Is Villanelle’s Sexual Orientation the Same in the Novels as It Is on ‘Killing Eve’
Killing Eve is all about the nearly fatal attraction between a (former) MI6 agent and an alluring assassin. What starts off as longing from afar due to their jobs, Eve Polastri and Villanelle’s relationship turns into a tension-filled partnership. They’re obviously very attracted to each other, but Eve is way more hesitant about admitting her feelings for a woman than Villanelle is. In fact, even though Villanelle’s sexuality is never explicitly labeled, she’s a queer woman. She sleeps with both men and women and there’s a quiet power in the fact that the show never comments on it. But is that how Villanelle is in the original books? [Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for Killing Eve].
Villanelle’s sexuality is never explicitly talked about in the show, and that’s the point
Backtracking just a bit, Villanelle on the show, Killing Eve, is revolutionary in several ways. Yes, she’s a nearly psychopathic killer, but she’s also so fabulously herself. As actress Jodie Comer said recently about Villanelle, she’s free to be herself no matter what. She lives for herself and her desires alone (until Eve comes along). Part of that is who she sleeps with, and she’s quite the catch, for all genders. And for Comer, that’s important.
“I think what I love as well is that Villanelle’s sexuality was never discussed – it was who she was and I love that,” Comer told Gay Times UK last June. “It is who she is and that was that.”
Co-star Sandra Oh, who plays Eve, also added that that’s what makes the show so good.
“No one needs to focus on or put quotations around things, with it being sexuality or race,” Oh said. “You don’t have to put quotations around things because that’s actually not how we live. I think that’s one way that people responded.”
And last April, before Season 2 premiered in America, Comer told Vulture that Villanelle is “unapologetically herself and free with her sexuality” and that’s something Comer always “celebrated.”
“That’s what’s so refreshing. It’s just a part of her,” Comer said of her character’s sexuality. “That’s what I love about her. It’s not something that [the writers] spoke about or is featured really heavily — you just accept this woman for who she is. And I think it’s really beautiful.”
Villanelle has the same sexuality in the novels, which is (again) importantly understated
Getting into the novels, Killing Eve is based on the book series by Luke Jennings. There are obviously changes between the two forms of the story, but the character of Villanelle, specifically, is the same. Or very similar. In a Reddit AMA in October of 2018, Jennings answered a lot of fan questions about his books, sometimes touching on the connection between them and the show.
One user pointed out that both the books and the show don’t have a big “coming out bravado” with Villanelle, or even Eve when she realizes her feelings for the killer run deep. Villanelle just checks out women to check them out; there’s not a lot of commentary on it because it’s normal for the character. And that’s how it should be.
“I try and create a character in full, with their sexuality just one characteristic amongst many, and not necessarily something you discover immediately,” Jennings said about creating a character outside of “queer stereotypes.” He then went on to say television doesn’t often demand “realistically complex and contradictory and multi-dimensional” characters, but that Villanelle is one of them.
Jennings also notes that he’s never had an LGBTQ audience before the Codename: Villanelle novels, but that this community is part of the reason Killing Eve is so popular now.
“I’m guessing that it was in very large part the passionate response of the LGBT audience worldwide (who are mostly very connected and tech-savvy) that drove the early success of the show,” Jennings said. “And it feels wonderful to have created characters that speak so directly to that very committed audience and readership. As a writer, it’s everything you hope for.”
Comer loves Villanelle’s freedom with who she is
Villanelle’s sexuality is such an errant thought that it’s never really defined — is she bisexual? Pansexual? — but her lack of needing a label underlines the major part of her character. Her queerness is just a small part of who she is, but it is inherently built into her.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Comer talked about the special relationship the LGBTQ community has with the show, and specifically with Villanelle. She also talked about how Jennings expressed to her that fans write about feeling seen. Seeing Villanelle’s sexuality displayed on-screen like that is a joy for them.
“You can have these relationships with women, this fascination, this compulsiveness to know this, and I don’t think that I’ve ever really seen that explored on television,” Comer said about Villanelle and Eve’s intense relationship. “It’s looking into the female psyche and being written by a woman who has an understanding and a knowledge…”