Until this point in the season, the show has concerned itself with uncovering the truth of Kenny’s untimely death, unpacking the relationship between Dasha and Villanelle, and pitying a very depressed Eve. Isn’t it about time we get a little more backstory on our favorite stylish serial killer?
So, when Villanelle embarks on a trip to Russia to find her family, it’s a welcome change of pace. This episode is all Villanelle, all the time, with no interruptions from the various international spy rings within which she is entangled. Just pure, unmitigated family bonding. At the end of the episode, true to form, Villanelle sets her house on fire and lets her mom die in the blaze. So much for a happy Mother’s Day.
Comer explained the catalyst for Villanelle’s turning point reveals just how much she actually does love Elton John, and makes the case for why audiences shouldn’t be afraid when the characters we were introduced to in season one end up changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst.
Did you ever expect Villanelle to meet her family?
I knew the way in which her past was going to pop up someway and she was going to actually have to face something, but to actually have to meet her mother, I thought was very daring. I actually think it was hopefully really well-played. Our biggest challenge was to show her past but not to excuse her decisions that she’s made now. It’s really interesting seeing how it brings out Villanelle’s vulnerability and humanity, and her emotional side. All of that takes her by surprise, but it was so rewarding because Shannon Murphy came in and directed this episode. I think if anyone else was directing it, we wouldn’t have gotten the result that we got. She was really fantastic and brought in this new energy with her. She really dared us all to have fun and take risks. I think it pushed everyone to find these little nuances throughout.
The episode takes place in Russia, but where did you film it?
We filmed it in Romania. I’m really glad, because the first time we went to Romania, we didn’t have great reviews. However, this time we went back and I couldn’t tell you the exact place but we were about a four-hour drive outside of Bucharest. We were in the middle of the mountains. It was supposed to snow, but we actually had, like, 24 degree Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) heat. There were bear warnings where we were all staying and filming. It was kind of a magical experience. The village in which we shot, they used the local people as production assistants and it was very immersive. We felt like we were cut off from the rest of the world, which I think was great to feel Villanelle, be in this foreign place that would have been home, and to see her experience that for the first time.
How has your understanding of Villanelle changed this season? Was there a shift?
Absolutely. I think it comes more apparent to me as each season goes on. It’s so hard because, of course, people fall in love with the show as they know it, and then these characters grow and change and sometimes things morph into a new mold. I love Villanelle’s tendencies and characteristics but it just felt like we needed to give her more in regards to substance. I’ve always felt there was this undercurrent to her, this visceral feeling within her of needing more and wanting more, and not quite knowing how to deal with that, and having to process these things that she feels. This season, from episode five onward, was a really great experience in the sense of discovering something new. And then trying to think of how to take this into season four. It’s so important that we continue to grow with these characters, but also try to stay true to what it is that they are experiencing.
This episode opens an entirely new window into Villanelle, leading the viewer to finally understand a little bit more clearly where she comes from and why she interacts with Eve the way she does. In this episode, we don’t see Eve or any other main characters that build out the world of the show, but what do you think Eve would do if she saw Villanelle—or Oksana, as her family would call her—in this environment?
It’s almost like this is the Villanelle that Eve sees, deep down. A question I often get is, “What is it about Villanelle that Eve likes?” It’s something I’ve never really been able to put my finger on, but there were a couple of moments in this season toward the end between Eve and Villanelle, and I think there was an acceptance. Sometimes Villanelle should wise up and open her eyes a little bit more, but she’s being told what to do and ordered around, and then her mom gives her thoughts on what she thinks about her, and with Eve, she knows what Villanelle is and has always been kind of accepting of that. I think Villanelle is really struggling with that in her own body.
So Eve accepts Villanelle for who she is while the world rejects her, and near the end of this episode we witness Villanelle being rejected by her own mother.
Yeah, I think she’s had this huge sense of longing and wanting to belong, and where else are you going to find that other than your actual family? Yet she goes there and it’s still inaccessible. She still can’t get a grasp on it. Not only that, but her mother didn’t want her. I think it opens up the conversation of her and Konstantin’s relationship and what did he actually expect of her, to go there, and why did he bring this up in the first place? It’s so complicated! These people, all intertwined with each other!
Until this episode, it’s pretty clear that Villanelle is a morally dubious serial killer. But something about watching her own mother reject her, for a second time, seems to demand empathy from the viewer. Ultimately, Villanelle decides she has to kill her mother, and remains true to herself. Do you feel like that’s the thesis statement of this show, in a way?
Yeah, I think also that’s the only way she knows how to deal with it in that moment, truthfully. It’s the only way she knows she will fully get away from it. I think you’re right, she goes to Russia with the idea of letting go of Oksana, and actually, it’s Villanelle whom she cuts the ties with, this person she’s created. It becomes very apparent to her that she cannot get away from herself. We meet Villanelle in season one, but I’ve always said, Villanelle is this candy-coated exterior, this ideal that this woman has created herself to be. It’s a coping mechanism, and she gets great joy out of her clothes and the expense and living this luxurious life. But I think deep down, she wants what everyone else wants, but with the person that she is, she cannot allow herself that.
“Wherever you go, there you are,” is what they say.
There you are! Definitely. You’re your own worst enemy.
Another key component of this episode was the incorporation of Elton John and his music and looks.
It’s kind of amazing! The scene where I got the wig and the glasses on wasn’t actually scripted. I just got to set, and we were in Pyotr’s room and it was the first time seeing all of the Elton John memorabilia. There were all these glasses and there was this wig on a stand, and I put it on and walked up to Shannon and was like, “There is no way she would not wear this. For a woman who dresses up and takes on all these disguises, this is heaven. This little kid has this room of knick knacks and dress-up, so we have to put this on.” We ended up doing it in the scene, which of course feels really absurd when her mom comes in and she goes into a panic attack. It’s such a nice touch.
Elton John’s music serves as such a nice throughline for this episode, especially when they all start singing “Crocodile Rock” in the kitchen—
That’s my favorite scene! What I think is also genius is Shannon’s cut. She cuts it just as you see Villanelle getting up there, getting ready to sing a tune with the family. It’s such a hard cut. [Laughs.] You want to see her experience this with them, and I love that scene so much because it’s so charming and it’s true to who she is, and when these people are dancing around the living room, I think she thinks they’re really fucking cool. [Laughs.] It’s these people just being. I love that scene so much.
Near the end of the episode, Villanelle rewards Pyotr with enough money to see Elton John in concert. Why do you think she does that?
It is seemingly out of character for her. I think everyone’s expecting them all to go.
Last season she befriended a young boy in the hospital, and then killed him, so I kind of thought she might do the same thing with her half-brother.
It’s interesting because what we found and expected in season one, we don’t find and expect anymore. That’s the truth of it. We have to keep trying to listen to what it is that feels right, and go down different avenues, and hopefully the audience and the fans can come along for the ride and see that.
The episode ends with Villanelle on the train, deeply into whatever music is playing on her headphones. What do you think she’s listening to?
There was a question of whether you would hear the music or not. When they were editing it, Shannon was unsure whether they would go with music or no music. They went with no music. We actually shot that scene on the train before any other scene with the family. It was like, “Okay we’re going to shoot the final scene when everything’s happened, go!” We shot that on the first block of episode five in Romania at a train station in a disused train. We had “Crocodile Rock” as the song playing out loud for me on the speakers. Shannon just kind of let me roll with it.
Do you have a personal favorite Elton John song?
Oh my god! My favorite song is [sings] “are you ready, are you ready for love, yes I am, oh yeah!” It’s “Are You Ready For Love.” Excuse me for singing. That puts me in such a good mood, ugh, whenever that comes on. The intro! So good.
Do you know if Sir Elton watches Killing Eve?
I don’t. It would be so cool though.
I hope he does!
Me too! Even if just for this episode! It’s an ode to him.
Earlier you mentioned Villanelle’s penchant for designer clothes, which I think is what entices people to come back to the show, episode after episode. What is your favorite look you’ve worn this season?
This season, I love the outfit that she turns up to Russia in. She has a sky blue polo neck, with a beige short-waisted jacket, and checked pants. I don’t know why, it felt very androgynous and I loved the silhouette of it. It also felt a little bit off. There was something outdated about it, which I felt was perfect with where she was going.
And your favorite look you’ve worn in the entire series?
I love the suit that I killed Bill in. I was so comfortable in it, and I think it was so cool in regards to the movement of going after Bill and the kill within the club. I think that kill was so huge and profound that it kind of has a really long-lasting memory. But honestly, as much as I hated the bandanna, I really loved the prison uniform. When we get her in these moments, whether it’s the prison uniform or the 10-year-old boy’s pajamas, these moments of discomfort for her where you actually see her getting thrown out of her comfort zone, I actually really enjoy. It was a huge question for us because, going back to the scene on the train, you see her in her mother’s jumpsuit that her mother gifted her, and it was a big question for us going forward: does she stay in the jumpsuit? Is she caring about fashion right now? Is this something that we should be paying attention to? It was a big question, but we actually went with her trying to see as if she’s got her head in the game and she wouldn’t want other people to see so clearly that she is somewhat struggling. It’s become such a huge factor in everything now.