“Just don’t tell them everything; you’ll sound like a nutter.”
If I can’t tell you everything about BBC America’s brilliant new series Killing Eve, I can at least share this: Once you start watching, you won’t want to stop.
Developed and penned by the fantastically talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and based on the Luke Jennings novellas, this women-centric story stars Sandra Oh as overqualified/under-appreciated MI5 security officer Eve Polastri, who becomes fascinated with psychopathic maniac and contract killer Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer (The White Princess, Thirteen). To say that much is oversimplification, as is the oft-used cat-and-mouse descriptor, which undersells the series’ premise. Villanelle and Eve are attracted by each others’ extraordinary talents — the former, an extremely efficient, deft, and slippery assassin; the latter, a masterful detective ten steps ahead of her so-called superiors. It is because of Eve’s own curiosity (and boredom) that British Intelligence gets anywhere close to Villanelle, though those same qualities bring about as much devastation as development.
Comer is well-cast as a perfectly pretty — handy when you’re trying to get close enough to kill — murdering machine with absolutely no conscience (to the point that even her handler demands she be seen by a shrink), and quite possibly a lack of anything (outside mimicry) resembling humanity. Her Villanelle makes Dexter Morgan look like a pussycat—an incredibly sweet and purring kitten, in fact. She simply doesn’t have the capacity to feel anything for … well, anyone, other than to consider what purpose they might serve for her or her employer’s needs. She kills with gusto and for the breathless high she gets watching the spark of life leave a victim’s eye — or perhaps for the name of a high-end textile designer, because what else to do with all the cold cash she earns but live life luxuriously?
The big surprise here is Sandra Oh, known to the masses for her award-winning turn in Grey’s Anatomy (a series I’ve never watched). Her Eve is sarcastically funny, droll, and insecurely self-deprecating one minute, and off-handedly genius, confident, wrenching and heartbreaking the next. Oh’s instant chemistry with every other character, friend and foe alike (outside her maybe necessarily safe and boring partner), is refreshing. Here is a woman depicted on television who has great camaraderie with male and female co-workers alike, and especially outstanding is how the women support each other instead of tearing down. There is a respect between these women that is reflective of life. Everyone is standout here, from Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Eve’s delightful assistant, Elena Felton, to Fiona Shaw as head of MI6’s Russia Desk, who realizes how valuable an asset Eve really is.
Oh is a natural as the fearless — and fallible — foil to a ferocious female executioner, sometimes a step ahead of her quarry even before either of them realizes it. Eve is as un-self-conscious speaking on the phone while “in the loo” (come on, we all do it) as she is breaking down when she realizes she’s made a horrifically fatal mistake. Oh’s Eve is frazzled and real and haunted; she’s outspoken and inappropriate— apologetically, when the situation warrants; not at all sorry for speaking her mind when she should.
David Haig is glorious as Eve’s sardonic partner and grumpy work husband, Bill Pargrave; you’ll want to cuddle Villanelle’s unshakable handler, Konstantin (played by Pusher and The Bridge’s Kim Bodnia), and even Eve’s once and former boss, “dick swab” Frank — Dan Boyd (Fortitude, Luther, Spy, Green Wing) — is a delightful dick swab.
— Killing Eve (@KillingEve) April 9, 2018
Lest you think this is any sort of regular procedural or thrillerWaller-Bridge has, in her typical style, written another thrill ride that quickly — this show is FAST-PACED — dispels any such thoughts. From its wickedly funny cold open to several brutal killings in breakneck succession, there isn’t a downtime moment to be found in Killing Eve‘s first four episodes. In fact, the series is so compelling and addictive, you’ll wish it were streaming on a competitor’s service (and so will Netflix). BBC America has already wisely re-upped for a second season right before Sunday’s premiere, and here’s hoping there won’t be too long a wait for it, because this show is one of the most exciting new rides in years.
Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, David Haig, Kim Bodnia, Owen McDonnell and Darren Boyd. It airs Sunday nights on BBC America.