There are Killing Eve spoilers in this from all seasons, so stay or leave at your own peril. Either way I’m going to start now.
Killing Eve was my favourite TV show, possibly ever. Watching season one the show was punchy, shocking, deeply vibrant and abrupt – it oozed sex and dry European wit. All of the characters in Killing Eve were charmingly strange from the beginning, because navigating MI-6 and a sort of unseen Russian mafia every day is exceedingly strange, especially to an audience base of normal 9-5 office clerks; an all-consuming job at MI-6 and the world of the characters that surround it makes returning home to a fruit bowl on the dinner table and shopping lists on the fridge seem incredibly mundane. Wasn’t that why Eve eventually lost Niko anyway? Because whilst she was living the domestic married life with a mustached Maths teacher and getting the bus everywhere, she walked knowingly and intelligently into an obsession with Villanelle, the gorgeous, outrageous killer.
Season three of Killing Eve was all about the fruit bowls on dinner tables and less about the seductive world of London, of British and Russian intelligence, of majestic murders. Killing Eve has all gone to shit.
The season three finale aired this week and it didn’t know what it was doing. Throughout the entire season the characters have become – dare I say it – very lost and very boring. Each character was placed into situations the everyday Jane and John from Slough have been in: Villanelle was dealt with a heavy influx of emotions and stressing about her future career prospects. Eve was working at a Chinese restaurant and trying to wean herself off her ex whilst chasing her new lover. Carolyn was coping with the inescapable loss of her son and performing small-talk really badly with her daughter. Konstantin was on his phone all the time and suffering with bad health problems that he ignored. No shocking situations here. Compared to the previous two seasons, season three engrained very normal, very human emotions from characters who live in the backdrop of spies, lavish work trips and mysterious deaths. Cut back to when Villanelle murdered beloved Bill on the dancefloor of a club whilst she donned a miraculous pantsuit, and you will realise we are so far gone from those glory days.
Giving back a sense of slow normality to the characters is not a bad thing, exactly. It builds character development, which in turn, should aid story development. I found watching Carolyn attempt to deal with her grief in her cold and distanced manner simply fascinating – the scene with Carolyn sitting in the car, sucking on mints and listening to opera music loudly displayed a real acting masterclass by Fiona Shaw. Equally interesting was following Villanelle back to mother Russia and her literal mother for a whole episode, although I felt the episode was slapped needlessly in the middle of the season and brought the theatrical intensity of Niko’s fork in the neck in the previous episode to a grinding halt. And this is the thing. Sometimes, character development doesn’t help story development. Sometimes, it actively hinders it, and makes the future story line stale. I think we have reached a point in Killing Eve when the writers were so keen to focus on heavy character growth that is has done nothing but lead to scenes of illogical meetings and flimsy dialogue that goes round in circles until the story eventually reaches no conclusion at all.
Kenny’s unfortunate death is a good example of this. After Kenny’s death, the series was focussed on uncovering what Kenny and his toilet roll had discovered about the Twelve. But come the season finale, I honestly couldn’t tell you one thing about the Twelve that we didn’t already know. Yes, unlikeable snaky Paul was involved in the Twelve and giving orders to Konstantin, but who cares? Paul was barely given screen time, and when he did, he wasn’t that nice or funny and all he wore was grey suits, so having his death form the crescendo of the finale is extremely underwhelming and puzzling. Paul’s death doesn’t serve anything – we will never know the extent to which Paul was tied up in Kenny’s death and we will never know whether Konstantin was lying or not, since Carolyn shot her main source of information in the head and let Konstantin leave unscathed.
I was hoping that Carolyn and Konstantin would share a moment where it would be revealed, one way or another, whether or not Kenny was Konstantin’s son. Alas, there was no answer for us there either, not even when Carolyn demanded Konstantin kneel before her as she pointed a gun at his skull. Surely, an opportune moment for a “you’re the father” announcement after over two decades. Kenny’s death was supposed to drive the whole season’s narrative, but come the finale, we don’t actually know who actually killed Kenny. Whether it was, like Konstantin said, a slip of the foot accident, or whether someone can be held accountable for his murder. Rather than give us answers or even some semblance of a conclusion, the show has raised only more questions and eventually people will stop asking them altogether if they realise they won’t be dealt with. And it all feels frustrating – devoid of the ruthlessness and moments of sparkling clarity from the Killing Eve of old.
This feeling of emptiness isn’t all down to the season three lead writer, Suzanne Heathcote. The ‘cat and mouse’ dance between Eve and Villanelle that holds the show together is, in itself, restricting. It is a framework that demands the two characters to constantly exist in contrast to one another. When one kills, the other is saving, when one is relishing, the other is repulsing, when one is on the ground the other is watching from above. Their movements often mirror each other, but the show has always trickled along the narrative that Eve is far more similar to Villanelle than other characters comprehend. She has a behind-closed-doors fascination with murderers, blood, hurting others emotionally and physically and relishing in how alive it makes her feel. So, when this portrayal of Eve is shown more frequently, the instinctive reaction of the writer’s is for Villanelle to become softer and less brutal in her behaviour, which deeply conflicts with her ability to kill.
What is Villanelle without killing? Carolyn begs the question, to which Villanelle, in her childlike and naïve manner has no answer. The reality is even without her killing Villanelle in her magnificent clothes and uncompromising attractiveness would still be a lot more interesting than Eve in her parkas. One of the only questions the show has managed to answer is what is Eve without Villanelle? And the sad answer is it boils down to nothing much. With no job, no friends, no husband, no real sense of direction, Eve has become a shell of nothing, which helplessly clings on to Villanelle; when Villanelle has undergone transformation and self-analysis Eve has remained the packet of crisps constantly stuck in the vending machine, completely denied all momentum. The show named ‘Killing Eve’ has effectively killed its protagonist who was once so sarcastically funny and intuitive and wild. An Eve that was actually good at her job and made significant breakthroughs on her cases. Eve used to be captivating to watch, and now, following the cat and mouse characters existing in contrast, Villanelle has basically stolen Eve’s identity. Or maybe Eve has just voluntarily given it to her.
The ‘cat and mouse’ chase that structures Killing Eve means there are limited options of where the show can go next. Most episodes have Villanelle and Eve chasing each other, which inevitably leads to heated confrontation that materialises into a fierce toss-up between killing each other or kissing each other, the contrast once again. So far, each season finale has shown confrontation between Eve and Villanelle landing on aggression when on the brink of romance: Eve stabs Villanelle in bed at the season 1 finale, Villanelle shoots Eve at the season 2 finale, they both decide to walk away from each other only to turn around again in the season 3 finale. Surely, now, the show must end in only a few ways. Either they fuck and raise mischievous children together or they leave one another for good, by killing each other or by running separate ways to live out their days alone in exile.
It is almost sad to be typing those possibilities, because they are not good enough. These characters shouldn’t have to settle for such concrete endings that are no way near intricate or clever enough. However, when the show is framed on such solid parallels it is difficult to remove them without the entire narrative collapsing and moving away from what it was in the beginning. The ‘cat and mouse’ act is fun for a while, but we all know that it has a short shelf life before it starts to repeat previous seasons, unless the writers are willing to inject some hearty surprises and invigorating challenges in the script and actively set objectives for characters to meet. Otherwise Killing Eve, like poor Kenny, will fall flat on the ground from such a daring height.
Killing Eve has been renewed for a fourth season but its air date is unknown.