‘Are You from Pinner?’ navigates difficult ground for Killing Eve. The episode pushes the experimentalism that series three has been trialling, this time in a peculiar fashion that paradoxically nods to Killing Eve’s source material.
The fifth episode introduces a tonal change right from the off in the “Previously…” catch up. We see snapshots of Villanelle and others discussing her family all the way from the first series, grounding the viewer in anticipation that we will reach some sort of side-narrative climax in finding out some truths about the Oksana behind Villanelle. It’s a common storyline for a loveable protagonist, returning to the family barn in fashionably inappropriate clothes to ‘find’ themselves (think rom coms like Sweet Home Alabama and The Hannah Montana Movie – but with more serial killers and deep-rooted mummy issues as well as an Elton John number). Villanelle’s past has been a subtle mystery that has threaded itself beneath each season so far: how did Villanelle come to be? Begging further questions about whether revealing her history will go some way in ruining her characterisation and should the show really try to explain the creation of a psychopath.
The foray into Villanelle’s past is more evocative of the original novellas by Luke Jennings that inspired the series. The books guide the reader through what made Villanelle and spend most the pages within her orbit. While this would have been a mistake for the first two series – we want to see the cat and mouse chase as well as what drives Eve and her desires – it feels more fitting for the third series when viewers have observed enough of the present to have an overwhelming interest in the characters’ pasts. This transpires in ‘Are You from Pinner?’ where the episode exists solely in Villanelle’s storyline and space, never once wondering what Carolyn, Eve, or Konstantin are up to. It’s a risky move for the showrunner and writers to take as it disturbs the constant switching narrative the viewers are accustomed to. However, it works well within the wider arc as it allows space for Eve to navigate grief after Niko’s murder which will now be more fulfilling upon a return to Eve’s narrative. The experimentalism at play in this episode, both a homage to the source material yet divergent from the TV show’s customs, is at the very least intriguing and refreshing, but is still vulnerable to potholes.
The third series pushing the show’s format has proved necessary to bring longevity to the programme, even if it’s jarring at times. Experimenting with title sequences and title cards in earlier episodes has been subtly startling, but the reimagining of the establishing location names in episode four, ‘Still Got It’, persists in this fifth episode, although arguably less successfully. While episode four used the iconic font that fills the screen to signify alternative character POVs as well as locations, the fifth episode returns to the more location-based even if with slight thematic change. “MOTHER RUSSIA” sets the episode in the first act, harking to identity formation in maternal imaginings of homelands. While this introduces exploration into motherhood, home, and family ties well, the original impact of playing with Killing Eve’s infamous title cards withers later in the episode when they are seemingly tossed away for the “HARVEST FESTIVAL” where she participates in “DUNG THROWING”. I could explain these away through the show having its own Villanellesque tongue-in-cheek moments where traditionally significant stylistic choices choose to glorify the absurd, such as throwing dried dung in an odd village fete type competition. However, for me, it reduces the significant effect of looking so deeply into Villanelle’s history. It also exposes some of the sticky ground the third series has been treading, trying to push experimentalism but relying too heavily on the show’s traits to maintain the Killing Eve voice.
Still, the leanings on Villanelle traits prove joyous. The facial expressions displaying Villanelle’s confusion and curiosity at ‘normal’ human behaviour are endearing; her witty quips in visiting her family, “’cause I had the hiccups”, are charming; her intimate yet aggressive relationships with children are loveable. Plus, her Elton John costuming soothes a high-camp corner of my heart. It is a testament as ever to Jodie Comer’s performance and the writing’s beats and waves.
‘Are You from Pinner?’ fails to provide the gasp-worthy moments that have provided needed punctuations in previous episodes (read: Kenny’s death and Niko’s death) with the ending providing neither that much shock nor satisfaction. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is the same Villanelle that snapped a hospitalised orphan boy’s neck in the second season, thus the affection Villanelle has for her blood brother and step-brother in this episode gyrates against her psychopathy and humanises Villanelle to make her more predictable, rather than worthy of empathy. Nevertheless, the episode consolidates this third series’ experimental nature that has the potential to secure Killing Eve’s longevity and introduces new dimensions to its storytelling. I just hope that future episodes use familiar tropes to guide the viewer rather than as crutches to hold the show’s voice.
-Charlotte ‘Fozz’ Forrester