What Killing Eve's Season 3 Looks Reveal About Villanelle’s Mysterious Backstory
Killing Eve’s Villanelle isn’t just a morbidly creative assassin with a twisted sense of humor. She’s also television’s best-dressed criminal. Over two seasons, and a third now underway on BBC America, actress Jodie Comer has appeared in dozens of absurd guises and showstopping looks. Who among us didn’t press pause to admire that gossamer Molly Goddard confection near the end of season 1? Or consider investing in pop-art pajamas after the second season premiere? Whether she’s calmly pursuing a hit or lounging around her opulent new flat, Villanelle always dresses to kill.
“Villanelle doesn’t give any of her secrets away in the way she dresses,” Killing Eve costume designer Sam Perry tells InStyle. “The main point of her looks is working out who she really is, whilst still remaining a mystery.” Season 3 of the acclaimed drama ventures to reveal more of Villanelle’s past, and her true identity, than we’ve seen up until now. The premiere’s opening scene flashes back to find her in Russia, training with Dasha (Harriet Walter), who soon becomes her new handler in the present day. When Dasha crashes Villanelle’s wedding in the next scene, the two engage in a chaotic and meme-worthy brawl.
“Villanelle can go from being powerful to vulnerable to unhinged within a few outfits,” Perry says. Or sometimes, all in the same one.
Perry picks up the mantle of costuming Killing Eve from the series’ two previous designers, continuing Villanelle’s established playful love of fashion. “I wanted to show her emotional journey through her outfits,” Perry says. “But also remind the audience that she is a young woman [who] enjoys fashion,” and her job affords her any sort of outfits she wants. We took a peek at what’s ahead this season for Villanelle, and heard from Perry about the inspiration behind some of the killer’s standout looks.
Perhaps the most colorful is coming up in episode 2, when Villanelle shows up at a kids’ party dressed as a clown (as you can probably guess, some of them will develop a lifelong fear after how she behaves). “I was very keen for Villanelle’s clown costume to have an element of fun as well as style to it,” Perry says. “At the same time, it needed to freak the kids out.” Perry describes the look as a real collaboration with makeup designer Juliette Tomes. “Villanelle puts lots of effort into getting her ‘kill’ costumes right,” Perry says. Clothes are an important part of her job, and this season especially, Villanelle is out to prove she’s a serious professional. At the same time, “since she has natural style, she can’t help but add extra little details” even when she’s disguising herself for work, Perry says.
Barcelona serves as Villanelle’s home base this season, where her nefarious employer, known as the Twelve, have put her up in an airy, Old World flat. “Villanelle is very much influenced in her style by the places that she travels, but she never dresses to just fit in,” Perry says. “She enjoys being extravagant and unpredictable in her choices.” On the streets of Barcelona and the interior of her flat, Villanelle favors bold, often floral-inspired prints. “I wanted to evoke the blistering heat in her Barcelona outfits,” Perry says. “This also gave me a great opportunity to use strong colours and patterns in her dresses.” They include a long-sleeve, floor-length dress from The Vampire’s Wife, which Perry suggests has a hint of Flamenco in its ruffles, and a DoubleJ mini dress in a mod-inspired vintage print.
By nature of working as an elite assassin, Villanelle is an expert at fitting in with her surroundings. “She is such a chameleon,” Perry says, including as the character slips between conventionally masculine and feminine silhouettes. Before ditching her poor clueless bride at their reception, Villanelle suited up in a black Comme des Garcon jacket with tails. In another upcoming episode, she gets up to all manner of mischief in a three-piece pinstripe suit. Perry describes the loose-fitting androgynous look as Villanelle’s take on casualwear, even as the character resembles an old-school gangster on the clock. “Her outfits do have a huge element of disguise to them, creating a character even when she isn’t on a kill,” Perry says.
The closest we come to discovering the real Villanelle is in episode 5, when she makes a journey of self-discovery. “The outfit Villanelle wears when confronting her past is a real mash-up of clashing colors and patterns,” Perry says. The apron she wears overtop, featuring a heart decal front and center, was fashioned at the last minute from an old ‘80s skirt and belongs to someone close to Villanelle, Perry says. “Jodie liked the idea of having something of that character’s for the scene, so actually the apron was her idea,” says the designer. “The overall effect of the outfit is to show a bit of the chaos and craziness that she is dealing with internally.”
More than anything, Villanelle makes life as a serial murderer look like the most glamorous job on Earth. And she seems to relish dressing the part. “I think it’s a fleeting pleasure,” Perry says of the enjoyment Villanelle reaps from fashion. “She feels that she deserves nice things because she has worked so hard for them.” But the material possessions she leaves behind every time she moves to a new city don’t fill the void she feels inside, Perry says. As suits any epic, near-fatal love affair, the only thing that can make her feel complete is Eve.