Summer TV Binge: Killing Eve

Killing Eve is feminist, ethnically diverse, and LGBTQIA friendly. It features incredible clothes. It also, in the very first episode, includes the extremely violent and horrifying use of a hairpin. It is simultaneously glamorous (those clothes!) and gritty (Russian prison! Dour cubicles!). I watched six of the eight episodes in a single day (I watched the other two the day before). The series killed off my productivity with even more efficiency than it killed off its cast.

The premise is as follows. Sandra Oh plays Eve, a bored MI5 officer who is stuck at a desk. Eve has a fascination with female assassins and believes that several unsolved killings may be the work of a single woman. She is recruited by MI6 to track the hypothetical assassin down.

Is Eve right? Is there a prolific and increasingly messy female assassin running around? Of course there is. The story flips back and forth between Eve and the assassin, Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer. Villanelle is like a very deadly toddler. She likes kills that allow her to stare into the victim’s eyes as he or she dies. When her handler forbids her from taking on a job, she pouts, “But this one has asthma! You know I like the breathy ones!”

Villanelle, pouting.
Villanelle, pouting.

I confess that I fast-forwarded through some of the kills. The show includes blood, some sadistic murders, and a photo of animal abuse. Refreshingly, there’s no rape and child abuse is referenced only in the most vague of terms (we assume that Villanelle’s childhood was traumatic but we never know much about it).

A lot of people have been writing about what makes Killing Eve different from other spy shows. The New Yorker writes about the many ways that the show keeps viewers “off balance” by subverting the expected tropes of spy stories. Autostraddle and The Verge have both written about the queerness of the show, something that is embedded in both the show’s text and subtext. Villanelle rarely uses sexual seduction, the glamour is undercut with grit, and the tension between Eve and Villanelle turns into a sort of twisted and wonderful love story.

Villanelle asks, "Was it an Asian woman with amazing hair?"
A spot on description of Sandra Oh

I was drawn to the show because of the acting – specifically, the way actors pull line readings out of nowhere. Lines like “Whaaat?” and “Stay nourished. Get some chops,” can’t possibly have looked as redolent with menace, meaning, and humor on the page as they did when spoken by Comer and Fiona Shaw, respectively (Shaw plays Eve’s unflappable new boss). Scenes switch from horror to action to drama to deadpan humor within seconds without ever missing a beat or feeling jarring. Oh and Comer are amazing but so is the supporting cast.

The show is smart, and it’s funny, and it’s also scary as hell. There were scenes that I KNEW were going to happen. They were in the promo photos! You couldn’t miss them! But when they really did happen, I was petrified. Villanelle is so unpredictable that even though you can guess that some things WON’T happen, you can’t guess what WILL happen. I yelled at the screen a lot. I’m certain my advice was helpful.

Carolyn tells Eve,
Carolyn and Eve

I clocked it, and the time that elapsed between me liking the show and being totally obsessed with it was 5 minutes and 19 seconds (It involved Eve saying “Cool!” at an inappropriate moment). The show has been out for a while, but I like to wait until a season is over before I decide whether or not I like it (I did). It will be streaming on BBC America until June 26. I bought it from iTunes but if you are a patient soul you can wait until later this year and watch it on Hulu.

But don’t wait. Watch it now. The only caveat I have about this show is that due to violent content it might not be for everyone.

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