Relationship of Eve Polastri and Villanelle

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Eve Polastri
Killing Eve character
First appearance"Nice Face" (April 8, 2018)
Created byLuke Jennings (Codename Villanelle novel)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve television series)
Portrayed bySandra Oh
OccupationIntelligence officer, agent
AffiliationBritish intelligence (MI5, later MI6)[1]
SpouseNiko Polastri
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Killing Eve character
First appearance"Nice Face" (April 8, 2018)
Created byLuke Jennings (Codename Villanelle novel)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve television series)
Portrayed byJodie Comer
Full nameBirth names:
Oxana Vorontsova (in Codename Villanelle)
Oksana Astankova (in Killing Eve)
AffiliationThe Twelve

Eve Polastri and Villanelle are fictional characters in Luke Jennings' novel Codename Villanelle (2018) and in its BBC America television adaptation Killing Eve (2018– ). Polastri is a British intelligence operative whose quarry is psychopathic hired assassin Villanelle, the characters pursuing supremacy in their cat-and-mouse relationship. Though occupying overtly antagonistic roles, the women develop a mutual obsession of "would-be lovers"[2] who are bound together "in a twisted pas de deux".[3]

In Killing Eve[edit]

In the television series, Polastri is introduced as a "bored spy agency bureaucrat" who, after being called into a meeting about a recent assassination, speculates that the killer is a woman, and, after a series of plot twists, is tasked with finding the killer.[4] Agent Polastri tracks assassin Villanelle across Europe, not as hero and villain but as "two broken women whose flaws bind them together in a twisted pas de deux".[3]

Villanelle is romantically interested in women and is captivated by Polastri, perhaps in part because of a "shared brusqueness".[4] She buys Polastri fancy clothes and tries to have dinner with her—by invading Polastri's home.[4] During the home invasion, Polastri, though terrified, soon manages to speak to Villanelle as a mother to a child—one not fully formed emotionally, a "homicidal woman-child" who is "only formidable because she can kill", with Polastri wresting verbal dominance even as Villanelle presses a knife blade to Polastri's breastbone.[5]

With both Polastri and Villanelle being "deeply strange" and possessed of a "wild, unlikely interior weirdness and flux", it seemed equally possible that they "could team up, or try to kill each other, or fall into bed", and in the first season finale "they seem to do all three".[6] In that episode, the elegance of Villanelle's Paris apartment initially infuriates intruder Polastri, who realizes she herself might have led a more "audacious and hedonistic" life.[6] However, as Villanelle returns home, Polastri puts down her weapon and, on a bed, the women mutually confess their obsession with each other.[6]

After Villanelle manipulates Polastri into committing a brutal murder, the women "are finally stripped of their proxies, and the electric tension between them is laid bare".[7] Oh described Eve’s ultimately misguided belief that she is "special" enough to control Villanelle, that they have a "special" connection, but—upon telling Villanelle that Villanelle doesn't know what love is—learns otherwise; Villanelle shoots her, a counterpoint to Eve having stabbed Villanelle in Paris.[8]

Context of the relationship in the television series[edit]

Second-season showrunner Emerald Fennell said that the Eve and Villanelle relationship will always be the core of the show,[9] in accordance with a reviewer's perception that the "series' true allure is the deeply complicated love-hate dynamic between those two characters"[10] and whose character dynamic "sets Killing Eve apart from other thrillers".[11] The television series has been said to portray "TV's most mesmerizing, twisted relationship",[12] delving into "the layers in their already confusing and extremely incomprehensible attraction towards each other".[13] Series producer Elinor Day distinguished Season 1's cat-and-mouse chase from Season 2 in which "we’re really exploring different facets of the relationship",[14] with one reviewer writing that Season 2 has "taken the romantic nature of the connection between them from subtext to text, ... (a relationship) the show is taking seriously."[15]

Character contrasts and similarities, conflict and attraction[edit]

First encounter with Villanelle
"She had very delicate features. Her eyes are sort of cat-like, wide, but alert. Her lips are full, she has a long neck, high cheekbones. Her skin is smooth and bright. She had a lost look in her eye that was both direct, and also chilling. She’s totally focused, yet almost entirely inaccessible."

—Eve Polastri, to sketch artist[16]

In the hospital
"Sometimes when you love someone, you will do crazy things."

—Villanelle, explaining why Eve stabbed her[17]

Face to face
"I like you but I don’t like you that much. Don’t forget: The only thing that makes you interesting is me."

—Villanelle, to Eve[18]

Despite being enemies professionally, both characters are professional, childless women,[5] "hard-working, ambitious, and slightly obsessive",[1] whose respective worlds "betrayed and deceived them at every turn".[19] However, the amoral Villanelle's existence is "saturated with pleasure" while Eve's career has been as a "bored security-state functionary".[6] Further, series writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained that Polastri has a "sense of self-consciousness and guilt" that cripples her – a perfect counterpoint to Villanelle, who, as Ashley Boucher noted in TheWrap, only does things that might bring joy.[20]

Even with Villanelle in front of her when Villanelle invades her home, Eve can’t quite capture who Villanelle is as a person, the assassin always seeming to be a few steps ahead: possessed of a "frustrating attraction", Polastri "keeps banging her head on the enigmatic wall that is Villanelle".[21] Conversely, though Villanelle has the opportunity to kill Polastri during the home invasion, forces within Villanelle – despite being raised to kill without guilt or concern – compel her to want Polastri alive.[19] Through the cat-and-mouse pursuit and mutual obsession, they know they are "two of a kind" and "can trust in each other's constancy",[19] the two women being "fueled by a volatile cocktail of ambition, curiosity and morbid adoration".[22] With Eve, Villanelle "feels something beyond (the) crushing boredom" she normally experiences, while Eve looks at Villanelle as "an escape into feminine excess".[7] Perceiving "mirror-image similarities between them, for the good and the bad", executive director Emerald Fennell posited the question, "What does it look like when a psychopath starts to learn how to feel things, and when a woman who’s incredibly empathetic and intuitive starts to lose those parts of herself?"[12]

Social, thematic and creative context[edit]

Conspicuously, the protagonist and antagonist in Killing Eve are both women – a rarity in cat-and-mouse thrillers.[4][5] BBC America president Sarah Barnett commented that "there is a marvelous sea change happening where we are profoundly shifting away from an invisible, unconscious assumption that the big stories have men at the center, and anything else is a subset of that".[23] Even in contrast to films such as Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal in which one lead character is female, the conflict between Polastri and Villanelle is more equal despite the fact one entered as "an MI5 paper-pusher" and the other was introduced as an experienced assassin.[5]

Though most feminist narratives are framed in terms of a male-female dynamic, Polastri and Villanelle explore "patriarchy's impact on the already delicate complexities of female relationships": though sisterhood is powerful, "it’s also complicated and devoid of guarantees" and "can be false and a trap".[19]

The relationship between Polastri and Villanelle – "often sexual, at times romantic, and occasionally vengeful" – resists categorization.[24] Their mutual affectation suggests an alternative lifestyle, the couple performing an "elaborate dance, edging closer to one other while always being just slightly out of reach".[24] The characters’ mutual interest is "rooted in a desire of an unknown – a life away from the men that presently structure their lives".[24]

The pair’s mutual obsession “ventures into homoerotic territory” even if without explicit physical consummation.[25] As Shannon Liao noted in The Verge, "some say that demanding physical expressions of sexuality or other concrete confirmations of queer relationships… can erase subtler, more complex relationships".[25] Accordingly, the show has largely escaped criticisms of "age-old issues dealing with LGBTQ representation on-screen, like queerbaiting or male-fantasy lesbianism", with Liao concluding that "Killing Eve is one of the only shows pushing the envelope in the espionage genre on race, gender, and sexuality".[25] Natalie Adler wrote in BuzzFeed News that the show is about "femme power, femme cruelty, femme treachery—an explicitly queer power, one that doesn’t suffer cis men".[26] Theirs is a relationship that "has never before existed between women on television: a queer will-they-or-won't-they romance in which one suitor is an admitted psychopath".[27]


Showrunner-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge remarked that the characters "give each other life in a way that’s more complex than a romantic relationship. It’s sexual, it’s intellectual, it’s aspirational."[3] Along these lines, Melanie McFarland wrote in Salon that the show's "careful awareness of the love languages of fashion, music and setting all play roles in strengthening (the audience's) affair" with the characters.[19] Hannah Giorgis wrote in The Atlantic that its "greatest success" is how alluring it makes Villanelle to an intelligence agent dedicated to tracking her down.[28] Calling Killing Eve a "sexually charged female-buddy-comedy espionage nailbiter", Jenna Scherer wrote in Rolling Stone that the actresses "share a crackling chemistry, one that situates them in a gray realm between bitter enemies and would-be lovers".[2]

Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker that the "women are deeply strange, forming a collective study in improbable contrasts, strung together by each actor’s charisma".[6] Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in Vulture that Oh’s performance as Polastri actually makes Villanelle's character feel more plausible – as "an incarnation of Eve’s sublimated aggression and assertiveness".[5] Though Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker that Villanelle’s character "works" because of Comer’s "mercurial, unassailable charisma",[6] and Willa Paskin wrote in Slate that Comer's Villanelle (twisted and conscienceless but also irrepressible) is "flat-out incredible"[4] and Mike Hale agreed in The New York Times that Comer is good in that "showier part", Hale added that it is Ms. Oh who ensures the series is "more than a cute gloss on the glamorous international caper."[1]

In December 2018, The New York Times included Oh's and Comer's performances in its "Best Performances of 2018", noting "these two women are inventive about how to be funny in a thriller" and "make run-of-the mill embarrassment seem more lethal than any bullet".[29] TV Guide named Oh's and Comer's performances as the #2 Best TV Performances of 2018.[30]


  1. ^ a b c Hale, Mike (April 5, 2018). "Review: In Killing Eve, Female Spy Hunts Female Assassin". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 8, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Scherer, Jenna (May 14, 2018). "Killing Eve: The Cracked Female Spy-Thriller Buddy Comedy of the Year". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Berman, Judy (May 25, 2018). "Killing Eve: The Showrunner and Stars on the Love Story Behind the Sleeper Hit". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 25, 2018. Print edition title: "Two Broken Women, Bound by Their Flaws".
  4. ^ a b c d e Paskin, Willa (April 10, 2018). "Killing Eve Makes Murder Dangerously Fun". Slate. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Seitz, Matt Zoller (June 27, 2018). "The Best Actress on TV Is Killing Eve's Sandra Oh". Vulture. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Tolentino, Jia (May 27, 2018). "The Pleasurable Patterns of the Killing Eve Season Finale". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on May 29, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Bastién, Angelica Jade (May 29, 2019). "The Decadent, Visceral Pleasures of Killing Eve". Vulture (New York magazine). Archived from the original on May 29, 2019.
  8. ^ Snierson, Dan (May 26, 2019). "Killing Eve finale: Sandra Oh breaks down Eve and Villanelle's shocking final moment". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 27, 2019.
  9. ^ Turchiano, Danielle (February 9, 2019). "Killing Eve Team on Season 2 Showrunner Change: 'It Really Moved From One Hand to a Similar Hand'". Variety. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019.
  10. ^ James, Caryn (April 8, 2019). "Killing Eve Series 2 Review". BBC. Archived from the original on April 8, 2019.
  11. ^ Gross, Terry (May 13, 2019). "Fleabag And Killing Eve Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge Is Full Of Surprises". NPR (National Public Radio). Archived from the original on May 30, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Snierson, Dan (February 21, 2019). "Killing Eve's Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer open up about TV's most mesmerizing, twisted relationship". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on February 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Bandyopadhyay, Alakananda (March 20, 2019). "Killing Eve season 2: Eve and Villanelle's relationship goes beyond the hunter and hunted dynamic". Media Entertainment Arts Worldwide (MEAWW). Archived from the original on April 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Greenblatt, Leah (March 7, 2019). "Killing Eve series producer teases what's to come in season 2". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 8, 2019.
  15. ^ Hannemann, Emily (April 29, 2019). "Killer Chemistry: Why We Ship Eve & Villanelle on 'Killing Eve' (Even If We Shouldn't)". TV Insider. Archived from the original on April 30, 2019.
  16. ^ Epstein, Adam (May 6, 2018). "Watch this: Killing Eve is the new show you should be watching in 2018". Quartz. Archived from the original on August 9, 2018.
  17. ^ Lyons, Margaret (April 4, 2019). "Critic's Pick / Review: Killing Eve Returns in Fighting Form". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019.
  18. ^ Hudson, Laura (May 13, 2019). "Killing Eve Recap: Does it Excite You?". Vulture. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d e McFarland, Melanie (May 26, 2018). "Feminist thriller Killing Eve has proven a perfect show for the #MeToo era". Salon. Archived from the original on May 26, 2018.
  20. ^ Boucher, Ashley (May 30, 2018). "Killing Eve Showrunner on Why She Gender-Swapped So Many of the Book's Male Characters". TheWrap. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
  21. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (May 6, 2018). "Killing Eve: TV's Newest Assassin Subverts Storytelling Cliches, Which Makes Her Scary as Hell". IndieWire. Archived from the original on May 7, 2018.
  22. ^ Frank, Priscilla (April 12, 2018). "Killing Eve Unravels Our Obsession With Women Who Murder". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 14, 2018.
  23. ^ Clarke, Stewart (April 2018). "Phoebe Waller-Bridge Twists the Spy Genre With BBC America's Thriller Killing Eve". Variety. Archived from the original on April 12, 2019.
  24. ^ a b c Goldberg, Ben (July 2, 2018). "The Queer Ambiguity of Killing Eve". Into. Archived from the original on July 12, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c Liao, Shannon (May 29, 2018). "Killing Eve's queer representation could have gone very wrong — then it didn't". The Verge. Archived from the original on October 2, 2018.
  26. ^ Adler, Natalie (May 24, 2019). "Season 2 Of Killing Eve Killed The Queer Subtext, And All The Fun Along With It". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019.
  27. ^ Arthur, Kate (April 4, 2019). "How Killing Eve Became The Perfect Show For These Wild Times". Buzzfeed News. Archived from the original on April 7, 2019.
  28. ^ Giorgis, Hannah (May 28, 2018). "Killing Eve and the Riddle of Why Women Kill". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on May 28, 2018.
  29. ^ Morris, Wesley (December 7, 2018). "The Best Performances of 2018". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 7, 2018.
  30. ^ TV Guide Editors (December 3, 2018). "These Are the 25 Best Performances on TV in 2018". TV Guide. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

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