‘Killing Eve’ returns with everything viewers expected

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"Killing Eve's" third season falls flat in comparison to its first two seasons.

By Violet Jira, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

The game of cat and mouse is one we have seen a thousand times. From sophisticated dramas like “Sherlock” to Saturday morning cartoons like “Tom and Jerry,” the trope is everywhere and can sometimes seem as old as time itself.  Nevertheless, BBC managed to take the dry narrative and spin it into something dangerous, exciting and new with its hit TV show, “Killing Eve.” All of this is made even better by the fact that the show is driven in large part by women, both on and off the screen. The show, in its third season, has made a name by taking the best parts of productions like it and combining them to design a show that is impossible to turn away from. But the new episode gave the viewers everything we expected of it–to a fault. 

The show follows, primarily, the story of Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh). At the series’s beginning, Eve was a lowly MI5 agent whose job is lackluster to say the least–more coffee runs and paperwork than chasing deadly assassins. After she correctly surmises that an assassin under investigation is female, she is promoted to MI6 to chase the assassin, Villanelle (Jodie Comer), and from there the show takes its course. 

Like most people, Villanelle takes pride in her job. Unlike most people, Villanelle kills for a living. She is known for her creativity, quickness and over-the-top outfits, from poofy pink dresses to full-on clown costumes. Though Villanelle is eccentric, unhinged and chaotic evil to her core, Eve quickly becomes the apple in her eye, cultivating a mutual obsession that drives the plot of the series. 

The show is bursting at its seams with female brilliance. In front of the camera, women dominate the show both in person and in principle. The idea of a female assassin isn’t new, but it’s rare that both the “cat” and the “mouse” are female. Gender roles exited the chat, as traditionally male roles were handed to females and vice-versa. Villanelle’s handlers (a position which could be likened to that of a secretary) have all been male. The person who trained her to kill, however, was female. Villanelle is frequently depicted sporting suits and Eve doesn’t place value in dressing nicely–and couldn’t do so if she tried. Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw (portraying Carolyn Martens) and a host of other minor female characters deliver stellar performances earning them countless awards and accolades. 

Behind the camera, the story is much the same. For each of the three seasons, the show has had a different showrunner, all of whom have been female. This is highly irregular, but completely intentional according to the show’s producers, who wanted each season to be a new showcase of female talent. Phoebe Waller-Bridge piloted the show through its first season, followed by Emerald Fennell for season two, Suzanne Heathcote for the current season and Laura Neal for season four (the show was renewed for a fourth season before season three even aired). But Neal could be tasked with solving an unsolvable problem or laying the show to rest if season three’s premiere is anything to go by.

The first episode of the third season opened with Villanelle getting married which, for perspective, was quite like seeing the Joker rescue a kitten from a tree. Villanelle seems committed to married life for all of three minutes before the woman who trained her to kill gatecrashes and ropes Villanelle back into the world of contract-killing all over again. Eve, on the other hand, is very much alive and going through it. Working in a restaurant, she is visibly depressed, drinking wine from the bottle and eating nothing but crisps and microwave ramen. She’s given up life at MI6 until a very personal death pulls her back into the ring again as well. The episode was everything I expected it to be, and that was the problem. 

The first season of the show captivated its audience with clever twists and the carefree spontaneity of Villanelle’s kills. Two seasons later, however, that very element of the show has the possibility to be its downfall. In the first season, I remember being enthralled when Villanelle stabbed Eve’s friend and coworker, Bill, because what kind of show kills a central character just three episodes in? They caught me off guard, and I loved it. But when Kenny (friend and coworker to Eve, son to Carolyn) was killed at the end of the premiere episode it wasn’t exciting at all because I (and a lot of the internet) had predicted that happening weeks before the episode aired based on promos and trailers alone. The viewers have come to expect the punches the show throws, the punches that hooked us all in, in the first place. It’s a problem which, though paradoxical and unavoidable in nature, must be solved lest the show waste away to nothing but wisps of its former glory. 

When Shonda Rimes introduced her hit ABC show “Scandal” she emphasized that it would have 7 seasons–nothing more and nothing less. With more foresight, the creators of “Killing Eve” would have seen that something similar was paramount for a show of its nature. The third, perhaps even the second season, should have been its last. As exciting and different as this take on the cat and mouse narrative is, it isn’t some slapstick cartoon like Tom and Jerry; there are only so many ways that the characters can circle and leap at each other before it gets boring and old–before it gets predictable. All good things must come to an end before they become bad things, and this show is no exception.

 I’m not excited for the remainder of the season like I was for the previous two seasons, which is sad because I waited a year only to get exactly what I expected. Nevertheless, the show will still go down as one of my favorites. Even though it missed the target in terms of longevity, others can look to this show as an example of how the oldest ideas can be made anew to captivate today’s audiences and how powerful females can be, both on the screen and off. 

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on April 16, 2020.