Missing Fleabag? Consider its ultra-violent cousin, Killing Eve
The multi-Bafta-nominated show brings creeping moral unease to its bad romance
Sandra Oh in Killing Eve. Photograph: Aimee Spinks
For anyone already pining for Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s note-perfect comedy which ended this week, you might consider Killing Eve (RTÉ Two, Wednesday, 9.35pm) as its bigger-budget, further-flung, ultra-violent cousin.
In truth, the shows bear little resemblance to one another, but they do have a few things in common. The first is Waller-Bridge, who developed the show from Luke Jennings’s novellas. The second is a sly wit that stems from unlikely places. And the third is that both programmes feature isolated female protagonists looking for an audience.
In Jodie Comer’s ruthless assassin Villanelle, a young woman with an angelic face and a devil’s stare, we get a pleasing paradox: a phantom who craves recognition. “She’s highly skilled, as yet untraceable, and frankly she’s starting to show off,” Fiona Shaw’s MI6 operative Carolyn confided in Eve, Sandra Oh’s obsessive analyst.
In the first series – currently leading the nominations at this year’s Baftas – Eve was appointed as Villanelle’s sleuth, chasing clues across the world while putting the lives of her colleagues and family in danger.
Yet their relationship became something more fascinatingly twisted, their contact on a knife-edge between intimidation and seduction. With only a trace of irony, Eve took to calling Villanelle her “girlfriend”, and it was telling, at the climax of the first season, that they should somehow wind up in bed together.
It was a scene of battle, in which Villanelle seemed more hurt by Eve’s betrayal than her switchblade, and Eve more remorseful than revenged. You could call it a painful break-up.
The second series takes up precisely 30 seconds later, following a rattled Eve as she flees Paris, and Villanelle, skulking in shadows like a wounded animal, in need of urgent repair.
Waller-Bridge is less hands-on in this series, passing on the showrunning duties to Emerald Fennell, who accentuates notes of toxic dependency. When a woman in the airport thinks, with fellow-feeling, that Eve is an addict, she laughs uncontrollably. Returning home in a near catatonic state, though, and clinging to a cold-caller window salesman for something like normalcy, an addiction is not an unreasonable assumption.
In hospital, meanwhile, Villanelle reminds you just how psychopathic she is, if there as ever a threat of forgetting. As disturbing as it is disarming, the show finds another line to cross with the killing of a young boy, his neck snapped with almost comic abruptness - the music pauses for the moment, then resumes - and for the shallowest of reasons.
Like the last shot of Villanelle – bound for London as a stowaway, with an unnerving half smile – Killing Eve brings a creeping moral unease to its bad romance. You don’t get away so easily.