TV Editor James Nash takes a look at the first few episodes of Season 3 of Killing Eve
“Poor Kenny”. Ah, Konstantin — truer words were never spoken. Killing Eve has never been a show to play by the rules; if there’s one constant it’s that it knows how to shock. Killing off a loveable character like Kenny was a decision based on three motives: to give the third series a plot, to give the lead characters something to deal with emotionally, and to give the audience a shock. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. It never has — just look at the reaction to Tara’s death on Buffy almost 20 years ago. It’s cheap, unnecessary, and worst of all, lazy.
Lazy appears to be the watchword this series, with episode one showing Villanelle inexplicably re-recruited back into the arms of the Twelve because she’s just that good, despite her numerous rogue operations and erratic behaviour. Worse still, Villanelle is forced to kill her new co-killer Felix when his assassination plan goes off-book, which begs the question: why haven’t the Twelve disposed of her yet? The pacing of episode one is just as lazy as the plot, meandering back and forth with not even a pinch of the wit or tension we’re used to.
Similarly, there seems to be fundamental misunderstanding of how Villanelle works. The killings were never about the costumes — they were just a stylistic bonus. It seems a strange thing to complain about considering the violent, graphic nature of previous kills, but they used to have a certain finesse to them; Villanelle treated it like a dance. Nothing about her clumsy, messy murders this series screams ‘trained assassin’. Not to sound like a deranged disciple of Dame Waller-Bridge (though we all know I am), but it is becoming more apparent that the show cannot quite recapture the insane magic that made the first series so electric. It’s almost as if we’re watching a ghost, a copy — a good one at that, but still a copy.
However, it must be noted that despite these shortcomings, Killing Eve is still a league ahead of most TV out there. Episode two was a marked improvement on the first, with the funeral providing some much needed black comedy, and the indulgent luxury of Villanelle’s baroque Barcelona home treating us to some visual delights up there with the very best of the show’s international locale.
“Perhaps given the meatiest writing of the lot this series, Shaw excels with quiet confidence, a reserved tour-de-force of performance that steals episode two entirely.”
The cast are stellar, as always. Sandra Oh’s deft seesaw between camp comedy and intense drama as the titular Eve should never be underestimated. Jodie Comer’s Villanelle is as gleefully captivating and sadistically sympathetic as ever, and new addition Dame Harriet Walter is obviously having fun as Villanelle’s mentor, Dasha.
But special praise must go to the oft-unsung MVP of the show — Fiona Shaw. Perhaps given the meatiest writing of the lot this series, Shaw excels with quiet confidence, a reserved tour-de-force of a performance that steals episode two entirely. Carolyn’s version of an emotional breakdown involves listening to loud classical music and eating sandwiches alone in her car, but as the camera pulls in on Shaw’s face in achingly slow fashion, all the immense pain, and regret and anger at losing her son are heartbreakingly apparent, merely through her glossy eyes and the slight breaking of her voice. It’s beautiful — and one of the best performances of the year. Perhaps Kenny’s death was good for something.
Ultimately, the tagline still rings as true for the audience as it does Eve and Villanelle: obsession never dies. There’s still a lot to like, but I think I’d like it better if I didn’t know what we could have had. The third series of Killing Eve has had a bumpy start — let’s hope it sticks the landing.
Words by James Nash
This article was originally published as part of The Indiependent’s May 2020 charity magazine, which raised money for the British Lung Foundation. Find out more here.