this direction she’s going in. Maybe she just does it because it will attract Eve’s attention – certainly she’s disappointed when the pregnant Jess turn up to investigate instead.
As both Eve and Villanelle stare into a mirrors, perhaps neither liking what they see, we do get a spark of the deeply psychotic relish of Series One – maybe co-writer of this week’s episode DC Moore (Not Safe For Work) has brought a refreshing new voice. But we’re still wondering where all this is going – another encounter between Eve and Villanelle is inevitable but seems distant. After Eve’s flirty lunchbreak with slimy Hugo, we think a triangle involving drippy Niko and pining colleague Gemma may well develop – if Villanelle doesn’t chop a bloody swathe through London first.
PS – rather than Desperate Times, we’d have titled this episode after Villanelle’s complaint in the museum, that everything was just paintings of ‘Grapes or Naked Women’. Or her complaint to Konstantin about her targets – ‘Scorned Wives and Scumbags’. They can have those two for free.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW