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What does power smell like? Ask Killing Eve leads Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), and you may get two very different answers.
For Villanelle, the answer is oddly specific: Power smells “like a Roman centurion who is coming across an old foe who in battle once hurt him greatly, but since then…has become Emperor, and is now powerful beyond measure.” For Eve, it’s a bit more nebulous — but she at least has inhaled a big whiff of Villanelle’s definition by the end of “Meetings Have Biscuits,” the third installment of the BBC America drama’s third season.
In both previous seasons of Killing Eve, Eve and Villanelle’s first big moments of contact come in the respective year’s fifth episodes. For season three, the violent reunion comes two hours earlier than expected, smack dab in the middle of “Meetings Have Biscuits,” as they collide on a bus ride in the middle of London. It’s hardly a coincidental encounter, of course, as Villanelle is in town on business (business that directly involves Eve’s business, in fact), but it’s one that sideswipes Eve all the same, leading to the two women brawling in public.
“I really wanted them to meet sooner [in the season],” showrunner Suzanne Heathcote tells The Hollywood Reporter about constructing the reunion between Eve and Villanelle. “It needs to catch us unawares in the same way it catches Eve unawares. It’s not something we expect at that moment.”
When she first thought about the circumstances behind the reunion, Heathcote immediately saw it in her head: “I don’t know why I saw it on a bus, but for some reason, I did. It’s so complex, what they feel toward each other. There’s so much anger. Both from Eve, how she feels out of control, all of the things she’s done now in her life because of Villanelle. Then there’s Villanelle not being in control of that relationship, Eve surviving somehow and defying her. When Villanelle shot Eve at the end of season two, I believe she’s shooting her because she’s been rejected, but she doesn’t really want Eve dead. It’s a conflicting action to Villanelle as well. I just felt you can’t put all of it in dialogue. It’s too big, the way they feel toward each other. It’s too visceral. They both have gut-wrenching feelings toward each other: violence, attraction, the draw they have to each other. It felt very natural to me that it would be an almost entirely nonverbal exchange.”
As the actors at the center of the fight, Comer and Oh both brought their own perspectives to the reunion. According to Oh: “When I first read it, I thought it made complete emotional sense to me. There’s a lot of uncontrolled reactivity that Eve has around Villanelle, and you see it coming out in full force. You see her fury, you see her passion, you see how she’s even angry at herself for not being able to be in control…it’s a confirmation that they are still connected.”
“I was trying to think what it would be like if you thought someone was dead, then you find out that they’re not, and it opens up this huge realm of possibility,” says Comer. “I can only imagine the kinds of things that went through her head when she thought it was done [with Eve], but it actually isn’t done. I think there’s a huge sense of curiosity, and wanting to know how she’s living her life and getting on after what happened. I think she knows it’s going to fuck Eve up, popping up like that.”
“For Villanelle, it’s a great win,” adds Oh. “For Eve, it’s a great loss. She wants to be in control. She wants to have control over her reactivity and her emotions, and she lets her cards show. She can’t help it.”
One way Eve gains control over the situation, if only temporarily, is when she kisses Villanelle in the middle of the fight. Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle sees the kiss from two different vantage points, as she tells THR: “I think the kiss is potentially a form of defense. It buys her some time with Villanelle, who could literally throttle her at that moment. We also had this notion that if Villanelle’s face got that close to yours, it would be hard to resist!”
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