Thursday 22 August 2019

Killing Eve season two 'is as gratifyingly weird, twisted and unpredictable as before — maybe even more so'

4 stars

Killing Eve fans in the US were in awe as it returned for a second season (Aimee Spinks/BBC America)
Killing Eve fans in the US were in awe as it returned for a second season (Aimee Spinks/BBC America)

Pat Stacey

It’s deliciously ironic, given the Brexitian mess, that the only place in Europe at the moment where you won’t be seeing Killing Eve (at least not legally) any time soon is Britain, even though it’s technically a BBC co-production.

**WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SEASON 2 EPISODE 1**

A scene from Killing Eve (BBC)
A scene from Killing Eve (BBC)

The series is commissioned by BBC America, the cable channel jointly owned by the Corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Studios, and US broadcaster AMC. This means it can’t be shown on BBC in the UK until after season two has completed its eight-episode run in the US.

It will be June or even later before viewers in Britain get to find out the latest twist and turns in the weird, obsessive, love/hate relationship between MI5 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and psychopathic Russian assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer).

Sandra Oh in Killing Eve (Aimee Spinks/BBC America/PA)
Sandra Oh in Killing Eve (Aimee Spinks/BBC America/PA)

No such frustrations for Irish viewers. RTÉ2, which is making something of a habit of beating bigger broadcasters to the punch for classy US series (The Good Fight, Mr Mercedes), was the first European channel to show season one of Killing Eve last year, and it’s first off the starting blocks again with season two.

I’m probably in a minority, but I felt season one lost direction for a while near the end. The Russian prison episode, in particular, strained credibility a little too much, even for a series as fantastical as this.

But it recovered with a cracking finale that saw Eve, having come face to face with Villanelle in her Paris apartment (a scene charged with erotic electricity), stab her in the stomach, then immediately regret what she’d done.

Season two continues the momentum, picking the story up literally “30 seconds later”.

Having narrowly avoided a trio of armed killers dressed as paramedics who’ve come to rub out Villanelle (when she’s not there, they kill the landlady anyway), Eve flees the building but loses her wounded prey in the streets.

Villanelle, bleeding profusely but still very much alive, deliberately throws herself in front of a taxi in order to get to a hospital.

Eve, traumatised and turned upside down and inside out, heads to the Eurostar and home to her decent-but-dull husband Nicko (Owen McDonnell, battling manfully to overcome the worst moustache seen on TV since Tom Selleck’s Magnum hedgerow) — but not before stuffing her face from a gigantic bag of pick ‘n’ mix sweets and almost walking through the security check with a bloodstained flick-knife in her pocket.

She’s not out of the game for long, though. Having fired Eve in Paris, spymaster Carolyn (the wonderful Fiona Shaw) simply rehires her, figuring she needs her skillset when it looks like the apparent suicide of an internet bigwig two months earlier might actually be the work of Villanelle.

There were reasons to be worried about a second season of Killing Eve. Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) announced she was stepping away as showrunner and head writer (although she still has a producer’s credit) to concentrate on other things, and passing the reins to Emerald Fennell.

Waller-Bridge’s distinctive style, not least her ability to ping-pong between wildly different tones, exhilaratingly juggling off-the-wall humour with extreme violence and moments of genuine psychological horror, was stamped so deeply on the first season that a change of hands could have been catastrophic.

But the transition is seamless. Killing Eve is as gratifyingly weird, twisted and unpredictable as before — maybe even more so.

There’s one particular moment, set in the hospital, that makes you gasp, then laugh, then feel horrible about it. Having apparently bonded with a teenage boy who suffered facial burns in a car crash that killed his parents, Villanelle is cradling his head on her shoulder as he cries that he doesn’t want to live like this for the rest of his life.

Then she twists his head and snaps his neck. In Villanelle’s mind, this no doubt counts as an act of compassion.

Herald

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