It’s been a while since I was blown away by a new television series such as Jude Law’s papal-based The Young Pope (2016) and Tom Hardy’s gritty Victorian drama Taboo (2017). Well, Killing Eve is “it” for 2018. A killer thriller like no other, the BBC America series is suspenseful and unpredictable, filled with dry humor, fascinating locations (both dodgy and exotic), and standout performances from its two leads.
(Minor spoilers of Killing Eve Season 1 ahead. You’ve been warned.)
Story tells of a jaded London-based security intelligence officer Eve Polastri (Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh) who becomes obsessed in tracking down a highly-skilled Russian assassin codenamed Villanelle (The White Princess’ Jodie Comer) who is coolly executing prominent people in ghastly fashion across Europe.
Based on the Villanelle novellas by Luke Jennings and adapted by the multi-talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame, Killing Eve is an unconventional cat-and-mouse chase that grabs your attention by the first episode with dry humor you least expect from a spy drama tinged with grim killings. The show, which premiered in April, has since garnered two Emmy nominations for outstanding writing in a drama series (for Waller-Bridge) and best lead actress in a drama series (for Oh, who created Emmy history by being the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated in this category).
Sandra Oh’s Triumphant Return To TV
It’s a joy to see Sandra Oh back on the small screen. The first time we see her character Eve Polastri, she is screaming hysterically in bed, scaring her husband Nico (Owen McDonnell) – and us the viewers – as she was in pain having “fell asleep on both my arms”. Right there and then, you know you are watching a spy series like no other.
Eve is someone whom most people could identify with. Practical yet disorganized at times, she turns up at a meeting late, gets glared at by the big boss, yet proceeds to nibble her breakfast buy in spite of being further frowned upon by everyone in the room. Ambitious but not recognized for her keen criminologist’s mind, Eve finally gets her chance to shine when enigmatic M16 operative Carolyn Martens (an exceptional Fiona Shaw, a.k.a Aunt Petunia to Harry Potter fans) assigns her in an off-the-record capacity to hunt down Villanelle. Unfortunately, Eve’s new responsibility turns into an obsession that put the lives of her loved ones and colleagues – including her own – at risk.
Oh is well-cast as Eve, an intelligent yet occasionally blur blob who easily shifts between moods of over-confidence and insecurity, aggressiveness and vulnerability, within seconds. The versatile Korean-Canadian also brings a huge amount of underdog vitality to Eve that makes you want to root for her all the way. The Emmy nomination is but a small indication of just how brilliant Sandra is in the role.
Jodie Comer’s Star Turn As A Sassy Cold Blooded Assassin
Make no mistake, the chillingly efficient assassin that Eve is after is a nasty piece of work. Villanelle kills in horrible albeit creative ways without batting an eyelid, has no qualms of mistreating children or the elderly alike, and every lifeform she comes in contact with means nothing and is expendable to her.
Yet, you can’t help but develop some unexplained sympathy for the young attractive woman (mesmerizingly played by Jodie Comer), wondering if there is something really, really bad in the past that triggered Villanelle to be the soulless person that she is. Is she hankering for a father figure judging by the relationship with her handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia)? Though totally independent, she also crave for brief companionship with strangers (male and female alike) but who wouldn’t lose any sleep if any one of these would meet with an unexpected demise. It’s due to uncharacteristic sloppiness on Villanelle’s part during her last kill – a witness was left alive – that led Eve on her trail. A chance meeting between the two protagonists set up the show’s intriguing cat-and-mouse chase as both women gets equally obsessed in tracking each other down.
Comer, last seen as Elizabeth of York in The White Princess, has a gem of a role to play as the cunning killer-for-hire. Her Villanelle is cold, crafty, charming and flirty, with a dash of vulnerable childishness that makes you wish someone like Eve will eventually save her from the immoral abyss that she’s in. Truth be told, the Liverpool native truly deserved an Emmy nomination herself. Here’s to Jodie earning a few nods of her own come awards season.
Cool, Slick Location Graphic Signposting
Next to sublime performances and unintentionally funny dialogue, there’s a lot of other bits to like about Killing Eve such as the series’ big bold capitalized location graphic signposting that tells the viewer where the action is taking place such as London, Paris, Berlin, Tuscany and Moscow (which is actually Bucharest standing in for the Russian capital). A rib-ticklin’ moment is when a tiny English village Bletcham gets equal prominence with the metropolitan cities of Europe when a key event takes place in its vicinity. Even the opening titles are cool, with a thin trickle of blood flowing down on a different letter of “Killing Eve” in each of its eight episodes. #cooltouch
Great to know that Season 2 for Killing Eve is already green-lighted. Will definitely re-watch Season 1 again before the next one rolls out reportedly in 2019.
Killing Eve is available for binge-watching on BBC America on demand.