Wickedly engaging and thrilling executed, Killing Eve twists what you think of a spy thriller and it emerges as a morbidly funny, intense and addictive show that constantly surprises.
Eve Polastri( Sandra Oh) is a security officer in MI5 who has a good marriage to the lovable Niko(Owen McDonnell) , but she’s grown restless at mainly having a desk job. Although she has a great confidante in the experienced co worker Bill(David Haig) and free speaking colleague Elena(Kirby Howell-Baptiste) , Eve wants something more. Her mind is constantly working and she has a knack for knowing a lot about female killers. This comes in handy when she is called into a briefing about a high profile Russian politician who was murdered and the sole witness is his current lady friend . Head of the MI6 Russia Desk Carolyn Martens( Fiona Shaw) is interested in this as the witness fled to British soil. Eve speaks the idea that the killer was a woman but no one pays much attention to this. Stifled by her job that provides no satisfaction and belittled by slimy superior Frank Haleton(Darren Boyd) , Eve can’t help but get involved in the case even though she’s been warned to leave it alone. After her investigation ends in brutal tragedy for many, she along with loyal best friend Bill are fired from MI5. Not long after this, she is secretly recruited to an MI6 operation headed by the icy Carolyn . Eve jumps at the chance of this as she has always wanted to be a spy, and though this hunt is a clandestine and off books one, she’s thrilled to liven up her life and brings along Bill and Elena . They are also aided by computer whizz kid Kenny(Sean Delaney ) and operate from a disused building that’s basic but essential to their search. Her suspicions about the killer being a woman turn out to be very true indeed. The killer in question is Villanelle(Jodie Comer) , a skilled Russian assassin with a high level of psychopathy and a taste for the expensive things in life. She’s a prolific killer working for a mysterious organisation known only as ‘The Twelve’ and handled by the crusty but almost fatherly Konstantin(Kim Bodnia) . Seemingly remorseless and savage , she’s been operating for years but lately has started to get more outrageous with her methods of killing. This draws attention to her but when Villanelle gets wind that Eve is investigating her , she becomes entranced and somewhat besotted with the idea of being tracked . For the two women have briefly met without realising the identity of the other , igniting a strange spark that sizzles. Everything starts to mysteriously link as the body count rises and it would appear that a certain conspiracy is going on . What neither woman has counted on is the growing obsession that builds between them in a game of cat and mouse that is lethal, dark and very unexpected.
Killing Eve is a thriller with a difference; shot through with an absurdist and jet black humour that’s engagingly off kilter and flying in the faces of grim and serious spy yarns. That isn’t too say that Killing Eve doesn’t have high and deadly stakes at its centre, it definitely has those in moments that truly shock( like the guy punch of Bill’s murder that caught me off guard )and pull you back to the dangers of being in the spy world. But it has these moments of quirky humour to it that makes it stand out amidst all the outrageous brutality often on show, courtesy of the prolific, big statement kills enacted by Villanelle . Watch out for inventive use of a hair pin and a shocking emasculation for shocks. I will say that Killing Eve is one of those television shows that will be either love or hate with viewers. My advice is to go with the bizarre yet scintillating narrative at play and see what you make of it. The balance of strange but darkly impressive humour with genuine shock and thrills is handled beautifully and in its own unique way here.
The big centre is the cat and mouse game of it all, though in many cases the roles switch to being both cats and both mice as Eve and Villanelle become inextricably linked . The scripts from a talented group of writers , mainly headed by the series show runner Phoebe Waller-Bridge, are crackerjack and have you wanting to see the next episode every time it hits the credits . Special mention has to go to the episode ‘I Have a Thing About Bathrooms’ . It features a simply stellar scene as the two women size each other up after Villanelle breaks into Eve’s apartment and they go through varying emotions. From a curiosity, underlying tension and even it would seem a semblance of understanding, it’s a fine face to face for and once more lights the fuse of an already intensely unusual relationship that is escalating with unpredictable results right up to the finale. The visual style and editing of Killing Eve is cleverly used to emphasise the escalating tension and attraction between the principal women; framing them in shots that mirror each other and also giving us some beautiful locations where murder and mayhem ensue . A pretty eclectic soundtrack of country hopping songs add a moody ambience to the proceedings with a certain 80’s feeling to it that still suits the contemporary setting.
Sandra Oh is simply marvellous as the eponymous Eve, who undergoes an unusual awakening as the episodes continue and her obsession builds. Eve is impulsive, emotional and bored yet this is what makes her relatable and down to Earth. Blessed with an animated and expressive face, the talented Oh is marvellous at getting us invested in Eve’s growing desire and evolving from minute to minute with nuance that’s astonishing. And complimenting Oh and truly burning across the screen with a multi-layered performance is the wonderful Jodie Comer. Essaying a variety of personas, accents and walking the tightrope between vicious, outrageous killer and strangely lovable young woman, Comer is nothing short of a revelation as the assassin who does things her way regardless of consequences. Funny, often frighteningly intense and slowly revealing what’s concealed within a truly twisted mind, Jodie Comer is simply a marvel and deserving of every award going. It’s the crackling chemistry between the two ladies at the heart of Killing Eve that make it so fascinating . One can understand why each woman is obsessed with the other and that is down to the work from Oh and Comer which crafts an ambiguous and curious relationship between the most unlikely of characters. And it’s interesting considering they don’t actually spend a lot of time so far on screen together( apart from a brief but powerful encounter early on that starts the powder keg ) until later on in the episode run where they finally face off a few times. But the palpable feelings and vacillating motives between Eve and Villanelle have been built up so strongly that you know when they do finally confront the other, it’s going to be something special.
The ever reliable Fiona Shaw knows how to throw in the odd curveball to surprise us while retaining a chilly outer persona that screams ruthless from every pour. She’s cold yet complex and you don’t know what you’ll get with her. That’s why I find her character of Carolyn so fascinating to watch and its all down to the subtle nuances that it works. Although he is essentially playing someone villainous, like Villanelle, there is a level to which you can’t help but love Kim Bodnia and his portrayal of handler Konstantin. Plus he’s dryly humorous when the occasion calls for it and Bodnia plays to that so well that you never know whether to laugh or be slightly fearful when he’s around . Sean Delaney has necessary smarts and a slightly awkward manner for the part of computer whizz kid Kenny, and there’s Owen McDonnell as Eve’s hangdog looking husband who grows deeply worried about her escalating obsession. Kirby Howell-Baptiste is witty enough though I don’t find her character the most compelling. And despite only being in a few episodes David Haig and Darren Boyd are both effectively memorable as very different men. Haig is avuncular and at times unexpectedly witty and Boyd is oily and smarmy arrogance personified.
Defiantly unexpected, darkly funny and above all compelling, Killing Eve is a stylish first season of thriller with two standout performances from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. I must say I’m very intrigued to see what follows in the next season.