Killing Eve: Is the murderous Villanelle really a sociopath?

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Photo Credit: BBC America

Killing Eve‘s main antagonist Villanelle, an assassin with a flair for the dramatic, enjoys murdering people, but she’s also more complex than I first thought.

When I binged Killing Eve last month, I went into it assuming Villanelle (Jodie Comer), aka Oksana, was a sociopath, and for the first episodes, I was convinced she was. For example, she enjoys her job as an assassin and not because she feels any vindication in killing specific people.

Villanelle doesn’t try to convince herself that her targets deserved to die because she doesn’t need to. She genuinely does not feel remorse for killing them. She takes pleasure in the act, or perhaps in her case the art, of murder itself.

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Additionally, Villanelle doesn’t only kill people she’s assigned to kill. For example, she could’ve easily given Bill (David Haig) the slip while he was pursuing her since she was aware of his presence the entire time. But she didn’t because she wanted to kill him. It wasn’t a desperate action. It was a premeditated one. She wanted him to know that he had underestimated her.

Further evidence of Villanelle’s sociopathic tendencies can be seen in her encounters with Nadia (Olivia Ross). For one, Villanelle had already betrayed her to get out of prison. Then, after promising Nadia they could have a new life together, Villanelle ran her over without hesitation, which was jarring to watch, despite already knowing what Villanelle was capable of.

Villanelle showed an even deeper level of depravity when she successfully and quite brutally killed Nadia in prison. Of course, her elation mostly stemmed from her belief that being sent to solitary would be her ticket out of jail, as Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) had promised it would be. Nevertheless, Villanelle smiling gleefully while covered in Nadia’s blood (as can be seen above) is hardly an argument against her being a sociopath.

I’m not denying that Villanelle has severe mental health issues throughout Killing Eve. In fact, she meets all the criteria for anti-social personality disorder, which is the medical diagnosis that most closely aligns with sociopathy, per The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

Such criteria include “manipulativeness,” “impulsivity,” “callousness,” “deceitfulness,” “ego-centrism,” a lack of “empathy” or “remorse,” an “incapacity for mutually intimate relationships,” and signs of such characteristics during childhood.

So maybe Villanelle is a sociopath. But maybe she’s also not the heartless monster that we tend to assume sociopaths are, at least not entirely.