TV Review: Killing Eve

Fresh, female-led, and completely addictive – Lucy Ingram reflects on the hit thriller

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve is one of the most bingeable and satisfying shows seen in recent years. While the cat-and-mouse premise may not sound original, the blend of action and dark comedy as well as the complex relationship between the two female leads makes for a refreshing change.

Adapted from Luke Jennings’ novellas, the show centres around Eve Polastri, an ambitious MI5 agent tasked with tracking down Villanelle, an elusive Russian assassin. Each episode raises the intensity as Eve follows Villanelle around the world including locations such as Tuscany, Paris and Berlin. Villanelle’s array of murder weapons and disguises always leave Eve one step behind, but things begin to complicate as Villanelle reciprocates Eve’s fascination with her.

Sandra Oh expressed her surprise at landing the role of Eve, having waited for the right role to peak her interest following her exit from Grey’s Anatomy. But as an actress of Korean heritage, Oh was used to receiving supporting roles in western television, something that will undoubtedly change judging by her knockout performance in this first series. From her fabulous facial expressions to her excellent comic timing, Oh adds an entertaining factor to her character. Despite her drive and intelligence Eve makes a series of misjudgements in both her professional and personal life, making her all the more relatable as we experience both her triumphs and her shortcomings.

As the face of the shady organisation that Eve aims to dismantle, so much of the show rides on Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, who brings charm and charisma to the role in a enchanting performance. Comer achieves the impressive feat of making the audience root for her, despite being a psychopathic assassin and self-proclaimed “bad person”. Like Eve, Villanelle has a surprisingly comic aspect to her character as some of the most dramatic moments are defused by one of her unexpected, amusing remarks.

There are so few shows that achieve what Killing Eve does so successfully. With most TV shows there will be a likeable protagonist or an entertaining supporting character, as well as a host of characters you don’t care about or wish would just be killed off. With Killing Eve, you can emotionally invest in all of the characters, making the unfolding drama even more exciting to watch.

Fashion doesn’t usually play a significant role in thrillers, yet some of the show’s continuous buzz has been down to the incredible outfits worn by Villanelle, inspiring articles by Vogue and The Guardian. From her dramatic pink Molly Goddard gown to her endless supply of designer trench coats, Villanelle likes to spend her hit-money on some pretty amazing outfits. The contrast between the two women is created partly through what they wear, with Eve prioritising practicality over style. However, as her obsession with Villanelle intensifies, she begins to take an interest in the £5,000 worth of designer clothes that Villanelle sends her, enticing her further into Villanelle’s world.

One of the best things about Killing Eve is the female-led cast. Despite the extreme scenarios the women are placed in, they seem far more relatable and recognisable than many other constructions of female characters. The feminist themes throughout the show are subtle but effective, such as the nice touch of Villanelle lining up her bullets beside her tampons. Additionally, the way in which certain scenes are filmed creates a female-friendly tone, such as Eve getting changed in a normalised way rather than the performative, sexualised way women are often portrayed when they undress. Oh and Comer are also surrounded by a host of wonderful supporting actresses, most notably the sublime Fiona Shaw, playing formidable MI6 boss Carolyn Martens. To an extent, the male characters are reduced to supporting roles or fit into the ‘damsel in distress’ trope, creating a much-needed role reversal.

With the second series given the green light before the first had even aired in the States, we won’t have to wait long before we find out what happens after that shocking final scene.

The series finale of Killing Eve airs tonight, Saturday 3rd November, at 9:25pm

Words by Lucy Ingram

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