Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Villanelle could have gone pro at this game if she wanted to, you know.
Villanelle could have gone pro at this game if she wanted to, you know.
Photo: Des Willie/BBC America
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How do you explain someone like Villanelle? What would make a person the way that she is? It’s the question that sits at the center of “Are You From Pinner?” as Villanelle goes home to visit the family she hasn’t seen since childhood.

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It’s also the first episode in which Eve is entirely absent. Instead, the show spends the whole episode in “Mother Russia,” for a sour, tense story that leaves open the question of why Villanelle is the way she is. Do we believe Villanelle that her mother is just like her, and that her meanness and nastiness is what made Villanelle the way she is? Or do we believe Tatiana, that Villanelle was a bad seed from the start, a strange, cruel child who wouldn’t cry as a baby? The episode resists giving us a definitive answer to the question, offering only limited glimpses that Tatiana is not the woman she’s pretending to be for her new family. Bor’ka’s self-harming certainly indicates that he’s a child in peril in some way, but is what ails him all the fault of his mother? The only real evidence we get is when he says she told him he embarrassed his family in the cooking competition, but the show plays coy in the moment itself. We see her sitting next to him, but what does she actually say to him? 

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It’s one of a few moments over the course of Villanelle’s visit home where there’s a suggestion of something lurking beneath the surface. There’s the usual tension that exists in scenes with Villanelle, since at any point she can get bored with an interaction and murder someone, and so the whole time we’re more or less waiting to see who’s going to provoke her. But the whole family behaves as though it’s 90% fine and 10% deeply screwed up, and so there’s an additional tension as we wait for the visit to go off the rails. Some of these moments are played for slapstick, like Fyodor and Yula being flat earthers who think lizard people are in charge of things while simultaneously doing a decent job of describing the Twelve’s influence on a multitude of governments. And some of them hint at a darkness that never quite surfaces, like when Villanelle tries to get Grigoriy to admit whatever it is her mother has said about her over the years.

Illustration for article titled iKilling Eve/i makes a visit to the motherland for Mothers Day, with violent results
Photo: Ludovic Robert/BBC America

And her brother Pyotr is just plain odd. His stepbrother accuses him of being too naïve for this world, and he certainly seems gentle…until we see him hammering away at a sofa with a baseball bat to deal with his rage issues. He’s also the only person who’s glad Villanelle is there, which makes him seem like he’s missing some crucial judgment skill. His family may not be the warmest people in the world, but they’re right to sense something off about Villanelle, and her abrupt return home after twenty years. There’s an instinct to want them to be nicer to her, but she is a murderer. Every moment she’s in their home is a moment they’re all in danger. They shouldn’t welcome her.

It’s an important fact about the show to keep in mind even as we watch Villanelle experience emotional trauma and want to feel sorry for her. She’s careful to kill only the “bad” members of the household—the two sweet, innocent brothers are safely out of the home before she blows it up. But Villanelle is not some avenging angel sent down to right wrongs. These people’s relative crimes do not actually make their deaths justified! Being kind of stupid and annoying is not a capital offense. And Villanelle is certainly not qualified to make that assessment.

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The combination of liking Villanelle and knowing she is fully the bad guy in any scene she’s in is something Killing Eve is perpetually dangling in front of its fans. It’s so sweet that she leaves money for Bor’ka to see Elton John! She also just murdered his parents. It’s the same painful information that lurks behind any tentative hope that she and Eve will in some way consummate their relationship, or be together in any real way. She’s a monster. And thankfully, the show doesn’t try to offer a complete answer to Villanelle during its visit to the homeland. For one thing, she’s a work of fiction, and so any attempt to say A + B = serial killer is going to be fraught. But it’s also a more interesting way of telling this story. Which ends, as it must, in fiery death. “I think I need to kill you,” Villanelle tells her mother. We’re left, as we always are, to wonder why she does.


Stray observations

  • The casting of Rob Feldman as Villanelle’s brother is great. He looks just like Jodie Comer. Also, how much work did it take to ensure this episode aired on Mother’s Day?
  • It’s a funny thing to realize that while we are reading subtitles and knowing Villanelle is following all the dialogue, Comer presumably doesn’t speak much Russian, although I’m sure they walked her through what would be happening in the scenes.
  • A variety of moments in this episode are quease-inducing, but the most uncomfortable by a long shot is Villanelle leaving her eyes wide open as her mother, who she has suggested is just as dangerous as she is, wipes food away from them.
  • It’s hard not to instinctually expect that something sleazy will happen in the scene where Villanelle approaches Grigoriy alone, but it never does, and her mother interrupts them quickly. Killing Eve may be changing showrunners every season, but they’ve stayed very consistent on the subject of Villanelle never using sex appeal to get her way.
  • I almost got into this above, but the episode does a good job of not condescending to the small town. It’s painfully easy to contrast Villanelle’s glamorous wardrobe and affection for classy European cities with this tiny place, and while she does make a few comments about why her brother should leave it, she mostly seems to enjoy sampling the food and absolutely dominating at the harvest festival games.
  • So is that the last we’ve heard of Villanelle’s weird brothers?
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Lisa is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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