Sunday, April 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Killing Eve' - Eve and Bill Grow Closer in Berlin as Villanelle Stalks Them in 'Don't I Know You?'

BBC America's Killing Eve - Episode 1.03 "Don't I Know You?"

When Villanelle kills a Chinese Colonel at a kink clinic in Berlin, Eve and Bill travel out to investigate. While Eve and Bill chase up a number of promising leads, Villanelle enjoys the cat and mouse of their proximity. But as they draw closer, Eve comes to realize that this is much more than a game.

The stakes just got incredibly personal for Eve in her hunt for Villanelle. Of course, the search for this deadly killer has always been personal for Eve. Villanelle killed people right underneath Eve's nose without her noticing until it was too late. The pursuit of Villanelle is the only job Eve still has. She is leading this task force to take her down and uncover the mysterious organization she works for. It was a job she took with such conviction because she finally got to be a spy. And yet, she always had reservations about how serious and dangerous this job actually was. She believed she would just be working out of this off-site office collecting information that would lead to Villanelle's capture. Instead, Villanelle is playing the game in a different way. She's choosing to continue to act and lure these investigators into a trap. It becomes personal at the top of "Don't I Know You?" with Villanelle assuming the alias of Eve Polastri during her latest job. It makes it so easy for Eve's unit to see this as another one of her kills. There's nothing that inherently brings them to Berlin to investigate this case. The Chinese government was more than willing to cover up the death of one of their officials simply because of where he was when he died. It's unflattering and they don't want to create a scandal. If Villanelle didn't taunt Eve in this way, she never would have gone to Berlin. Konstantin believes that they must be operating with serious manpower if they were able to connect this crime to Villanelle. Instead, it just points out a widening gap between Villanelle and Konstantin. She stays in Berlin for much longer than she should and still gets rewarded for it. She was already spying on Eve long before Konstantin tasked her with that specific mission. It's clear that the series is a seduction between these two women as they both admire and are horrified by the other. And now, the show continues to amp up the personal stakes with the final twist that is bound to have major repercussions for Eve.

Of course, it also seems like a case of a show giving a character a backstory right before they are killed off. That's a huge convention that has been done on thousands of shows. It's a nice way to manipulate the audience into feeling something for the character who is dying before the episode is over. Otherwise, there would be reason to get excited or tense over that shocking act. The show needed to flesh out the relationship between Eve and Bill. Now, their bond has been on proud display since the very beginning of the season. Bill was Eve's supportive colleague who had her back no matter what. He got fired right alongside her because Villanelle was able to slip through the protective detail and kill the witness they were guarding. She did so before Eve could question her any further. When Carolyn gave this new job to Eve, Bill and Elena were always the top two contenders for the people she would bring along on this new adventure. She trusts both of them completely. There is already a rapport between them. Carolyn and Kenny are the newcomers to this unit. Kenny is already proving his worth by being the technological support who is able to eerily deliver whatever Eve demands of him. He's a resource she has already figured out how to utilize in this job. Carolyn is still aloof. She sits in a position of power that makes Eve feel like she needs to do and say the right thing to impress her all the time. Eve is constantly worried that she's about to get fired again. But it's important to see Carolyn as a key ally who knows that the creation of this unit has been leaked and their targets are aware that they are chasing them. As such, it makes sense for Eve to go to Berlin. She brings Bill along because he has contacts there who could prove to be very beneficial.

And yet, this is an hour that does help flesh out Eve and Bill's dynamic even more. It's great to see them as partners investigating murders in the hopes of catching a serial killer. But it's much more fascinating seeing them being able to call each other out and speak openly and honestly with each other. Bill wonders if Eve is already being seduced by Villanelle. She speaks with a sketch artist at the top of the hour. She is able to give all of the details about her face while also speaking quite eloquently about the personality that resides within the bone structure. Those aren't details that help make it easier to draw the person. But it does highlight just how much Eve has thought about this since realizing that the woman who killed her witness was the nurse in the hospital bathroom with her. Bill is there to hear every single detail that she rattles off. He is also there during their time in Berlin investigating this latest murder. It's then that Eve learns about this whole prior life that Bill had. He lived in Berlin for eight years and was completely willing to live life to the fullest. He didn't let anything guide him or limit him. He was willing to experience whatever the world had to offer which also included sex with both men and women. It's so exciting in the moment when he talks about being so free in that regard while still having the passion and excitement of having a family back at home waiting for him. He is also given a baby that he carries to work as well. It's such a happy and nice life that he is living. That's what makes it so tragic when Villanelle kills him in the end. Yes, it's annoying because it's yet another non-straight character killed off and unable to enjoy a happy and full life. But it also has such personal stakes in a show that is ultimately built around the act of killing and it personally affecting the two leads.

It's so suspicious that no one happens to notice Villanelle as she's stalking the crime scene of her latest murder. She's sitting there just waiting for Eve to show up. She laid her trap. She is ready to let the seduction begin. She is approaching this much more differently than the jobs she is regularly asked to do across Europe. With those assignments, it's her actual job with a time constraint involved. Her employers are asking her to take out these individuals as soon as possible. She was only suppose to be in Berlin for a day. That was enough for her to know exactly how to kill this man from the Chinese government. With Eve though, things are different because she's not being asked to eliminate her. She is just told to be more careful as she carries out these hits. She needs to operate with more discretion because there is a task force now that is designed to catch her. The organization she works for doesn't want that to happen. And yet, she is still drawn to Eve. She could just sit from afar taking in the world as Eve sees it. She could just be spying on her. Instead, she chooses to make her presence known again and again. Konstantin does believe it's smart to monitor Eve and worry about how quickly she is progressing this investigation. But Villanelle takes it upon herself to steal Eve's luggage right next to her and gift it to the new woman she seduces who happens to have many of the same styling characteristics as Eve. It's so ominous and eery that Villanelle is seducing this woman while pretending that she's Eve. It proves just how twisted and complicated this whole story is. Villanelle knows she should fear the woman hunting her. But that only makes her more and more drawn to her.

Of course, Villanelle is caught in the act of surveilling Eve. Bill notices her on a couple of occasions. It's just in brief moments of passing. It almost seems like Villanelle is tempting fate asking for Bill or Eve to recognize her and pursue her. They don't bite for the longest time. But then, Bill decides to take action at the train station. He interrupts Villanelle before she is able to get on the train and follow Eve to her meeting with a Chinese government contact who has information pertaining to her case. Bill then decides to follow Eve throughout the city. He is following her until she ducks into a club. She is able to get in right away while he is kicked to the back of the line. It seems likely that she will make her escape while in the crowd. Too much time would pass by before Bill got in there. She could have disappeared in any number of ways. But she stays behind to get caught because she loves the temptation and the challenge of continuing to kill while pushing these investigators closer to her. Even Eve makes it the club before the climatic confrontation takes place. Bill is in pursuit of his target believing he has the upper hand. And then, everything shifts in an instant. Villanelle turns around and smiles at him. It's such a mesmerizing, terrifying and sinister moment. It's some phenomenal acting from Jodie Comer. It's in that moment where it becomes clear that now Bill is the target. He will become the latest victim of Villanelle's. It's still absolutely devastating when that actually happens. She stabs him repeatedly in the chest. Eve can't get to him in time. In the end, she's just left screaming. Her screams fade into the noise of this club while Villanelle disappears into the crowd. She has forever changed Eve's life while ensuring that she'll only become more passionate in finding the killer of her friend. It's beautiful and such unexpected storytelling from only the third episode of the series.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Don't I Know You?" was written by Vicky Jones and directed by Jon East.
  • Eve and Niko's marriage is such a fascinating relationship. The show is spending a lot of time with them as a couple. They joke a lot about Eve potentially leaving Niko. That seems to pop up whenever she does something that could be perceived as that. It continues to play as humor. But the more and more it happens, the less funny it becomes and the more it seems like there are real problems in this relationship.
  • Of course, Eve's marriage problems are already clear to see. She can't keep secrets from him. She needs to tell him right away that she is working this new job where she is in charge. At the time, she is honest in saying that it's just collecting information. Then, things change in an instant with her trip to Berlin. And now, it should be interesting to see how much she says about the dangers clearly involved with this case.
  • It's also clear that Eve's pursuit of Villanelle is the only thing that really gets her excited now. She is thinking about it all of the time while always being on the lookout for new murders that could be committed by her. As such, she completely forgets about social gatherings with her friends and husband. She interrupts them with a video chat only to realize that she's missing out on what should be exciting her right now.
  • At times, it seems like this official from the Chinese government Eve and Bill are speaking with is just flirting with Eve and trying to force something to happen. It's a potentially awkward and troubling dynamic. He asks her to dress up for a fancy dinner together. He keeps marveling at her beauty and has a gift for her wrapped in a tiny box. But it's then revealed that the gift is the information. It's a flash drive of everything that he can give her to investigate because his government cannot.
  • Villanelle's Eve stand-in is still alive by the end of the episode. That's surprising. It's clear she is building this relationship up as something more than what it is. She's lying to Konstantin. To him, it's just another sexual dynamic that is bound to blow over in a couple of days. It still might be that ultimately. But Villanelle choosing to give this woman Eve's clothes that she stole is very telling as well.