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« Smackdown '94: Uma, Dianne, Jennifer, Helen, and Rosemary | Main | Review: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" »
Saturday
Jun232018

Killing Eve: Season One 

By Spencer Coile 

With the recent announcement of the Television Critics Association nominees, one show really rose above the competition: Killing Eve. With multiple nominations for the series itself as well as its two leading performances from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, a second season renewal before the first episode even aired, and critical raves, the latest BBC series from Phoebe Waller-Bridge has become something of a phenomenon. 

Killing Eve is about MI5 agent, Eve Polastri (Oh) becoming fixated on catching international assassin, Villanelle (Comer). Killing Eve explores the subjects commonly associated with spy thrillers -- mystery, intrigue, sex, death – but interestingly, it's all through the lens of two female leads. It's also surprisingly bold, enthralling, and hilarious...

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a scene stealer (through just her voice) in Solo this summer, is no stranger to writing strong, complicated female characters. Her original series, Fleabag (which she wrote and starred in) already demonstrated this. Her titular character, is self-destructive and deceitful. She lies, cheats, and steals – but beneath all of her villainous acts is a woman who is hurt and broken by the past. There are parts of her character and her performance that are unlikeable, but more than anything, they are deeply human. 

Waller-Bridge has dropped those same sensibilities and thoughtful characterizations into this new cat-and-mouse spy epicWhat initially starts as a crime caper (peppered with some grisly death scenes and humorous banter) soon spirals into a large scale story of espionage and private organizations. There are twists to all eight episodes of the first season. As the relationship between Eve and Villanelle develops, we come to learn that this plot is much larger than just the two of them. 

If that worries you, it shouldn’t. Killing Eve never waivers on its focus on the central relationship between these two women. As an avid Sandra Oh fan (from Sideways to her multi-Emmy nominated work on Grey’s Anatomy), I am delighted to see such a hardworking, but under-appreciated actor take on one of the most complex and nuanced characters currently on television. Her Eve is nutty and chaotic; but there is a quiet precision and thoughtfulness behind every line and every glance. Her desire for Villanelle (mostly platonic, but could there be more?)  is deeply compelling, because even when they are separated – which is the bulk of the first season.  

That means, of course, that Killing Eve cannot simply be The Sandra Oh Show. And while Oh is fantastic as Eve, the series would not work without Jodie Comer’s beguiling and monstrous performance as Villanelle, Oh’s foil. Comer, much like Villanelle, is only in her mid-twenties, but you would never guess it from the layered, sinister work she puts into developing this woman. Villanelle is truly a bad person; she admits that herself. In one scene early on in the series, when a man she is about to kill asks why she is doing this, she takes a moment and replies, “I have absolutely no idea.” And within this singular line reading is everything you need to know about Villanelle. She is frightening and calculated, trained to kill without remorse. Still, though, there is a child-like innocence to her actions. It’s as if she is merely curious by the process of killing people. Her actions are that of a heartless killer, but there is something lurking beneath the detached exterior that tells us otherwise. 

And while Oh and Comer work wonderfully alone, their work together is simply electric. What starts out as a story about Eve trying to find Villanelle soon evolves into a bleak, seductive, and queer love story between these two women. There is a slow burn to their sporadic interactions and the two actresses milk these scenes for all they're worth. We should feel frightened; they could kill one another in an instant. Yet there is a strange king of bond the two share, and one can only hope it will continue to grow with subsequent seasons.  

Early on in the series, Eve is asked to describe Villanelle for a police sketch. She says: 

Her hair is dark blonde, maybe honey? It was tied back. She was slim, about 25, 26. She had very delicate features … her eyes are sort of cat-like. Wide, but alert. Her lips are full, she has a long neck, high cheekbones. Her skin is smooth and bright … she had a lost look in her eye, that was both direct and also chilling. She’s totally focused, yet almost entirely inaccessible.

This attention to detail illustrates not just Eve’s fascination with her nemesis, but the entire first season. With the combined effort of Waller-Bridge, Oh, and Comer, it seems clear that Killing Eve is interested in tackling a predominantly male genre with fresh insight and complexity. It is an absolutely wild show and its success at TCA is fully earned. 

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Reader Comments (10)

Amazing show - so, so good!

And don’t forget Fiona Shaw - stealing every scene she’s in!

June 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I love this show. The acting in the show is just so lived in which is weird because these characters are so strange. Season 2 honestly can’t come sooner.

June 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Has there ever been an Asian American actress Emmy winner in best actress in a drama serie?

June 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Just a WEIRD show with INTERESTING characters. S1 was a great joy to watch.

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Jorge - She'd be the first nominee let alone winner.

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I second your sentiment about Sandra Oh.

I never saw Grey's Anatomy, but I've seen her in Rabbit Hole, Sideways and few other things, and it's thrilling to see such a talented and underutilized performer finally getting such a meaty part. I'm am so, so, so, so, so, so happy for Sandra Oh's newfound success!

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTheis

This is a great show, and the two leads are wonderful in it. It would be great to see them both as Emmy nominees. And Sandra Oh - so good for so long (I first became a fan of hers because of Last Night - 20 years ago).

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Great, great show! I am a big fan of the spy genre and hope that two of the best spy narratives - The Americans and Killing Eve - make the Emmy cut this year.

I am rooting for Sandra Oh or Keri Russell in the lead actress race. Elisabeth Moss is great, too, but she already won, and Oh and Russell deserve the type of breakout careers that Moss and Claire Foy have enjoyed. Oh is so much fun to watch; she made me tune in to Grey's Anatomy long past its sell-by date.

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

From the opening shot of episode 1 I knew I’d love this show. Such a weirdly cool show that is hysterical, chilling, heartbreaking and biting all at once. The best thing to happen to cable tv in years!!!

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterME

Never saw "Grey's Anatomy", but I've been fascinated by Oh since I saw her in "Last Night", a sweet, sad, and very Canadian movie about the end of the world.

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbcarter3

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