With the second season of the BBC America drama Killing Eve on April 7 comes the return of the tantalizing cat-and-mouse game between intelligence officer Eve Polastri, played by Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer’s very fashionable international assassin, Villanelle.
Throughout season one, the women are simultaneously horrified and fascinated with the other. They want to (actually) kill each other but yet they can’t get enough of each other. The complex relationship made for television success: Oh’s performance was award-winning, and the season finale drew 1.25 million viewers, up a staggering 86% from its premiere.
But what makes the two so obsessed with each other? And what makes us obsessed with them? We talked to Dr. Alexandra Solomon, a professor and couples therapist at Northwestern University, who says that the natural human desire for risk could play a role.
“There are two things that we seek when we are building an intimate partnership,” Solomon says. “We’re seeking a sense of security…but that sits right next to another craving we have as humans, which is that we crave surprise, we crave novelty, and we crave a little bit of danger. We crave unpredictability.”
Solomon compares the chase between Eve and Villanelle to the flirtation and seduction at play in the early stages of a relationship. “When you think about flirtation, when you think about seduction, it’s basically a cat-and-mouse game,” she says. “Anxiety and arousal kind of sit side by side, where we’re not sure what’s going to happen next, and that keeps us on our toes. That blend of power, seduction, flirtation and unpredictability is a very neurologically compelling brew that gets going inside of us.”
Solomon adds that part of Killing Eve’s appeal lies in the fact that it takes this compelling, relatable chase narrative and “amps the volume way up on it.” In the season one finale, as Eve and Villanelle meet face-to-face yet again, they confess their obsession with the other. “I think about you all the time…I think about your eyes, and your mouth, and what you feel when you kill someone,” Eve tells Villanelle, mere minutes before she (spoiler alert!) stabs her nemesis in the stomach with a knife.
Besides the flirtation, Solomon says that Eve and Villanelle’s fixation could also stem from feelings of jealousy, especially in regards to Eve, who is unsatisfied with her intelligence desk job at the beginning of the series.
“Sometimes a negative reaction we have to somebody is fueled, in part, by a sense of envy for them, an envy for the life they’re allowed to live or the things that they don’t worry about…things that we are constrained by,” she says, adding that the envy is related to “the split between duty and freedom.”
“Eve has chosen duty: She’s the good girl,” Solomon explains. “And there may be a part of Villanelle that longs for the simplicity of a life that you can live above board.”
In the end, Solomon says that Eve and Villanelle’s relationship of contradictions, which the trailer shows will only deepen in season two, is a feeling any one of us can understand. “We oftentimes want two things that are completely contradictory at the same time in the same life,” notes Solomon. “Those are the kinds of tension that we sit in over and over again.”
Watch the Killing Eve Season Two premiere on BBC America or AMC, April 7 at 8 p.m. ET.
This is paid content produced for an advertiser by New York Stories. The editorial staff of The Cut did not play a role in its creation.