Against their better judgement, US television viewers are becoming captivated by a beautiful Russian assassin with strong sociopathic tendencies.
Villanelle, played by British actress Jodie Comer, is a character on BBC America series Killing Eve, which has slowly become a television sensation in the United States since its April 2018 premiere.
Written by British playwright Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the show – now screening on ABC iview – is based on a series of novels by British author Luke Jennings and follows a cat-and-mouse game between Villanelle, a talented killer for hire, and Eve Polastri, the MI5 agent pursuing her, played by US actress Sandra Oh.
While Oh, 46, is a major star after her turn on Grey’s Anatomy, it’s relative unknown Comer, 25, who is generating the most buzz for her portrayal of the violent, detached and yet somehow strangely likeable Villanelle.
Identifying themselves as “Villanelle apologists”, her fans – both male and female – are inexplicably attracted to her bizarre brand of sadistic charm.
Villanelle easily is one of the best portrayed characters I’ve ever watched… like …. I’m obsessed pic.twitter.com/MYYQT5Nn2L
— Dorian Gray (@_Yooomyy) May 21, 2018
— Sue HU (@yeahzisue) May 19, 2018
“I came to Killing Eve for Sandra Oh – I wasn’t prepared for Jodie Comer,” Buzzfeed deputy editor Sarah Karlan tweeted on Monday.
Vox writer Caroline Framke said of Villanelle: “[I] can’t remember the last time I made eye contact with a character and felt my blood run cold.”
“Jodie Comer as Villanelle is the role of a lifetime and I will not accept the Emmys voting body not acknowledging this,” writer Britt Julious proclaimed.
Comer has been applauded for her startling range as an actor, able to switch between “menacing and adorable” at will and leaving her audience entirely confused as to whether they’re rooting for or against her.
ACTING ACTING ACTING pic.twitter.com/CA9yboZF2U
— anna (@anyataylorsjoy) May 21, 2018
Asked whether she’s at all disturbed by viewers’ affinity for her stone-cold serial killer, Comer told late-night host Seth Meyers earlier this month: “I’ve got to say I am! I feel like everyone’s questioning their morals a little bit.”
But, Comer added, that was her goal from the get-go.
“I wanted people to be a little bit scared of her but then kind of want to be her friend, to want to go for a drink with her.”
Strikingly beautiful and entirely lacking in empathy, Villanelle takes pleasure in watching her targets beg for mercy and finds joy in socially unacceptable acts like smiling at a child before throwing their ice cream on the floor.
Impeccably dressed at all times, she also loves the luxuries her career affords her and is becoming something of a cult fashion icon.
One particular scene sees her wear a floaty hot-pink tulle dress to a psychiatric evaluation, while in another she rocks a fabulous patterned suit to stab someone to death in a nightclub.
But perhaps even more interesting than Villanelle’s bizarre personality is her confusing interplay with Eve, with both women seeming mutually obsessed with each other. Are they mortal enemies or could there be some kind of twisted romance blossoming?
This sense of mystery extends to the show’s title, with Oh telling The Wall Street Journal: “Most people, including myself, thought that meant the poor lady is going to be killed. But does the killing happen to Eve, or is Eve doing the killing?”
It’s this unexpectedly engrossing premise that has allowed the show to pull off a rare feat: according to the Journal, Killing Eve has managed to substantially increase its viewers with every episode.
Watch Villanelle in Killing Eve (warning: disturbing content)