UK TV review: Killing Eve Season 2
James R | On 08, Jun 2019
Warning: This contains spoilers for Killing Eve Season 1 and 2. Not seen Killing Eve? Catch up with our spoiler-free of Season 1 here.
“I’ve never done anything like this before.” Those were the words said the last time we saw Eve (Sandra Oh), when she was lying next to Vilanelle (Jodie Comer) in bed. Then, she did it: she stabbed Vilanelle in the stomach, sending the woman she had become obsessed with fleeing into thin air with a potentially fatal injury – and sending herself into a downward spiral of guilt, doubt, sadness and shock. Because Villanelle’s gone. Because Eve’s almost committed murder. Because that act of physical intimacy has joined them together closer than ever before – Season 1’s bravura finale saw Eve cross a moral line to become more like Villanelle, or perhaps understand how close she actually had been to her all along.
That wonderful complexity to their relationship, part psychological, part emotional, part physical – has been at the heart of Killing Eve’s delicious appeal ever since its first episode, and Season 2 reassuringly doesn’t change the recipe: both women continue to become more complex with every passing minute, adding new layers to their determination, their vulnerability, their infatuation, and their coming to terms with all three. While Season 2 gets that vital chemistry right at its very core, though, the script doesn’t always quite know what to do with it.
Jodie Comer, repeatedly a source of hilarity and violence in Season 1, continues to delight as she escapes to assassinate another day. She’s a lone wolf, but has always been most entertaining when interacting with others, from her handler, Konstantin, who worked for mysterious organisation The Twelve, to a small child keen for some ice cream way back in the show’s initial minutes. Here, we get to see her distinct form of twisted, sociopathic friendship in action once again, as she talks to the young Gabriel (Pierre Atri). “She did it to show me how much she cared about me,” she tells the boy, who notes that women “don’t stab” people – before killing him too.
Warning: Spoilers for the end of Season 2 follow from here.
That constant subversion of expectations and gender norms is still present and correct. After establishing Vilanelle as an independent force of her own, new showrunner Emerald Fennell (replacing Phoebe Waller-Bridge) puts her into a rare subordinate position, as she finds herself unwittingly captured by Julian, a seemingly harmless man played with a steely creepiness by an excellent Julian Barratt. By the end of the season, she’s once again in the throes of another, the sociopathic Aaron (Henry Lloyd-Hughes – will cast, but an underwhelming distraction).
How she ends up there is the crux of the season’s problems, as the show tries to find new situations to put its characters in – and so Villanelle effectively becomes a spy for MI6, teaming up with boss Carolyn (MVP Fiona Shaw, enjoying one of the best characters of her career) and the rest of the team to help root out rival The Ghost, another murderer-for-hire for The Twelve, and find out more about the mysterious Aaron, whose father is killed by the mysterious assassin.
That premise sees the introduction of another new figure: Hugo (Edward Bluemel). A slimy posh counterpart to the adorable Kenny (Sean Delaney), he spends his time on the MI6 crew making suggestive, sleazy comments about the apparent attraction between Eve and Villanelle, or just straight-out hitting on Eve. He’s a shallow, disappointing addition to the ensemble, his own reduction of the Eve-Villanelle relationship a symptom of how out of place he feels, more suited to a conventional spy series than the niche concoction of genres that makes Killing Eve such a treat.
On the plus side, it provides us a showcase for Jodie Comer’s never-ending carousel of accents and identities, and her performance is matched every step by the understated presence of Sandra Oh. Eve’s descent into domestic norms, such as chopping vegetables for dinner, helps her hide her real trauma from Season 1 – something that poor hubbie Niko (Owen McDonnell) can’t get her to talk about, but something that Carolyn happily calls out as a front.
The opening hour puts all the pieces in place for the new season, without losing any of the pace or style of the first run. But the beating heart remains the two lead women, and it’s a bond that’s as intoxicatingly unpredictable as ever. Fortunately, after Season 2 does lose some steam with its widening horizons, it remembers precisely that. Eve is now dangerous but haunted by her actions, while Villanelle is wounded, exhausted and perhaps even afraid at times, with a wide-eyed alertness to her every move. And after the pair pull apart from each other, the final episodes acutely bring them back together, with an echo of Season 1’s own ending.
After Villanelle’s new handler, Raymond (another well acted but meandering addition to the cast), threatens her, Eve is persauded by Villanelle to kill him – with an axe no less. It’s a more concrete example of her crossing the line to become more like Villanelle, and seems to put them both on the same page, even potentially both fugitives from the law. At the same time, Villanelle kills Aaron to save Eve, the pair ever mirror images of each other.
But when Villanelle seems to get what she wants, and when Eve seems to get what she wants, the show gets under the skin of their bond, of the clash between the allure of the unobtainable, the new, and what is obtainable in reality; Eve doesn’t want to be the number two to someone else, just as Villanelle doesn’t want an equal who will question her impulses.
It’s a moment that digs into the hidden effort of a relationship that once seemed so smooth and effortless, and so it’s only fitting that Season 2 should feel like more of a slog, albeit unintentionally – and, for all the queer-baiting potential of the story’s extension for another season, that the moment this elusive union between Eve and Villanelle begins to take form, it should end once again in violence, as Villanelle shoots Eve and seems to leave her for dead. Season 1 thrilled with the promise of doing something new that hadn’t been done before. The prospect of a third season that does the same thing all over again, then, is one that inspires caution as much as intrigue, but as long as a series exists that gives Oh and Comer such brilliant characters to play with, it’s hard not to enjoy watching.
Killing Eve Season 2 is available on BBC iPlayer until 2020.