Killing Eve recap: Maybe it's mommy's fault
Before we begin this recap, here is the bad news: by the end of this episode, you will not have found out what happened to Niko Polastri after Dascha stabbed him in the neck with a pitchfork (which, let's be honest, is probably death. But still! The suspense!)
The good news is, Villanelle finally has her family reunion, and as weird as we all expected this moment to be? It's so much weirder. Weirder by an order of magnitude. Weirder in ways that even we, the imaginatively peculiar denizens of the Killing Eve fandom, could not have possibly predicted.
And it all starts where we ended last week, and where Villanelle was born. The name of the town doesn't matter (it's Gryzmet, if you care); all you need to know is what the overlay text tells you. This is MOTHER RUSSIA.
Mother being the optimal word, but we'll get to that.
Villanelle hikes down a dirt road, nearly getting clobbered by a logging truck, then wanders through an unkempt yard and into a shabby little house. There are old pictures on the wall of a young, long-haired woman with a familiar, wide-eyed look. There's also a whole family at home: Bor'ka, age 12-ish, who immediately begins peppering the English-speaking Villanelle with questions about his hero, Elton John; the little boy's half-brother, Fyodor, and his suspicious girlfriend, Yula; the family patriarch, Grigoriy, who is surprisingly relaxed about the unexplained arrival of a stranger in his home even as he politely informs her that they'll have to call the police. But then, finally, comes the man Villanelle has been looking for: Pyotr, her real, actual brother. (And side note, a standing ovation for the casting directors who found a male Jodie Comer lookalike to play this role. I had to google to make sure it wasn't her IRL twin. Also, a side note to the side note: Jodie Comer does have a brother who looks just like her! But he's an analyst, not an actor.)
Pyotr recognizes his sister instantly. He's thrilled! They told him she was dead! (Fyodor and Yula remain suspicious, for the same reason.) There's only one person missing from this family tableau, and Villanelle panics when she realizes: her mother is about to arrive.
At first, it all feels so genuine. Villanelle's mom, Tatiana, starts sobbing, hugging her, calling her "my baby girl." She, too, was told that Villanelle died! At the orphanage where her mother left her (awkward), intending (she says) to come back, only to learn that Villanelle started a fire (even more awkward!) and perished in the blaze. But that's all water under the bridge, right? It's a reunion! Baby pictures are trotted out! Dinner is eaten! A murder mystery card game is played! And the killer? Surprise, it's Tatiana. Hmmmm. But before we have time to wonder whether Villanelle is a rotten apple that fell much too close to the tree, her mother raises a glass to toast Villanelle's homecoming — and then Bor'ka swoops in, wearing a boa and giant Elton John glasses, to lead a family singalong of "Crocodile Rock." Villanelle is reluctant, but finally stands up just in time to join the chorus: LAAAAAAAAAAA! This moment is cut perfectly: was she singing, or screaming? We'll never know.
To paraphrase Tolstoy: if happy families are all alike, this unhappy family is different not just in its own way, but in all kinds of ways. The next morning, Villanelle finds Pyotr in the barn, pounding an old sofa into a pulp with a baseball bat.
“I beat the crap out of sofa so I don’t beat the crap out of people,” Pyotr says, and Villanelle shrugs.
“Just beat the crap out of people. It’ll make you feel much better.”
Pyotr has his rage issues. Fyodor is a flat earther. Yula believes in lizard people. Grigoriy has been married three times — but he's found happiness with Tatiana, he says, and as though she's been lurking somewhere off-camera just waiting for this moment, she shows up to offer him a refreshing cup of tea. Villanelle tells Grigoriy that her mom used to be different. Tea or not, she's still the woman who dumped her only daughter at an orphanage. And why is little Bor'ka banging his head against the wall?
The Norman Rockwell vibe (if Norman Rockwell were Russian, and accordingly ironic/dysfunctional) persists as the family, especially Pyotr, embraces Villanelle, and she explores the idea that this could have been — could still be — her home. She doesn't seem to realize that she's a tourist, an interloper: at the yearly harvest festival, she takes home first place in the dung-throwing competition, where the prize is a cheap pedestal fan that she'd never allow through the door of her flat back in Barcelona. She's not just a big fish in a small pond; she's a shark in a kiddie pool. It's a bad situation for all involved... including the shark.
Later, at home, Tatiana comes downstairs to find Villanelle chopping tomatoes. Her daughter turns around: she's painted her face to look like she's weeping blood, but Tatiana doesn't react.
“This always used to make you laugh,” Villanelle says, but mom shakes her head: no. Nobody ever laughed — and Villanelle needs to leave.
“You’re not a part of this family,” Tatiana says.
Isn't she, though? This is the question that drives the episode, and still, there's no obvious answer. Is Villanelle the way she is because she was born bad? Or did Tatiana create a monster in her own image, a monster just like her, then dump it at someone else's doorstep so that she could move on and try again?
Villanelle wants it to be the latter, but not because she's looking for an out. She's fine with being a psychopath. She's fine with being a killer. She just doesn't want to be alone. But just like in Rome, with Eve, she's rebuffed. No, Tatiana says. They are not alike. And now we'll never know if she was telling the truth — if there really was something wrong with Villanelle from the start, and that it was her father who wanted her gone because he feared she'd hurt them, hurt her mother — or if this was just the sort of thing a psychopath would say. Because Villanelle, for all her complexity, has only one tool in the box when it comes to dealing with rejection.
In the wee hours of the morning, Bor'ka wakes to the screeching of an alarm clock. A note by his bed tells him to go to the barn for a surprise. The surprise is an envelope full of money, and a note: GO SEE ELTON.
The other surprise is that the house explodes with everyone but Bor'ka and Pyotr still inside.
Villanelle lets out a primal scream as she walks away from the burning building, where her mother lies dead. And the last time we see her, she's on a train, going back to where she came from, zipped into the denim bedazzled jumpsuit that is all she has left of Tatiana, of MOTHER RUSSIA, of home. She's wearing her headphones and bopping her head, but unlike previous scenes, this moment has no soundtrack. Maybe Villanelle is dancing to music that only she can hear — or maybe there's nothing coming through her headphones at all, and the only beat is the lonely, furious pounding of her own heart.