Killing Eve’s Villanelle crossed a line – and broke my heart

After the new season opener, Helen Hackworthy explains why she’s almost fallen out of love with the sassy Russian assassin (CONTAINS SEASON 2 SPOILERS)

Killing Eve's Villanelle comforts Gabriel on his hospital bed

We all want to be Villanelle, let’s face it. (Leaving aside the psychopathy and murderous tendencies, of course.) Killing Eve’s antiheroine (Jodie Comer) is sexy, funny, effortlessly multi-lingual and oh-so-goddamn stylish. How I’d, er, kill for that big pink tulle dress from season one.

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Imagine this fan’s horror, then, upon receiving a party invitation for Saturday night. A leaving do had been organised for a friend who was moving away, and it would have been rude not to attend – even if all I wanted to do was to stay at home and watch the eagerly awaited first episode in the new second series of Killing Eve.

Thankfully, later that evening, the party conversation turned – as all good conversations do – to current TV viewing. Chernobyl, This Is Us, Damages and Ozark were all offered up. “Killing Eve!” I blurted out, followed by a whisper: “The new series starts tonight,” secretly wiping away a little tear.

I don’t regret my recommendation, but having now seen the episode I wish I could have warned my friends, each and every single one of them a mother, about the harrowing scene with Gabriel (Pierre Atri). Poor, poor Gabriel, the young boy who befriends Villanelle in hospital. Poor Gabriel, who lost both of his parents in a car accident and suffered terrible injuries and facial disfigurement. Poor Gabriel, who chooses the wrong person to confess to that he would rather be dead…

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

I’ll be honest, I did not see that twist (more like a SNAP) coming: a tender moment in which Villanelle comforts her bedside buddy turns to one of terror as she takes Gabriel at his word and deftly breaks his neck, killing him in an instant.

Admittedly, Villanelle doesn’t have a great track record with children. The very first scene of the drama sees her trying to engage with a young girl in a cafe, then cruelly knocking the girl’s ice cream onto her dress. More gruesomely, later in the same episode she stabs an Italian target in the eye while his young grandson looks on. But Gabriel paid the ultimate price for his encounter with Villanelle.

Villanelle’s a psychopath, I hear you cry! She’s unpredictable, lacks empathy, sees things only in black and white. It was a mercy killing: unable to envision a future in which one day Gabriel might be able to enjoy life again, she merely put him out of his misery. Having grown up without traditional parental love and guidance, perhaps she was worried he could end up like her.

The show’s psychiatric consultant Dr Mark Freestone told RadioTimes.com, “What makes Villanelle charming? It’s partly because she’s not in the business of killing off good people – they tend to be bad people or good people who inadvertently head into the crosshairs.” But was Gabriel a good person simply caught in the crosshairs? I have my doubts.

Dr Freestone added, “Well, [Gabriel] does say, ‘I don’t want to live.’ It’s possible, which is why it’s very difficult and it’s totally nothing to do with me, I just admire the writers doing it… But if you want to carry something like that off, you’ve got to make it so it doesn’t come across as too sadistic, because the moment this comes in, the character becomes unlikeable.”

Well, for me, in that moment Villanelle did become rather unlikeable. Will I be able to keep rooting for her? I’m not sure, as things can never be the same between us again. Just don’t tell her.

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The new second season of Killing Eve airs on Saturdays, BBC1 and is available on BBC iPlayer now