Review: Killing Eve, season 1

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

Killing Eve is a spy thriller unlike anything you’ve seen before. The eight episode first season had not even aired when Killing Eve was renewed for a second season. If my feeling about season 1 is any indication of how I’m going to react to future seasons, I hope it goes on for many years!

Beware, there are slight spoilers ahead.

This cat and mouse chase has two female stars and a female writer. The combination creates a story that fascinates and surprises. And delights!

Take a look at the characters.

Sandra Oh in Killing Eve
I’m just a desk driver, not a field agent. Or maybe I am.

Sandra Oh stars as Eve Polastri. Eve is a forty-something, mid-level government agent in MI5. She has a desk job and a secret obsession with female assassins. She has a husband named Niko (Owen McDonnell) at home and they are very happy with each other.

When Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) from the Russia desk happens into her office to discuss a murder, Eve blurts out that she thinks the killer was a woman. This brings her to the attention of Carolyn Martens at the exact moment when she’s fired from her desk job. Carolyn calls her in and assigns her to a secret spy group tracking female assassins. Eve found her happy place!

Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sean Delaney and Sandra Oh in Killing Eve
Elena, Kenny, and Eve at work

Eve brings on her own staff: Elena (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Bill (David Haig). Carolyn’s tech genius Kenny (Sean Delaney) comes with the office. Carolyn provides resources, and the four of them are on the hunt for female assassins.

The Nemesis

We meet a particular female assassin early on. Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, is the killer.  Eve and Villanelle develop an obsession with each other.

Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), Villanelle’s handler, informs her that a special task force in England has been set up to hunt for women like her. This tickles Villanelle’s ego so much that she investigates the investigators.

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve.
Villanelle likes to play dress up when she throws a party

Konstantin sends Villanelle off on missions to kill people all around the world.  Villanelle is a strange one. She feels no remorse for her many killings. She likes to watch her victims take their last breath as the light leaves their eyes. She takes pride in her original and creative methods of killing her victims. She kills one woman with perfume!

Villanelle shows no empathy, no understanding of normal social interactions. She pretends to be normal, but likes putting on oddball costumes for her meetings with Konstantin.

She has sex with both men and women, sometimes both at once. Attracting sex partners is easy for her – she’s supremely sexy.

The Third Rail

The third rail in this series, lurking between the lines, is the sexual component between Eve and Villanelle. It’s there, set to sizzle, the moment the two of them touch it.

From the beginning, when Eve describes Villanelle to a police artist in terms a lover would use it’s clear Eve harbors some sexual undercurrent regarding Villanelle. Eve even admits to being a fan of the assassin.

And for Villanelle, who is curious about this woman searching for her, we see her send beautiful clothing and perfume to Eve. What cat and mouse game between hunter and prey has the prey teasing the hunter with designer clothes? It’s usually a chopped off body part in a bloody box.

Villanelle steals Eve’s suitcase in Berlin. She returns it to her in London, with designer outfits that fit perfectly. The evening Eve takes it home and looks at what’s inside she can’t resist putting on the perfume, trying on a dress and the high heels that match it.

That’s the evening Villanelle walks into Eve’s apartment, scares her witless, and demands at knife point to “have dinner with her.” The scene reaches a climax when Villanelle smells her perfume on Eve’s neck.

The quote from Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the tweet came from this Vanity Fair article. The whole article is worth a read.

These two have big feelings for each other, but the question is always there as to when Villanelle will tire of the game and actually kill Eve. There are things these two need to learn about each other that will teach them something about themselves. Surely Eve can’t be killed before that happens! (And there’s the knowledge of at least a season 2.)

Russia!

Eve, Carolyn and Kenny go to Russia. They chase down Anna. Anna (Susan Lynch) is Villanelle’s former high school language instructor. Back when Villanelle used her real name, Oksana, Anna taught her languages and brought her to her apartment for sex. Oksana loved Anna – perhaps her first and only true love relationship. There was a small problem of Anna’s husband, which Oksana solved by killing and castrating him.

The habit of castrating her male victims stuck with Villanelle. We saw the sad results of her penchant for removing penises when Eve was still chasing Villanelle about in England.

We learn that young Oksana threw a balloon and cake filled party for Anna when she killed the pesky husband. She threw a similar birthday party for Konstantin. Perhaps we’ll learn in season 2 what a party with balloons and cake signifies for the complicated Villanelle.

Villanelle goes into and out of a Russian prison while they are among the Soviets. She performs another assassination in prison, and, her work done, is sprung from the joint by none other than Carolyn. WHAT?

Actually, Carolyn’s behavior in Russia is suspect in many ways.

Villanelle is given the job of killing Konstantin. She botches it, for a change. She kidnaps his daughter Irina (Yuli Lagodinsky) to use as bait. Irina is highly annoying and brings out the immaturity in Villanelle we knew was there.

The Big Finale

Elena back in London tracks down Villanelle’s Paris address. Instead of going from Russia back to London, Eve goes to Villanelle’s apartment.

Eve finds a huge apartment, much bigger than her crowded flat in London. The bathroom has row of expensive perfumes, a huge tub, pink tile. One wardrobe is filled with Villanelle’s murder tools, the other with  designer clothes. There’s nothing in the refrigerator but champagne. Villanelle has the perfect life. What does Eve have? A stuffy flat and a husband who won’t return her calls.

Eve tosses the place in a fit of pique. Throws clothes on the floor, smashes bottles of champagne. In walks Villanelle.

Eve points a gun at Villanelle for a while, then flops back on the bed and drops the gun. She admits to Villanelle that she thinks about her all the time – her eyes, her mouth, what she eats, what shampoo she uses, what she’s wearing and more and more. Villanelle says she thinks about Eve all the time too – while masturbating.

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

The two of them are on the bed. Eve says, “I’ve never done anything like this before.” Unguarded, Villanelle responds, “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing,” and turns to Eve.

Within seconds everything changes and Villanelle is nowhere to be seen. Villanelle’s nosy neighbor (Sonia Elliman) gets off the season punchline when she announces, “She left.”

Great Performances

Thanks to genius casting, Killing Eve benefits from brilliant performances.

I’d never heard of Jodie Comer before this series, although she already has 23 credits on IMDB. She is spellbinding as Villanelle. She kills people. We should hate her. Yet somehow she makes us love her. Comer plays a woman who doesn’t feel normal emotions, yet she imbues Villanelle with an amazing range of expressions and body language.

Sandra Oh is simply a master, and this role is a perfect fit for her. By contrast, Sandra Oh as 80 credits on IMDB, only one of which is 220 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

Fiona Shaw gives a mysterious and fiesty performance as the surprising keeper of Russia-related secrets. Kim Bodnia as Konstantin is fantastic. The running joke is women who mention how good looking he is. He’s a bit in love with Villanelle himself. It’s always a treat seeing Susan Lynch in anything, even though her arc in the series was a brief one.

Also check out my review of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag

Killing Eve was adapted from the Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novellas by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Phoebe Waller-Bridge deserves enormous heaps of credit for writing this brilliant series. She constantly surprises, constantly pivots the story onto new ground, constantly gives the actors clever things to say and do. She brings the quirky to new heights while keeping it exciting and tense as any spy thriller deserving of the genre should be.

If you’re like me and don’t see BBC America in your channel selection, you can still watch this wonderful series. You can purchase the entire season on Amazon Video or iTunes. It’s worth it!

10 thoughts on “Review: Killing Eve, season 1”

  1. I have been loving this series from the first minute. Eve and Villanelle are just amazing, fascinating characters, and the other cast members are excellent. It is perfect escapist fare for women. Men have had the Bond movies forever–it’s about time that we get to have as much fun. I do confess, however, that the last episode felt a little rushed and unsatisfying.

    1. They did have a lot to do in the last episode. But I loved the last few seconds with Eve rushing to help and Villanelle just disappearing. Perfect. Like Christopher, I’m so eager for season 2.

      1. How Villanelle will (medically) tend to her wound, I hope, will be explained in season 2. Minor detail perhaps, can even be skipped maybe, but I really think that it could serve as a plot device, or her character development/explanation. She won’t just check in to an emergency room in a hospital, will she?

        Jodie Comer, was fantastic in My Mad Fat Diary and Thirteen, and The White Princess (which plot seemed to be slandered quite a lot by internet’s history fans). I haven’t watched Dr.Foster, but by the looks of it, she delivered yet another solid performance of a character.

        1. I had the notion that she would just pop up in season 2, healed but angry. It would be interesting to find out how, wouldn’t it? I have missed everything Jodie Comer was in prior to this. I should go back and watch some of the things you mentioned.

  2. i seem to recall you reviewing Dr. Foster on Netflix – Ms. Comer has a significant role in that series, quite a different character than Villanelle.

    1. I tried to watch Dr. Foster and just couldn’t. Much as I enjoy Suranne Jones, I could take all her drama over a failed relationship. If I saw her in it, the part Jodie had didn’t really register with me. Villanelle, on the other hand, definitely makes an impression.

      1. Dr. Foster is a difficult show but i think the dysfunction of the characters is the point. i suspect we would find that many people lose their shit when a marriage comes apart. apparently the show is incredibly popular in the UK and won her a BAFTA.

  3. The series has only recently been shown/released in the UK. I’m not sure why we had to wait so long.

    I thought Sandra Oh was wonderful. I had only ever seen her in ‘Sideways’ in which she wasn’t given much to do so she was a revelation in this. My favourite moment among many goodies was the guilty way she said “4” when she gave Villanelle her phone password (1234).

    Jodie Comer was also in an effective ghost story called ‘Remember Me’ with Michael Palin. She acted in her real accent which is Liverpudlian.

    Kim Bodnia played Martin in the first two series of the Danish/Swedish crime drama ‘The Bridge’ with Sofia Helin as Saga. I think you would like that programme, Saga is a complicated character and her relationship with Martin is fascinating.

    Btw, Eve and her husband live in a house not a flat. It looked like a typical two bed-roomed terraced house of which there are thousands in London. They were built for working class people in the late Victorian/early Edwardian era. I live in one not dissimilar and their kitchen/living room would have been created from the two downstairs rooms knocked through.

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