The two rivals at the heart of Killing Eve, Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh), have been dancing around each other since Season 1, each thinking they can outwit the other. Eve thinks she’s smart enough to break through to Villanelle’s human side, and Villanelle thinks she’s a good enough manipulator to seduce Eve into abandoning her moral code. For two seasons, they’ve been locked in a battle of wits where Villanelle constantly has the upper hand; and as hard as Eve and the team at MI6 have tried, Villanelle remained physically and intellectually unmatched. As entertaining as it’s been to watch Eve inch closer to Villanelle’s dead heart only to be shot in the chest, she deserves better than agents chasing their tails and a handler who can’t actually handle her. But a new character in Season 3, Dasha (Harriet Walker), is finally saving Villanelle from boredom. Dasha is a genuine challenge to her on all fronts, and for the first time since Killing Eve began, Villanelle has a counterpart and not just a plaything.
Dasha is introduced this season in a flashback to Russia in the 1970s, where she’s running through a gymnastic routine on the uneven bars in a dilapidated gym. Like Villanelle, Dasha’s gymnastics persona is merely a character to get closer to her target. Without breaking cover, Dasha lures a fellow gymnast into the locker room, murders him, pours a pound of chalk over the dead body, and sashays out of the room, straight into a bright murder-filled future. Dasha, by her own admission, isn’t just a killer—she’s an artist. Even in her retired years, she works and strives for greatness. Dasha is a decorated gymnast of the Soviet Union era, a past she clings to as she trains other young gymnasts and talks to Villanelle about her hopes of being sent back home to Russia. She’s also a seasoned assassin who brags about how her kills are “untouchable” and still studied today by young killers in training. She challenges Villanelle in ways big and small: intellectually, physically, and—first and foremost—fashionably.
At a lavish wedding reception in the Season 3 premiere, Villanelle walks in rocking a black-on-black fitted tuxedo with a sheer blouse that’s quickly upstaged by Dasha’s silver sequin suit topped with a crown braid. It’s not every day that a woman over age 14 can pull off blunt bangs and crown braids, but Dasha wears them as if she invented the look. While Eve has had her own designer fashion moments—the form-fitting black gown in Season 1—she doesn’t bring clothing to life in the way that Villanelle and Dasha can.
Where Dasha poses the biggest threat as Villanelle’s nemesis is through pure psychology. Previous seasons showed that Eve lacked that special degree of ruthlessness needed to keep up with Villanelle. While Eve’s morals have prevented her from pulling the trigger, Dasha is a proud, unapologetic killer—the type of assassin who relishes the process and subtly reminds Villanelle of her superiority every chance she gets. In the premiere, Dasha mentions casually to a group of girls she’s coaching that she molded Villanelle from useless to great. It’s a throwaway insult, but in taking credit for making Villanelle who she is, Dasha reinforces her apparent desire: She wants her former student to return to the art of murder and fulfill her destiny. In the same episode, Villanelle and Dasha are negotiating the terms for Villanelle’s return and submission to the 12. Instead of shaking hands on the agreed terms, which involve a major promotion for Villanelle, the two begin to choke each other in a twisted game of chicken. Dasha wins the war and gets Villanelle to agree to get back to work. Dasha understands how power works, whereas Villanelle and Eve both struggle to see the long game in front of them.
Instead of trying to change Villanelle or reason with her, Dasha meets Villanelle at her level—something Eve was never able to manage. As much as I hate to admit it, Eve is weak, and Villanelle preys on that weakness without breaking a sweat. In a single episode, Dasha’s proven her ability to bend Villanelle to her will and put a dent in her narcissistic exterior. When Dasha sends her protégé out on her first job in months, Villanelle copies Dasha’s original kill from the ’70s. Dasha is Villanelle’s blueprint, and it’s eating Villanelle up that she can’t outdo her. With Dasha pulling Villanelle’s strings and goading her to kill, the two could make a formidable team in the long run—but there is no way Villanelle will settle for being second best.