How will she ever recover from her injuries and from her mismatched wardrobe?
A note: this story is going to feature spoilers – and quite a lot of them – for the second season of Killing Eve. If you don’t want to be spoiled then click away now. But if you want to know more – read on!
If you remember just one thing about Killing Eve’s first season, then it’s probably the fashion. A mille-feuille Molly Goddard gown in the sweetest shade of candy floss pink. A Burberry trench coat cinched just so. A Dries Van noten suit with the collar popped insolently.
The BBC series, which became a huge hit when it first aired in 2018, instantly became one of the most stylish shows in recent memory the second that psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) hopped onto a motorbike in a pair of Paige denim cut-offs and a sea green pussy bow blouse from Chloe in pursuit of her latest kill.
For Villanelle, fashion isn’t merely the act of putting clothes on your back and going about your day. It’s a crucial means of expressing yourself, every bit as playful and personality-full as Villanelle’s assassination methods.
Villanelle treats style as just one part of the great cat-and-mouse game of espionage. Remember how much fun she had leafing through Eve’s suitcase and picking out a new designer for her to wear, each one a perfect fit? (We’re still thinking about that Roland Mouret dress.) Villanelle uses clothes like she uses weapons. Which is why her biggest obstacle in the second season is some truly hideous fashion.
We know from the trailer for the second season that Villanelle will get back into her gladrags eventually. The footage includes snippets of images of Villanelle in an androgynous suit, in an ochre teddy bear coat, in a salmon pink shirt (with gobstopper gold earrings) and a Seventies-inspired orange look reminiscent of a bohemian.
But in the first episode Killing Eve season two Villanelle wears a pair of cartoon-emblazoned boys’ pyjamas and a pair of crusty, yellowing Crocs.
Villanelle visible winces – more than she did when confronted with the pain of her stab wound – when she is faced with them as she looks for a pair of shoes to wear that will allow her to escape the hospital. The Crocs are her only option, so Villanelle forces her beautifully pedicured feet into them and hobbles away. In the second episode she’s clad first in a yellow Tee-shirt, denim skirt and knobbly rainbow cardigan and, later, a shapeless old woman’s nightgown.
This is, quite simply, Villanelle’s greatest fear. Bad clothes are a sign that you have given up on life and on the game that is an assassin stalking her prey. But in the early episodes of the second season of Killing Eve, Villanelle is injured and in recovery. She can’t exactly be choosy about what clothes to wear when she’s on the run.
That’s where the boys’ pyjamas come into it. In order to escape the hospital, Villanelle has to shed her hospital gown and for that she turns to her wardmate Gabriel, a teenage boy recovering from a car accident that killed his entire family. Villanelle, being the psychopath that she is, can’t fully empathise with Gabriel’s plight. But the pair do warm to each other, and Gabriel passes her a pair of his electric blue cartoon pyjamas to wear, which are comically short on Villanelle.
Later, in the second episode, we see Villanelle in a supermarket in a mismatched assortment of clothes pilfered from someone else’s machine at the laundromat: ratty rainbow cardigan, washed-out slogan tee-shirt, denim miniskirt. From here, Villanelle ends up locked inside a creepy doll-collecting man’s house, wearing his mother’s old nightgown. (Don’t even begin to ask.) By the time she escapes, that nightgown is splattered with blood.
The Villanelle that we see in the first two episodes of the second season of Killing Eve is a Villanelle operating at a greatly reduced capacity. When Eve stabbed her, she injured her physically and mentally, and Villanelle is struggling to recover from the blow. Her reflexes are slow, her abilities dulled and her nose for sniffing out danger is completely off. How else can you explain that Villanelle spends most of episode two unable to escape from a man with a house full of porcelain dolls?
The Villanelle we know and love would have eaten him for breakfast. But season two Villanelle can barely muster the energy to fight him, and when they finally do she makes a bloody mess of the whole thing.
Want to see just how much Villanelle is struggling in season two? Just look at her clothes. If season one Villanelle used fashion for exaggeration and expression, then in season two she is barely using fashion at all. Gone are the high fashion looks and the playful experiments with colour, silhouette and style – a way of reminding everyone that she was not to be ignored – and in their places are outfits of requirement.
It won’t last for long, don’t worry. The trailer proves that Villanelle’s wardrobe will be back to its lovely, lush self in a matter of episodes. But seeing Villanelle force herself into bad fashion for the sake of survival is a reminder that even the most powerful psychotic assassins are far from invincible.
Killing Eve season two airs on BBC iPlayer in the UK and BBC America in the US now.