“Killing Eve” Season 3 Episode 5 Recap: “Are You From Pinner?”

This is a black and white image of the back of a woman with a head scarf, sitting on a bed in a dark room with a row of beds; she is alone in the room. This is used to represent the sullen atmosphere of Killing Eve in season 3 episode 5 as we learn about Villanelle's history.
Ghazaleh Ghazanfari

“You are the darkness. You have always been the darkness.”

So far in Killing Eve, we’ve had the opportunity to understand how Eve (Sandra Oh) functions and deals with stress and rejection but that hasn’t been true for Villanelle (Jodie Comer). This episode serves to fill that gap, as Villanelle recollects her old identity, when she visits her family in Russia, in search of meaning she can’t possibly get.

Killing Eve is filled with symbolism so this episode is no different. It begins with Villanelle strolling in the middle of the road while observing what looks like a small country village. She’s so distracted, she’s almost hit by a truck. But at the last second, she turns to safety. The tease of danger and pure recklessness of that opening scene, sets the tone for the entire episode.

The door is open when she finally reaches her mother’s farm so, she has the chance to look at the pictures adorning the walls of her home and to see how her family faired while she’d suffered a difficult life of violence. Her mother looks happy in pictures with a strange man, apparently she remarried after her father died. (Seeing this shocks and disappoints Villanelle.) And before any one realizes that she’s in the home, she gets a chance to see how her mother’s new family live, like a traveler observing another culture for the first time. Every thing feels foreign to her, the idea of having dirty dishes, a child’s drawing on the fridge, a cooked meal on the stove, a fridge filled with snacks, enough to feed a family—her family. These moments are important because it inspires a feeling of hope that she can finally have the semblance of normalcy she’s seen within other families and a chance to be accepted and loved like any another person.

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But of course, it’s capped by her newly discovered half brother Bor’ka (Temirlan Blaev). She refuses to speak Russian as we know from previous episodes of Killing Eve so, she speaks english instead. This intrigues Bor’ka who is a big fan of Elton John. Apart from Bor’ka though, no one seems to take notice of her until they hear Bor’ka talking to someone. But once the adults are aware of her presence, the questions start. “Who are you?” they ask. But the only information she is willing to give is Pyotr (Rob Feldman), her brother. When Pyotr is called, he recognizes her immediately as his sister Oksana whom everyone believed to be dead.

While the others are suspicious of her, she bonds with Bor’ka as they discuss Elton John until they’re interrupted by the sound of a car horn. Turns out that their mother is home. At this news, Villanelle immediately begins freaking out and tries to get away. Perhaps, at that point, she’d imagined a warm welcome but when she knew her mother was entering the house, she remembered how her mother was really like so she was scared and wanted to leave. But every door was locked. She was only calmed when she saw her mother standing at the entrance of the house.

Her mother Tatiana (Evgenia Dodina), made a show of embracing her. She dramatically dropped her grocery bags, and was visibly shocked, maybe by the realization that she wasn’t able to get rid of her daughter. But she quickly remembered her setting and played the role of the grieving mother. You can tell that this affection from her mother was unusual for Villanelle because she breathes heavily in shock while her mother touches her; she even looks disgusted when she kisses her cheek, and while allowing her mother to feign happiness while hugging her (for what felt like hours), she makes a stiff fist as if she was getting ready to punch her at any minute. The scene was so awkward, and lengthened to hint at the pretence of it all.

Shortly after, the show cuts to Tatiana, explaining why she’d left Villanelle in an orphanage and believed that she was dead. According to her, she was told that Villanelle burned the orphan down and killed everyone including herself but there’s a trace of dishonesty in her language that Villanelle can sense. She can feel the nonchalant air of her mother, the lack of remorse, and the detachment in her explanation about losing her child so, rightly, she pushes for more information. But that only irritates Tatiana and in fact, the minute Villanelle looks away, Tatiana looks annoyed that Villanelle would even question her. More, her body language and distancing reveals her coldness towards her daughter.

The entire scene is as insidious and ominous as Sharp Objects and for good reason. This family is just as messed up. In particular, director Shannon Murphy gives many hints to the sinister personality of Tatiana: She wins at as a mystery card game where she hides as a killer and even though she can kill anyone in the game, she kills her youngest son Bor’ka. Pyotr can sleep anywhere in the house but he sleep at the barn. (Hmm.) And later we learn that as gentle as he seems, he has an anger problem and he’s unknowingly being controlled by his mother: he has no knowledge of his father, he only knows what his mother shared about Villanelle, and more, he has never left his mom. Also, Bor’ka likes to randomly hurt himself.

Knowing how manipulative her mother is, and to better understand her reinvention and weak attempt to hide her darkness, Villanelle tries to gather information from her mother’s new husband but gets nothing. Still, Tatiana interrupts them with tea, then later gives Villanelle an ugly jumpsuit to wear. It’s significant because even though Villanelle prefers to wear beautiful clothing, she happily takes the jumpsuit to show affection and to feel closer to her mom. All of this care ends up in vain because despite bonding over a community festival (where Villanelle learns that her mother had been secretly eschewing verbal insults to sweet Bor’ka), in the middle of the night, her mother tells her to leave. “I want you to leave the house,” she says as Villanelle refuses. “You leave tomorrow. I don’t want you to be here anymore … you’re not a part of this family. You do not belong here.”

Obviously Villanelle doesn’t take this well, as is typical of Killing Eve. “What are you going to do? Take me to the orphanage?” she asks her mother. She attempts to threaten her but her mother is unrelenting. She grabs Villanelle’s face and sternly tells her, “you will not bring your darkness into this house.” But Villanelle feels like she knows the truth that no one wants to see. “You are the darkness. You have always been the darkness,” she tells her.

The exchange that follows is so pitiful. Villanelle tries to coax her mother into confessing that she is just like her but her mother refuses her. She was never happy, bad from birth since she never cried, her mother tells her, but Villanelle rejects all this. Then Tatiana slips and briefly confesses that she detested Villanelle from the start because she won her father’s affection and could “control” him. “He thought you would do something to us. To me,” she says. Villanelle ignores this and pleads for her mother to confess that she is just like her but she continues to refuse. Sad, Villanelle tells her she needs to kill her and so she does.

Bor’ka and Pyotr are spared, a fact which deserves attention considering how removed she felt from them, how much she hates kids (and people in general), but also, considering how generous it was of her. Maybe she did it because she saw herself in them; that like her, her mother was damaging them and she wanted a different ending for them. Either way, they were still alive, with the opportunity to see Elton John while everyone else was dead.

At the end of all this chaos, her separation from the situation is poignant. As she walked away from the burning house she screamed almost in frustration and exhaustion. Maybe she felt like she tried, tried to connect and change, but her mother wouldn’t allow it. And so, on her ride home, there is no music. But we see Villanelle jamming to something from her headphones, noticeably disconcerted and depressed, but obviously trying to distract away the pain of rejection from her cruel mother. Still, at least it’s all over, her mother is finally dead so she can let her go and continue on, unhinged. Now, she’s really an orphan.

Even though it’s never blatantly addressed, it’s clear that Tatiana was very much like Villanelle because any remorseful mother, any real, normal mother would have felt compassion for their long lost child. But still, since she never admits to her disfunction, we are left to wonder whether Villanelle’s wickedness was just a consequence of nature or was actually nurtured by her mother—it was likely the later though, Tatiana was worryingly hostile. So it seems Villanelle is doomed to a life of darkness.

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