In “Killing Eve,” Villanelle (Jodie Comer) does not leave loose ends, so it’s surprising that, at the beginning of the seventh episode of the fourth season, she wakes up on an island belonging to the woman who left her in critical condition with an arrow sticking out of her back. This new assassin, Gunn (Marie-Sophie Ferdane), is like her weapon of choice: quiet, expeditious and low-tech. Before Villanelle is up and at it, Gunn has wasted no time drowning and gutting the fisherman who keeps casting his net in her waters.
The deaths in “Killing Eve” often come at random, indiscriminately. The show, in its early days under Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was dead set on displaying the ways in which murder befalls the unlucky; one person might be killed one episode, then a few more the next and none in the one after that. Waller-Bridge, the actress-writer (and this season, executive producer), was hyper-aware of the psychopathic tendencies of her lead killer — a role that, in season four, has slid into the familiar archetype of the hurt ex.
Perhaps that’s jumping the gun a bit. There are things that still elude viewers about Villanelle — it’s not clear what she wants with Eve (Sandra Oh), what her past with Gunn is or why she visited Gunn’s island in the first place. Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) advised her to go there, but that’s hardly an answer, and by the end of the episode, he’ll bleed to death in a hotel room.
Konstantin’s new protege, Pam (Anjana Vasan), once advised him not to underestimate her. This was shortly before Pam pushed him into the sea in episode four, as she was just beginning her training with him. Now, her training appears to be finished — or at least Helene (Camille Cottin) seemed to think so. Before Helene died, she ordered Pam to kill Konstantin, and Pam, not knowing Helene was recently killed, takes a pizza cutter to Konstantin’s throat.
Pam’s behavior across this season follows the fourth season’s pattern of demystifying its characters’ behaviors and entertaining simpler, less nuanced mental states. Gone, largely, is any notion of a murderous psychopath finding her way toward love; Villanelle has been reduced to just another naughty assassin acting out to escape the thumb of the Twelve. Pam, too, falls victim to this. It feels like ages ago that she was a character full of unexplored possibilities, that her family history might spark her to develop in any direction. She’s forced into a role less by the Twelve and more by an unimaginative team of screenwriters.
Indeed, it often seems that season four is operating on the same shock factor that propelled the show’s earliest season to such high caliber. Yet, this season hasn’t yet reckoned with the deeper, grittier burdens its characters shoulder. There are far less opportunities for Comer to convey meaty traces of self-doubt and fear with such a crowded cast of characters. Helene is, thankfully, out of the picture, and the Konstantin-Pam plotline has seen its paltry end, but Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) is still occupying a good chunk of time on her own with a revolving, messy cast of Russians and other spies. Still on the hunt for the Twelve, episode seven finds her evading a spiked drink, piecing the clues together and realizing that her search may take her home to MI6.
Eve, meanwhile, has a crisis of the soul. She goes to karaoke with Yusuf (Robert Gilbert) for a pick-me-up, only for it to turn into a Debbie Downer: She imagines the room full of everyone that’s died in the way of her job — Bill, Niko, Elena — laughing and singing along. It’d be nice if it was real, if she wasn’t hallucinating it. That’s what she could have had.
Instead, at the end of the episode, she’s stumbled into a fight between Villanelle and Gunn, which leaves her laying on the cold forest floor, straddled by Gunn, who’s about to chop her to bits. Villanelle is waiting in the wings, but there’s no guarantee she’ll save Eve.