Warning: this feature contains spoilers for Killing Eve season two
Something isn’t right. The second season of Killing Eve (this time, without Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s exquisite touch) has passed through me and my insides are not tingling in the same way they were at the end of the first series. Jodie Comer remains glorious as Villanelle. Sandra Oh’s Eve is reliably impactful and Fiona Shaw’s performance as Carolyn Martens is somehow even sharper than I remembered. So what’s disrupting what was otherwise perfect TV harmony? It’s the privileged Eton-Oxford graduate who’s suddenly on the scene.
Hugo Chambers is attractive. He’s got a solid head of hair and that type of charming swagger that’ll leave you feeling invested and manipulated all at the same time. We could have gotten on fine if we had to. Edward Bluemel (Sex Education) plays him well and his positioning as the antithesis of our beloved Kenny (Sean Delaney), Carolyn’s son and co-member of this special MI6 unit, was pretty cool. But here’s the thing. Though he was dramatically screwed over in the end (we’ll come back to this), in the last 20 minutes of season two, episode four, our posh pal Hugo went and delivered the line that almost ruined the entire series for me.
At this point, Hugo and Eve have ditched Kenny in the office (strike one) on the hunt for new assassin 'The Ghost'. Hugo has been straddling the line between flirty fascination and arrogant oneupmanship with Eve for a little while. Now, he’s in a fast food joint in Peckham telling Eve that he was once given a hand job beneath the table at which they’re sat. Cool, bro. Twenty lad points to Slytherin (strike two).
Next thing you know, he and Eve are chatting by the bins. High on the crispy skin of secret recipe fried chicken, they’ve popped outside for a cigarette. Eve hasn’t smoked since university, she says, but now, accompanied by this smarmy, good-looking dickhead, seems the time to try it again. It’s not quite as indulgent as a post-sex cigarette, but it seems Hugo wants to nudge it that way.
"Can I ask you something?" Hugo asks. "What’s the deal with you and Villanelle?" He lets the question linger and flashes that suggestive one-sided smile that my back catalogue of wannabe bad boys all seem to have. Eve says she doesn’t know. "She fancies you, doesn’t she?" Hugo pushes excitedly. Eve is unimpressed. "Not everything is about sex, Hugo," she replies. "Isn’t it?" he asks, with a surprising level of sincerity.
"What is it? Do you like watching her or do you like being watched?" Hugo continues. It doesn’t feel like sincere fascination anymore. He’s getting off on it. "Both," Eve answers. Hugo is into it. But there was something telling me that this entitled guy wasn’t into it in the same way that we, the audience, had been for the last 12 episodes. I internally pleaded for him not to fetishise this relationship. I begged not to feel conned out of TV’s most complex and exciting dynamic. Call it a projection of my own external frustrations, but there was something a little gross there. Something very masculine and seedy behind his question. Something that made it for him and not Eve. Strike three.
It was enough for him to lean in for a kiss, though. Eve doesn’t back away. No; testament to her complete indifference towards husband Niko at this point, Eve stays perfectly still and lets Hugo approach for a smooch which would have landed had Kenny not interrupted with a text. God, I love Kenny.
I suppose this scene between Hugo and Eve was always coming. Carolyn has asked about Eve’s connection to Villanelle in the past, as has Villanelle's handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) to his own erratic and incredibly stylish charge. But Hugo is the first character to speak directly to the nature of what Eve's relationship with Villanelle might be. Eve doesn’t say that Villanelle doesn’t fancy her but we're approaching labels that haven't been floated beyond imagination just yet. Like a gust of wind, Hugo blew open the curtains that the Eve and Villanelle relationship had been (conspicuously) lingering behind. The cold light of day is pouring in and we’re put in decidedly – and relatively conventional – romantic territory now and, despite the heavy build-up that members of the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter have identified as queerbaiting, the show itself doesn’t really want us to be in this realm. Or at least, not for long.
A couple of episodes later, Hugo snuck back into our empathetic side. With Villanelle now working undercover for Eve’s MI6 team (they’re no long interested in The Ghost, but rather the sociopath who had hired her to kill people connected to his data company), they’re all sent to Rome. Hugo and Eve are monitoring Villanelle from a hotel room – she’s wearing a wire and Eve is wearing an ear piece. When Villanelle seems to be going to bed, Hugo decides to turn in too but Eve wants to stay up. Knowing that she’ll be listening, Villanelle starts to talk directly to Eve. "You need to let yourself go sometimes. I can help you," she says suggestively. Obviously, this sends a current through Eve. Turned on, she springs up, jumps into bed and on top of Hugo (with Villanelle's voice still playing in her ear), and the deed that was teased back at the chicken shop is done.
Eve’s pretty cold to Hugo in the morning. When he realises who was in Eve’s head while they were in bed together, he sarcastically thanks her for the threesome and storms out of the room feeling a bit sad and used. Turns out there are some baddies waiting in the corridor and they shoot Hugo. At around the same time Eve hears Villanelle use the pre-agreed safe word and, to absolutely no surprise at all, leaves Hugo bleeding into the hotel’s very old carpet before running to Villanelle’s aid. We'd always known Eve's deep commitment to Villanelle, but after that digitised three-way and the colleague left to bleed out alone, the depth of her devotion is very clear.
We don’t know if he dies, and his fate is left unattended as our attention is re-drawn to whatever this relationship between Eve and Villanelle is (or isn't) as the final scene teases the dysfunctional but romantic happily ever after we'd been hoping for. Yet while this seems like a plausible conclusion for the two, Hugo's words continue to niggle in the back of my mind right up to the end credits. It's been clear from the off that of course Villanelle "fancies" Eve, and vice versa. They're mega into each other but it's more than the gratuitous queer crush that the term suggests when it comes out of an obnoxiously unaware rich boy's mouth. He flattened the Eve and Villanelle dynamic to something base and defined by his own shallow understanding when, alongside the sex, heat and primal attraction, these two women are intertwined in a far more complex way than hand-job-in-the-chicken-shop Hugo could possibly understand.