Warning: This post contains some spoilers.
The switchy dance of dominance/submission and voyeurism/exhibitionism that’s established in season 1 of Killing Eve is amplified in season 2. Villanelle is alive, and rather than being furious at Eve for nearly killing her, she seems to view the stabbing as something that irreparably binds them together—the ultimate act of intimacy. But Villanelle isn’t the only female assassin in town now. Another woman, dubbed the Ghost, is also killing high-profile targets and has eclipsed Villanelle while she’s been recovering from her wound.
Villanelle has never lost sight of Eve, though, and sends a pointed message in episode 3. She shows up at the school where Eve’s husband teaches and slips a lipstick into Eve’s bag during an event. Eve discovers this calling card later and connects the name of the color—Love in an Elevator—to a recent assassination in which a man was killed in an elevator. Similar to the clothing scene in season 1, Eve stands in front of a mirror and applies the lipstick. Except this time, the gift is booby trapped with a weapon—a small blade that cuts Eve’s lip—a reminder that danger and eroticism are inextricably linked for these two characters.
Now that Villanelle once again has Eve’s attention, she proceeds to commit flashier murders in a brazen show of exhibitionism that reaches its peak in episode 4 when she leads a target into a brothel in Amsterdam and proceeds to hang him upside down from the ceiling and gut him in front of a crowd of onlookers while wearing a pig mask to hide her face. Much to Vilanelle’s chagrin, however, her bizarre act of love goes unnoticed by Eve, who is closing in on the identity of Villanelle’s rival, the Ghost. The episode ends with Villanelle crying in front of a bathroom mirror in a club where she’s on a self-destructive bender and Eve staring into the two-way mirror of an interrogation room where the Ghost is being held. She pulls her hair away from her face, this time ignoring Villanelle’s instruction from season 1 to leave it down. In this scene, the mirrors reflect each woman as she sees herself, not as the other sees her.
The voyeurism/exhibitionism dynamic becomes expressly erotic in episode 5, when, upon learning that Eve is her next target, Villanelle sends her a funeral wreath spelling “Eve.” After seeing the flowers on her doorstep, Eve is instantly turned on and solitics sex from her husband, with whom she’s had a strained relationship for quite some time. The idea of Villanelle tracking her movements is all the aphrodisiac she needs, even though the plan is one that Eve put in motion herself. The idea is to lure Villanelle out of hiding and convince her to interrogate the Ghost, who has been a cypher while in MI6 custody. Although the plan makes some semblance of sense on a spying level, it seems evident to everyone that it’s borne out of Eve’s growing obsession with Villanelle more than anything else.
As in season 1, Eve’s desire to be with Villanelle and to be her are often merged in dangerous ways. Later in episode 5, Eve stands on a subway platform and nearly places her hand on a stranger’s back as if to push him in front of an oncoming train. She doesn’t do it, of course, but the impulse indicates that she’s becoming a bit unhinged. Instead, Eve confines her flirtation with danger to Villanelle herself, at least for now. When the two finally reunite to team up against the Ghost, Villanelle pokes a knife against Eve’s ribs and asks, “Will you give me everything I want?” Naturally, Eve says yes.
In the next episode, the sexual tension between Eve and Villanelle spreads to a bystander—Eve’s husband. He’s finally gotten wise to the source of the distress in his marriage and takes it out on Eve in a rare display of dominance. He orders her upstairs on her hands and knees for what we assume is kinkier sex than usual. The next morning, Eve makes it clear that this is exactly what she’s been looking for, but her husband is horrified by what they’ve done and decides to leave her once and for all.
The voyeurism angle of the show reaches its zenith in the penultimate episode of the season when Villanelle agrees to travel to Rome in the service of MI6 to help them find out what kind of weapon a creepy billionaire named Aaron Peel is trying to sell. Villanelle has managed to gain Aaron’s trust, and he invites her to stay at his lavish villa, where he follows her every move with hidden cameras. At the same time, Eve and her coworker Hugo are installed in a nearby hotel, listening in on Villanelle via earpieces. Villanelle takes advantage of this and that night talks to Eve, telling her to “let yourself go once in a while. I can help you.” Eve obeys, climbing into bed with the nearest proxy, Hugo, who is all too eager to sleep with her. She keeps her earpiece in while they have sex, though we aren’t privy to the things Villanelle says.
In the bloody season finale, Villanelle slits Aaron’s throat (in front of a full-length mirror, no less) as Eve watches, panic-stricken. The two women flee the scene but reunite at Eve’s hotel, where Villanelle’s diabolical handler Raymond, is waiting for them. He and Villanelle throw down and he begins to strangle her. Eve seizes this opportunity to grab an ax and sneaks up behind Raymond, but she hesitates to use it until Villanelle commands her to “do it!” And she does, chopping at him repeatedly until he’s dead. Now, at last, she knows what it’s like to kill, but she doesn’t feel what Villanelle feels, because as much as Villanelle wants them to be alike and as much as Eve flirts with the idea, they’re not the same at all.
The two of them escape the scene of the crime through underground tunnels, emerging in a deserted ancient ruin, where Villanelle tries to convince Eve to run away with her to Alaska. Eve snaps out of her state of shock when she sees that Villanelle has a gun and realizes she could have shot Raymond but didn’t. Instead, she forced Eve to kill him for her. To Villanelle, the murder is perhaps the ultimate expression of love, but Eve is horrified, and her obsession finally crumbles. She turns away, prompting Villanelle to shoot her in the back, mirroring the end of season 1. But this time, Villanelle has the upper hand and seemingly knows how to use it as she walks away and leaves Eve for dead.