Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the first season of Killing Eve was perfect television from start to finish. It perfectly combined a thrilling espionage story with sharp and witty humor, killer fashion, and irresistible psychosexual touch. On top of that, the show also explores an interesting subject of how human desire is actually a double-edged sword that can bring out the best and worst of us at the same time. But unfortunately, the second season, which was helmed by a new showrunner, couldn’t sustain the brilliance that Waller-Bridge has established as the formula used in season two felt highly repetitive. And as a result, the whole season felt like a chore and began to lose its magic.
No, it was not by any stretch bad television. Some parts, especially the wit and the humor, along with performances from the whole cast, remained magnetic. But if only the showrunner of season two Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) knew how to tighten the bolt even more and keep things a little fresh, season two would be less lackluster. And now, judging from the premiere of season three last Sunday, it’s safe to say that the new showrunner Suzanne Heathcote (Fear the Walking Dead) hasn’t yet found a way to make Killing Eve recapture the parts that made the first season such a delight in the first place.
The Resurrection of Eve Polastri
When we last saw Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in the season two finale, they were ready to run away together and leave the past behind. But after finding out that she was tricked by Villanelle into killing Raymond, a member of The Twelve and Villanelle’s former handler, Eve refused to give her any more satisfaction. Feeling hurt and betrayed by Eve’s decision, Villanelle shot Eve and left her to die in Rome, a cliffhanger that role-reserved the ending of season one. Considering the title of the show, this could be a perfect way to wrap things up. But of course, that’s not the case. Eve survives, and now lives a normal life. Or so it seems.
Much like the beginning of season two, Eve is trying to move on with her life and learning to forget all of the trauma caused by Villanelle. She has left MI6 too and is now working at a Korean restaurant. When she’s not gutting chicken or folding mandu, she visits her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell), who’s now recovering at a mental hospital after witnessing a murder by Villanelle. Eve’s attempt to adjust to civilian life seems to not be working well so far. Anywhere she goes, she’s still haunted by both Villanelle’s presence and her own guilt of killing Raymond. Yes, she may have survived, but she’s definitely not alive.
This new, haunted side of Eve is translated brilliantly by Oh. She doesn’t need to say or do much, but her subtle facial expressions and body gestures are enough to show us how traumatized she is. It’s really nuanced work, an incredible display that we haven’t yet seen from Oh in the two previous seasons. Still, it is Comer‘s chameleon presence as Villanelle, however, that gets the spotlight this episode. While Eve is struggling to reclaim her old normal back, Villanelle, on the other hand, is trying to live her life to the fullest. She gets married in Spain and seems to be living a happier life. While Eve is still on her mind, she isn’t aware that she’s still alive.
Villanelle’s wedding, which unsurprisingly ends in catastrophe when her former trainer Dasha (the phenomenal Harriet Walter) shows up at the event, is only a setup for Villanelle to get back to business. But this time, she doesn’t want to be the one who does the rough work for The Twelve anymore. Instead, she wants a new role as a Keeper, a position higher than both Dasha or her former handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia). We still don’t know what Villanelle’s real intentions are, or if this is just her random way to cope with her big breakup with Eve. What we do know is, Villanelle remains a reliable killer who knows how to get the job done.
Though Villanelle’s killing method looks a little sloppier and not as inventive as her previous ones, anytime Comer graces our screen, she’s able to deliver a propulsive performance and showcase how chaotic and scary Villanelle is. Her chemistry with Walter is also magnetic. It’s going be interesting to see how the dynamic between Dasha and Villanelle will play out, and how it will affect Konstantin, whose presence in this episode is very cryptic. At least, even though the story isn’t strong, to see Comer, Walter, and Bodnia each week will still be enough to warrant watching the whole season.
Carolyn and Kenny
While Eve and Villanelle remain the center of the show despite starting from two completely different points, it is the dynamic between Eve’s former boss Carolyn (the scene-stealer Fiona Shaw) and her son Kenny (Sean Delaney) that becomes the highlight of the episode. Just like Eve, Carolyn is still reeling from the event that happened in Rome. She’s not fired from MI6 as of now. But she’s beginning to sense that she doesn’t have that much control anymore. Meanwhile, Kenny is now working at an online publication named Bitter Pill after quitting MI6. It seems at first that Kenny has moved on from investigating The Twelve. But of course, that’s not the case. Kenny keeps snooping around that deadly organization, hoping that he could find something to bring them down once for all.
When he visits Eve, Kenny tells her about his solo investigation, though Eve immediately brushes him off and tells him that she doesn’t want be involved anymore. The scene where Kenny sits next to Eve is a genuinely heartwarming moment. Both Oh and Delaney show a great range of affection that works in contrast to the show’s usual tone. It’s during this heart-to-heart that we also know how serious Eve is when she says that she’s done with both Villanelle and The Twelve. But given Kenny’s tragic fate at the end of the episode, it won’t be a shock if Eve eventually decides to hunt them down.
At first, it may look like Kenny’s death is a lazy plot device to push the story forward, or simply to get the logic to bring Eve back to the operation. But considering Eve’s genuine relationship with Kenny — he’s the only person that Eve could really be herself around — killing him makes a lot of sense. The show obviously needs something major and personal for Eve if they want to push her to be involved again in all of these espionage conspiracies. And it also means that in some way, this death will also affect Carolyn, who’s so far only portrayed as an emotionless and apathetic mother. The question of whether this will bring Eve and Carolyn to work together once again is definitely integral to the next episode. After all, this is the first major death since Bill’s in season one, so no doubt that it will hugely affect the course of the season.
The only thing that we should be worried about from this setup is it will just repeat the same formula of season two. It won’t be a surprise if Eve gets extremely obsessed again with Villanelle and puts everyone in danger without considering the consequences. And that’s okay as long as Heathcote has something up her sleeve to make the show exciting again. Because right now, delightful as it is to see these familiar faces get back on our screen, everything is just slowly slowly catchy monkey — formulaic and a little edgeless.
What do you think of the season three premiere of Killing Eve? Did you see the twist coming?
The first episode of Killing Eve season three is available to stream at AMC and BBC iPlayer.
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