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So Killing Eve is back and it's the same as ever. Sensual, funny, overall entertaining but very, very silly. If you're not in the know, the whole show is based around a psychosexual lesbian romance between an intelligence officer, the titular Eve, (Sandra Oh) and a comically competent Russian-accented assassin, 'Villanelle' (Jodie Comer) who are stuck in a constant cat-and-mouse game. The narrative bends backwards over itself to facilitate this admittedly quite fascinating relationship at the expense of all plot and common sense. The supposedly well-trained intelligence officers all act like morons 24/7. Meanwhile, Villanelle is somehow everywhere, all the time, and has an amazing talent for doing criminal shit in plain sight and never getting caught.
The show has a serious stakes problem because it is made clear early on that Villanelle has no real interest in "killing Eve". Villanelle can basically teleport wherever she wants usually in some fabulously gaudy disguise to boot, a power that she can use to effortlessly track down Eve several times over the course of the series for yet another sexually charged chitchat session, but she will never face consequences for her actions. She's an entertaining character, but the constant jokes about her casual attitudes towards sex and murder get old after so long. While Comer flexes some unexpected comedic chops, Sandra Oh gives easily the most gripping performance, regardless of how shallow the surrounding material may be. The episodes where Eve and Villanelle blatantly team up are the best. The whole show should purely be about that instead of all this artificial, thrillery-dillery intrigue. What's worse is that one gets the impression that the creators genuinely think they're creating a genius, cryptic work of fine art, which may be in the production value and score, but it certainly isn't in the writing department. It's a shame because Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an incredible writer under the right circumstances.
But it's... funny, I guess. However, the show is nowhere near as deep or dramatic as the marketing materials would have you believe. Villanelle can be threatening to torture someone while asking them for a shepherd's pie recipe. If you want a gritty, realistic forensic thriller like the adverts seem so intent on having us believe, this is most definitely not the show to turn to. The main issue with the show is the overly self-indulgent writing.
Killing Eve tells the story of a former MI 6 agent, Eve, who is tasked with taking down a sexy, international super assassin. Basically, the show is what happens when you take the trashiest airport thriller novel concept and make something far more interesting out of it. It's like re-carving an IKEA table into a Chippendale.
To elaborate, not only is the premise kind of trashy, so too are a lot of the details. Our villain, who goes by the alias "Villanelle", isn't just a super assassin, she's also a kinky, flamboyant, depraved bisexual, psychopath assassin from mother Russia. She works for some shady organisation, so plot-wise not only can no one be trusted, everyone is probably some sort of a double agent without even realising it. It's all standard fare and utterly unsurprising, which is normally bad for a mystery thriller plot.
But what rescues the show is just how well the characters themselves are written. Eve, as played by Sandra Oh, is this endearing, dowdy, beleaguered hero who just needs to be given a goddamn break. There's more than a passing resemblance to Day of the Jackal's Lebel in her, a humble cop who is surrounded by James Bond wannabes and uncooperative Cold War relics. Meanwhile, whilst Villanelle herself could have been a bad spy fiction cliche, her constant irreverence and wry sense of humour has much more in common with the rakish hero from Phoebe Waller-Bridge's other masterwork, Fleabag. These two leads develop something of an obsession for one another, and whilst thankfully at no point does Villanelle utter the words "we're very much alike, you and I", the resemblance is there, and you find yourself dragged into their mutual frustration with authority and their homoerotic, will they/won't they relationship.
So whilst the series is full of things that don't quite add up (people die unrealistically easily, Villanelle is never spotted by airport security despite barely changing her appearance, both the good guys and bad guys call her "Villanelle" for unrelated, coincidental reasons) you are largely distracted from it by really solid writing and character work, the show choosing to focus on this far more than the spy vs spy framework. I look forward to season 2!
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