What is Killing Eve?
BBC America’s Killing Eve is a series based on the novel Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings. It’s the classic spy vs. spy story with a twist: both spies are women. Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is an MI5 security officer who wants more out of life than her boring desk job and stable marriage allow. Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is a talented and lethal killer who has become accustomed to the lavish life her job affords. The two women are thrust together in a game of cat-and-mouse, which grows more intense as their obsession with the other deepens.
Most viewers know Sandra Oh from her time on Grey’s Anatomy, where she played the brilliant and acerbic Dr. Cristina Yang. It would be easy to compare Eve and Cristina because they are both intelligent women driven by their careers, but they are also two very different characters. While Cristina was cold and struggled to develop relationships, Eve is happily married to Niko (Owen McDonnell) and has close friendships with her colleagues (including going out with them for karaoke after hours — just try imagining Cristina doing that).
Eve is bored with her mundane life and starts investigating cases on the side, looking for a new female assassin she believes is involved in killings all around the world. Because of her criminal psychology background, Eve is fascinated by what drives this woman to murder. She’s also obsessed with macabre and the way this assassin doesn’t play by the rules — hinting perhaps some darkness within herself as well.
Oh plays Eve with an intense, nervous energy that makes fans anxious just watching her. She’s smart, but also kind of a mess, which makes the character seem all the more real. She’s constantly pulling on clothing while she’s halfway out the door and eating on the run. But you can also tell that her mind is moving just a step ahead of everyone else around her. Oh’s performance — especially in the more emotional and harrowing moments — is one to watch.
Villanelle is an assassin with every tool at her disposal. She’s equal parts charming, seductive, and cold, while also surprisingly funny. She has no qualms about her assignments and will kill anyone without question — for the right price. The only relationship she seems to have is with her handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) and mostly because he keeps her in jobs that fund her lavish lifestyle.
Villanelle is a fascinating character. You can’t help but like her despite her reprehensible actions. She draws the viewer in, the same way she does with her prey. But underneath there does seem to be a vulnerability and brokenness that only threatens to grow larger. Forget Red Sparrow, Comer is the Natasha Romanoff fans need.
Jodie Comer is electric as Villanelle. You cannot take your eyes off of her when she is on the screen. She makes a perfect foil to Oh’s Eve: chilling, calculating, and emotionless versus warm and intuitive. The play between the two women is fascinating as they lead each other in an elaborate game with life-or-death stakes.
License to Thrill
Killing Eve is a thrill ride from beginning to end. There are car chases, foot chases, narrow escapes, political intrigue, and secret organizations. The episodes are action-packed and span multiple countries, providing a fresh backdrop for each scene. Villanelle executes her assassinations with creativity and flair (i.e. she turns a hair accessory into a murder weapon). Eve does most of her work on a computer, but it’s no less thrilling watching search for answers. With each episode, the stakes get higher and higher and their stories become more and more intertwined.
The way Eve and Villanelle circle each other is captivating. The question of what draws these two women to each other and what they both want drives the series. There’s an unpredictability with these characters; anything can happen and the heightened tension that comes with bracing yourself for when it does.
With only eight episodes, Killing Eve makes precious use of the time it has. There is nothing extraneous; every scene builds the stakes and the relationships between the characters. Even the opening scene in which Villanelle practices smiling while watching an ice cream shop employee for clues gives a clear impression of exactly how dangerous she is from the start.
One of the most important aspects of in the spy genre is style. If you think of James Bond or Man From U.N.C.L.E. certain images spring to mind. Killing Eve is able to project the same kind of feeling on a TV budget. The show filmed on location around Europe and it is apparent, with gorgeous countries as the backdrops of various intrigues. The music and even the title cards displaying the city names are sleek and well-designed, adding to the overall feeling.
The costumes are also superb. From the various outfits and disguises worn by Villanelle to the long tailored coats worn by MI6 legend Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw), all the characters just feel the part. Eve’s clothes fit her character as well, showing the contrast between her domesticated world and the world of the professional spies — the world she so longs to join.
This isn’t just empty style, but style with substance behind it. The clothes, locations, and set design only serve to further build the world and add depth to the characters.
Is Killing Eve Good?
Killing Eve has already been renewed for a second season, which should clue fans about BBC America’s faith in the show. And it’s not misplaced. It’s an obsessively watchable show with a cast of diverse female characters and a showrunner/producer/writer in Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Oh and Comer have amazing chemistry. Their characters are morally messy and imperfect yet still get to have the audience root for them. On top of it, they get to look incredibly cool. The whole show is full of capable women in positions of power who spend time (in Eve’s case) supporting each other and working together.
The dialogue is smart, snappy, and at times unpredictably funny. To quote Cristina Yang, it’s “dark and twisty.” And it will keep you on your toes with plenty of surprises and cliffhangers along the way to keep viewers wanting more. The first episode pulls viewers in and never lets go. Killing Eve premieres this Sunday, April 8 on BBC America at 8/7 C.