Breaking The Story (Killing Eve — Dinner with Your Assassin)

In continuing my raving about Killing Eve, I want to look into a scene which is tense, revealing, and entirely memorable throughout.

Scene Comes From: Season 1, Episode 5

Where To Watch:

Written By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Eve has been investigating Villanelle for a number of assassinations. Villanelle has been toying with Eve, yet hasn’t killed her yet. Villanelle killed Eve’s friend, Bill, and has showed up to Eve’s home asking for dinner.

  • Eve wants to stop Villanelle
  • Villanelle wants to torment Eve

How It Plays Out:

  1. Eve comes to the table with food. Places it for Villanelle. Is about to sit, but first must remove the knife she was poorly hiding in her waistband.
  2. Villanelle serves herself. Offers that Eve eat as well. Eve serves herself.
  3. Villanelle says she’s happy to finally meet Eve. Eve replies politely, then asks why Villanelle is there.
  4. Villanelle remarks that Eve’s husband has a nice mustache. Eve ignores it, again asks why Villanelle is there.
  5. Villanelle says she’s afraid and doesn’t want to kill people anymore. Begins to cry, says she needs help.
  6. Eve says that it’s bullshit. Calls Villanelle an asshole. Uses Villanelle’s birth name- Oksana. Goes in and, with sympathy, tells Villanelle everything she knows about her. Calls her a psychopath.
  7. Villanelle notes that calling her a psychopath could make her upset. Eve asks if she’s upset. Villanelle pretends to be, then remarks that the word “upset” is stupid.
  8. Eve asks Villanelle if she’s there to kill her. Villanelle says she’s not- her and her agency are just watching.
  9. Eve asks more questions about Villanelle’s agency. Villanelle insinuates that they work for the same people. Eve dismisses the claim.

Why It Works:

Protagonist Persistence: You can’t help but simultaneously love and dread every single moment Eve opts to question Villanelle. Here she is, trapped in a room with an internationally renown assassin, yet she is the one who is going to ask the questions. Even as Villanelle tries to scare Eve off by mentioning her husband or noting that her agency has been spying on Eve, Eve doesn’t try to play nice. She digs deeper and deeper into Villanelle, desperately intrigued, just like us, as to who exactly this kind-faced assassin really is.

An Unannounced Test: What helps set the stage for Eve’s persistent nature is Villanelle’s continual subtle threats. From mentioning Eve’s husband to pointing out that Eve should avoid the word “psychopath”, Villanelle is very quietly testing Eve. She, like us, is in awe of Eve’s refusal to surrender. With every other victim, Villanelle is forced to hear them give up the fight and beg for mercy. By testing Eve in this manner, Villanelle continually ramps up the pressure and, as a result, tests the lengths of Eve’s dignity. This ultimately creates a natural and engaging conflict between the pair, adding another layer of tension to the already-tense scenario.

Promise of the Premise: From the very first episode of the series, we are craving the meeting between Eve and Villanelle- the entire show is predicated upon their relationship. And, because both characters are so hard to predict, we assume that their meeting will follow along similarly unpredictable guidelines. Of course, this is exactly what happens- the entire scene we’re waiting for one of them to make a move, hanging onto every accusation between them. Their fascinating relationship is put on full display here, ultimately drawing the character deeper into the show’s key concept.

Mysterious Motives: You’d be hard-pressed to find a character more intriguing than Villanelle. Though a great deal of this intrigue can be attributed to Jodie Cormer’s astounding performance, so much of what makes Villanelle so interesting lies in the mystery surrounding her. The audience is intentionally given sparse details about her and is constantly misled by her. Throughout the series, she’s had moments, few and far between, in which she seems genuinely human, though almost always she goes back on that vulnerability and turns it to her advantage. This makes her innately untrustworthy, and thus a fascinating character to follow. We never know if she’s telling the truth, therefore making every scene she’s in hard to predict.

Threat That Isn’t A Threat: The most terrifying aspect of Villanelle lies in how she threatens people without actually threatening them. Here, she quietly threatens Eve by simply commenting on her husband’s mustache. This one line confirms Eve’s worst fears- Villanelle has been spying on Eve and has access to the people she cares about most. Moreso, Villanelle has proven that she’s near-impossible to stop, and if she wants to kill Eve’s husband, she is more than able. This simple “threat that isn’t a threat” allows for the stakes of the scene to rise, puts Eve in a more desperate position, and ultimately further defines Villanelle’s playfully murderous nature.

In Summary…

Killing Eve is, again, a very good show. This scene is a near-perfect example of how it’s writer continually keeps viewers simultaneously mesmerized and terrified by the dynamics at play. Through use of subtext, mystery, and character relationship, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is able to craft an exceptional scene that pulls us deeper into this undeniably fascinating story.

A writer! What am I writing about? Well, a lot of things, most of them being related to Screenwriting. Hope you like what you see!