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‘Killing Eve’ season 3 recap – episode 5: ‘Are You From Pinner?’

(Courtesy of Sid Gentle Films/BBC America)

"Are You From Pinner?"

May 10

Directed by Shannon Murphy

By Annika Carlson

May 12, 2020 3:58 pm

Warning: spoilers ahead.

“Killing Eve” finally committed a major broadcast blunder – a boring episode.

Sunday night’s show “Are You From Pinner?” devoted the entire hour to Villanelle’s brief stint at home in Russia. The homecoming, which was obviously an attempted deep dive into Villanelle (Jodie Comer), fell flat. The interest in watching 60 minutes of “Killing Eve” relies on voyeuristic stakes – each episode promises an answer to the question of who Villanelle will kill next and in what ways it will be both gruesome and individually fashionable.

But in this episode, no such stakes ever existed.

Drowned out by run-of-the-mill blocking, poor set design, and an ultimately unrewarding story, the lack of stakes and traditional “Killing Eve”-isms – Carolyn’s dry wit, Eve’s lovable obsession with death and the intrigue of an unidentified international crime organization – made “Are You From Pinner?” a massive waste of time.

[Related: ‘Killing Eve’ season 3 recap – episode 4: ‘Still Got It’]

Season three has begun to feel like one big endeavor in humanizing its female characters. And while the urgent need to present nuanced women on screen is a mission typically well served by “Killing Eve,” the successful fulfillment of womanhood as seen with Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) didn’t work in this episode. Carolyn could be understood only when juxtaposed with the other core characters, but executing the same sort of subtlety in Villanelle just didn’t make sense without the presence of Eve (Sandra Oh) as her narrative foil.

It all began with Villanelle kicking rocks on her way up to a graying ramshackle farmhouse where she found herself in the middle of what was essentially a scene from a stage play plopped into a television screen. The eccentric inhabitants – ranging from a never before seen stepfather to her stepbrother’s conspiracy theorist girlfriend – entered and exited the kitchen, introducing themselves to a sitting Villanelle. As each member of the cast revealed their relation and occupation, their individually annoying demeanors clarified that by the end of the episode, Villanelle would kill at least one of them.

But despite the single quirk that defined each character, the interactions were still bland. Monotonous costumes and poor definitive blocking muddled up the dynamics of what would have otherwise landed as humor. So when Villanelle ended up killing all of them – her mother, stepfather, stepbrother and his girlfriend – the deaths didn’t settle as solidly as the typical “Killing Eve” kills.

[Related: ‘Killing Eve’ season 3 recap – episode 3: ‘Meetings Have Biscuits’]

There were, however, a few momentary bright spots during the episode, one being Villanelle’s brother Pytor’s (Rob Feldman) introduction and survival. Chock full of the same facial contortions and dry wit, Pytor was an effortless and staunchly believable empathetic counterpart to Villanelle. Between their conversation over couch smashing and Pytor’s sweet side-hug over lunch, Pytor proved himself to be the only valuable plot device to come out of tonight’s episode.

The second and final noteworthy moment in an otherwise bland hour of television was Elton John’s musical motif. Villanelle’s younger stepbrother Bor’ka (Temirlan Blaev) had a childlike obsession with the rock legend, and Villanelle humored his love by sporting a short strawberry-blonde wig and heart-shaped sunglasses. Later, the family danced along to Bor’ka’s passionate lip sync of “Crocodile Rock” in one of the episode’s more playful moments. Seeing Villanelle in the middle of swaying arms and terrible dance moves was laughable, but the initial novelty soon wore off with a quick return to the dry supporting characters and beige interiors.

Muted blues occasionally punched through the tan and brown – the walls of the house, Villanelle’s sweater, an ’80s tracksuit – but the stylized interpretation of rural Russia lacks the typical pizazz of “Killing Eve” and only adds to the episode’s jarring effect.

With essential core characters left out this week, the color was sucked out of the story and the set design simply followed suit. A tiny bit of punch from the Elton John classic “Crocodile Rock” during a card game and Patrick Betty’s “Black Blues” over a lunch outing attempted to compensate for the painfully khaki color scheme by adding auditory color. But the attempt, much like the episode as a whole, failed to fully achieve what it set out to do.

While it was only a matter of time before Villanelle’s mysterious past was solved, a single narrative with only two payoff points was a deflating and unsatisfying exploration of an incredibly complex character. In a series set on scaffolding stories around eight episodes each season, there’s just not enough real estate for an hour-long homecoming.

It seems the writers put the entire episode out on a limb that Villanelle has grown enough to carry an episode all by herself – but she hasn’t. Jodie Comer did manage to put on her usual nuanced apathy with a bit more care in this episode, but the series isn’t called “Following Villanelle,” it’s “Killing Eve.” And the titular character’s presence in Sunday’s episode was sorely missed.

Without the charming dullness of Eve, not even Sir Elton John could save Villanelle from assuming the role of the boring character.

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