When it comes to pacing out a plot in eight weekly installments, the anticipation-payoff relationship is a tricky balance to strike. Wait too long and it’ll feel anti-climactic, but you also don’t want it to happen too fast, too soon. Hence, we’ve passed the halfway mark on Killing Eve‘s second season without seeing Eve and Villanelle together again, face to face — but all that tension is about to come to a head, and then some.
Which brings us to “Smell Ya Later,” and the one problem with payoffs: this episode feels stitched-together, more like a series of moments than a self-contained narrative (hence the B+ grade.) It starts with a fresh kill: Villanelle is standing on a balcony at one of those brutalist estates for the English working class, drinking a milkshake which brings… well, one boy to the yard, anyway. A young stud in a tracksuit wanders into the frame, headed for his car, and finds it suddenly splattered by a strawberry shake hurled from above. There’s nowhere to go next but the car wash — where Villanelle promptly murders him. (Hashtag #freelancelife, #girlboss, #drrrty; what a shame that our girl doesn’t do Instagram.)
Villanelle claims she’s enjoying the gig economy, but really, she seems bored. And so does Eve, who isn’t getting anywhere with the lady assassin known as The Ghost. The only time her facade cracks even a little is when Eve drops Villanelle’s name, and the Ghost blinks. Yes, she says, she knows Villanelle; they call her “the demon with no face.”
It’s the opening Eve has been waiting for: “If anyone can crack the Ghost, it’s the Demon With No Face!” But to everyone else, her obsession is unnerving — as is Carolyn agreeing to Eve’s plan to lure Villanelle in by ordering a hit on herself. Jess points out how weird it is that Eve has never been asked to document her work; someone is trying to make sure there’s no record of her involvement with MI6.
Meanwhile, Villanelle receives the order to kill Eve and flips out — “I’m not doing it! Who ordered this?!” — but eventually acquiesces because… well, maybe she doesn’t really need a reason? As we’ve just learned from a Powerpoint presentation by an MI6 expert named Martin, psychopaths can be manipulated but never controlled. “You can’t change them, but you CAN manage them. Money, praise, and attention will help for a while. But honestly, there’s no containing anyone like this for any length of time.” (Sidenote: What does it mean that Eve was the only one in the room who didn’t flinch away from the slide showing a corpse? Is she a bit of a psycho herself?)
And yet, despite Martin’s comments comparing her to a wasp or a stapler, Villanelle does have feelings (weird ones), and she experiences grief in her own (weird) way. She orders champagne from room service, but what she really wants is company, and comfort, in the form of a little hair-stroking from an obliging bellhop (who looks like he can’t decide whether to be turned on, or terrified, or a bit of both.)
“Are you lonely?” she asks.
“Sometimes,” he says. “But it’s hard finding the right person.”
Villanelle whispers, “Yeah. It is.”
Cut to London, and the Polastri residence, where Eve and Niko are having a pleasant evening in. There’s a knock on the door; when Eve opens it, she finds a big, fancy, floral delivery box. Inside is an arrangement of roses, spelling her name. It looks like something you’d see at a funeral. Clearly, Villanelle has gotten the message — and Eve is delighted, but, also suddenly and wildly aroused? She comes back inside and immediately leads Niko upstairs for sex, and man are things gonna be extremely awkward if she yells out “Villanelle” at the moment of climax.
The next day, Niko goes to Oxford to chaperone a spelling bee, and Eve goes to the office to don a bulletproof vest and wait for her would-be murderer. Everyone is on edge, and eventually, Kenny asks the question that also doubles as the theme of this entire season so far: “What has happened to you, Eve? This is out of control!”
Eve responds by firing him, even though we all know that Kenny is not wrong; it is out of control, and something has happened to Eve. Waiting to board the train home, she steps up behind a fellow passenger, extending a palm toward his back. It would be so easy, to just… push. (It’s also a good moment to remember the way, last season, she described her obsession to Villanelle: “I think about your eyes and your mouth, and what you feel when you kill someone.”) But the plan is already in motion, and what happens next is inevitable: Eve’s doorbell rings, and in strides Villanelle like she’s dressed for the most glamorous boho funeral on earth, toting a bottle of champagne, and with a warning:
“Don’t do anything stupid. Okay?”
It’s impossible to do justice to what happens next with a play-by-play; it’s like a terrifying game of erotic chess where someone might get kissed, or killed, or possibly both at the same time, at any moment. (Ultimately, neither of these things happen to anyone, unless you count the part where Eve puts a hand against Villanelle’s cheek and this look passes between them and I, personally, became deceased.) But while the women don’t kiss, they do make up. After Villanelle embraces Eve and gently nestles a blade against her ribs and asks, “Will you give me everything I want?” (and your recapper died for a second time), and Eve says she will (BRB, DYING AGAIN), the two walk outside as colleagues, at least for now.
And true to Eve’s expectations, Villanelle gets the Ghost’s confession — in a shipping container, in the middle of the Forest of Dean, which should raise all kinds of red flags for Eve about just how on-the-record this operation is. Turns out, the Ghost was hired not by The Twelve, but by Alistair Peele’s son, who is selling some sort of weapon.
“It’s always a weapon,” Villanelle says. “The Twelve want to buy it. Everyone wants to buy it.”
This isn’t the answer Eve was expecting, but it’s the outcome she hoped for. So why isn’t she happier? Villanelle notices: “I got you what you wanted. A thank you would be nice.” But it’s apparently occurred to Eve, finally, that enlisting Villanelle to do… well, whatever Villanelle did, might have crossed a line. Eve enters the shipping container.
The Ghost looks up, and says one word: “Monster.”
And as Eve becomes a monster, the Demon With No Face takes a surprise, preppy turn: arriving at Oxford, Niko turns and finds Villanelle standing next to him. She taunts him; he threatens to kill her; she tells him about how Eve stabbed her, showing off her scar. (Also, least important but most spectacular, Villanelle’s sweater stays perfectly, preppily wrapped over her shoulders throughout the entire confrontation because it is sewn together at the sleeves.) And as Villanelle saunters off with a parting shot — “Smell ya later!” — it seems that Niko (and all his, ahem, parts) are probably out of danger… but for some peculiar reason, he doesn’t seem comforted at all.
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