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TV Review: Killing Eve (Season 1)

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Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and actress Sandra Oh were undeniably robbed of their Emmys for Killing Eve.

Based on the Villanelle novels by Luke Jennings, this series is like Sherlock meets McMafia, but if either of those shows were good and created by women. 

MI5 security officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) spots patterns where no one else does — specifically linking a string of high profile assassinations around the world.

Fiona Shaw plays the formidable Carolyn Martens, the senior operative who takes Eve under her wing in order to find the mysterious female killer and uncover the reason behind these killings.

These London office scenes are full of remarkably funny workplace banter, poignant relationship issues, and the occasional day drinking. Contrasted with this are scenes of our assassin, Villanelle (the impeccable Jodie Comer), travelling to beautiful location after beautiful location, dressed in beautiful clothes, and killing people in increasingly fascinating ways.

Eve and Villanelle develop a mutual obsession, and their global game of cat and mouse constantly keeps the audience on our toes regarding who is really chasing whom. A psychopath with little understanding or regard for social convention and interaction, Comer is captivating as Villanelle, mimicing those around her to manipulate people. You’d think it would be hard for Eve to balance out this hypnotic chameleon in terms of maintaining audience interest, but that’s why Oh’s Emmy nomination was so well deserved. 

Eve’s dogged determination, her refusal to cave to authority figures, her almost bumbling mannerism that gives way to genuine and un-stuttering empathy when the need arises — she is everything a compelling leading woman should be.

In a show with so many murders, the deaths that matter never lose their emotional significance, but there’s still so much fun to be had with the genre at large. Killing Eve is the revamp the spy genre so desperately needed — it perfectly marries the glamour and the darkness, without losing a sense of humour.

Sinister Russian agencies and unexpected alliances between officials aside, it’s the personal more than the political that makes this show the triumph it is. As with legendary connections between heroes and arch-nemeses like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, Batman and the Joker, etc., Eve and Villanelle operate on a level of deeper understanding of each other than anyone else around them.   

It’s unbelievably refreshing to see a show full of complex women with hidden depths and dark pasts, capable of love and like, hatred and murder, out for revenge or following a passion, and being damn good at their jobs. It’s important to note that while the show is full of violence, it is never sexualised even slightly. Villanelle may be covered in cuts and bruises, but they’re from fair fights that she generally started. Neither are any of the numerous and multi-faceted women punished for being sexual. The James Bond trope of having a single female character who has sex with the hero then dies horribly has well and truly been left in the dirt, where it should remain.

As an Asian female lead of a genre show, Oh is making history and breaking boundaries, but entirely aside from that, Killing Eve is just a damn good show. The action is brilliantly shot and choreographed, the mystery will keep you guessing right until the fantastic season finale, it’ll make you laugh and cry and wince and gasp in shock. 

We absolutely cannot wait to see what happens in season 2!

Killing Eve is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer now.

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