The thrilling premiere of Killing Eve underlines this one universal truth about human nature

The fourth and final season of the BBC’s hit thriller Killing Eve is back – and the cat-and-mouse game between Eve and Villanelle is still going strong.

Over the course of the last three seasons, we’ve seen stabbings, shootings and passionate clinches between the pair, but we’ve never got close to determining the exact nature of the captivating dance. Now that the final instalment of the darkly comic spy thriller has landed on our TV screens, however, we inch a little closer to seeing where their electrifying chemistry leads, and more importantly, understanding why it is that the two characters are irrevocably drawn to each other.

Killing Eve: Villanelle (Jodie Comer) joins a religious community in season 4

We begin the new season in Russia, where a stylish assassin has tracked down Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), who has swapped murder to become mayor of a small town. Only when she removes her motorbike helmet, we find out it’s Eve. She swiftly shoots Konstantin in the hand as revenge for Kenny and holds him at gunpoint until he tells her how she can find Villanelle’s old boss, Hélène (Camille Cottin).

Eve isn’t the only one who’s had a major role reversal. Villanelle has joined a church community and is singing about moving out of the darkness while decked out in a robe and ruff. Everything about her life as “Nelle”, it seems, is saintly: she speaks exclusively in Bible verses, serves up two fish and five loaves for the vicar and his daughter, with whom she now lives, and even volunteers to clean up cat sick from the family’s ominously named pet, Lucifer. She tells May, the vicar’s daughter, that she doesn’t have any other choice than to be good now, but when questioned by the vicar about the motives for her upcoming baptism, it transpires that Villanelle’s newly righteous path might just have been another disguise after all. She doesn’t actually believe in God; rather, she’s more concerned with the appearance of holiness, as evidenced by her determination that Eve will witness her getting dunked in the font.

Killing Eve: Yusuf (Robert Gilbert) and Eve (Sandra Oh) in season 4

Back in London, Eve has embarked on a new job in private security, and a new no-strings-attached relationship with her colleague Yusuf (Robert Gilbert). Even so, it’s clear that she’s hellbent on finding out the identity of the authority figure at the head of the Twelve, judging by an extensive web of maps and photos that she’s hiding inside a cupboard.

Carolyn, for her part, is also keen on vengeance. Relegated to a tedious job as a cultural correspondent in Mallorca, she’s keeping busy by orchestrating meetings with the Czech intelligence in a bid to ascertain why members of the Twelve are being dispatched in a variety of gruesome ways. Hugo (Edward Bluemel) soon arrives on the scene and warns her that if she doesn’t stop meddling, he’ll have her arrested, tried in the secret court and thrown in jail. He promises that he can make good on his threat, too, because he knows that she murdered Paul Bradfield and even shows her images of his body on his phone.

Killing Eve: Fiona Shaw returns as MI6 boss Carolyn Martens

Carolyn and Eve finally get on the same page when Carolyn surprises Eve on a park run. The news that someone is strategically hunting down members of the Twelve is all it takes for Eve to drop the spiel that she’s a changed woman, especially when Carolyn raises the point that if she wasn’t on a personal crusade against the mysterious organisation, she wouldn’t be working for a private security firm. And now that Carolyn’s avenues of investigation have been cut off, she asks Eve to take up her work. Leaving her file of intelligence as a parting gift, she instructs Eve to “get to know the critters” before she incinerates them.

Eve duly sets off in pursuit of a potential lead, visiting the funeral home where season three villain Rhian Bevan’s body was laid to rest. She finds an appropriately dead-behind-the-eyes mortician (Anjana Vasan) inspecting a body and, masquerading as her old teacher, awkwardly enquires about Bevan. The woman says she knows nothing, but after Eve stalks her, she spots the mortician in a car with Hélène, confirming her hunch that the two are indeed working together.

Killing Eve: Villanelle (Jodie Comer) rebrands herself as a religious convert named “Nelle”

As quickly as Eve drops the pretence that she’s no longer interested in tracking down assassins, the old Villanelle comes calling. Furious that Eve hasn’t showed up to her big baptism, she ends up dunking her own head in the font, then hotfoots it to Eve’s hotel to confront her. In a thrilling homage to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, the pair are reunited on either side of a large tropical fish tank, Villanelle still dressed in her virginal white gown like Clare Danes’ angelic get-up for the masked ball.

Villanelle proceeds to drop to her knees and claim that she forgives Eve for not attending her rebirth. Eve isn’t taken in by the show of saintliness and hisses that if Villanelle really had changed, she wouldn’t have returned. Without skipping a beat, Villanelle fires back that if Eve had really changed, she wouldn’t have let her return. Eve asserts that she definitely has changed, and lands a stinging slap across Villanelle’s face. 

Killing Eve: Villanelle and Eve have a Romeo + Juliet moment in the premiere

It’s not a bit like the captivating rendezvous between the pair on Tower Bridge at the end of the last season, but it’s obvious that the passionate connection is very much alive. These are two people who can’t stay away from each other, despite their best efforts, and whether their yearning manifests in displays of infatuation or hatred, living their lives apart from one another doesn’t appear to be a choice. They are the only people who can truly see each other for who they really are; both the impulses that can tip us towards violence and those that lead us towards a greater, common good.

In any case, the encounter seems to bring Villanelle back to her senses, and when she returns to the church, she rages at a figure of Christ for not being real and then attempts to drown May in the font. Surprisingly, she resuscitates her just before she dies, suggesting that she might really be changing after all. But however Villanelle attempts to redefine and reinvent herself, it’s clear that her salvation won’t come from Christ, but from the one person who has been able to see her and understand her from the word go: Eve.

The first episode of Killing Eve season 4 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.

Images: BBC

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