The first season of Killing Eve under the direction of Phoebe Waller-Bridge was so extraordinarily good and uniquely so that it would’ve been almost impossible to replicate that in season two, even if Phoebe Waller-Bridge had not stepped down as showrunner. It was a hard act to follow, and I do not envy the task that Emerald Fennell and Sally Woodward Gentle had in front of them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game kind of show, and once the cat caught the mouse and stabbed her in the stomach, some of the sexual tension necessarily was going to leak out.
That said, I thought Fennell and Woodward Gentle did an admirable job of reversing the power dynamic at the season’s outset, turning Villanelle into the cat in pursuit of Eve’s conflicted mouse. That could only go so far, however, before irrevocably warping the character of Eve, who became something of a passenger in her own car by season’s end. Ultimately, I think the show waited too long to draw the line beyond which Eve would cross, and the shooting at the end of the episode felt less like an earned character progression and more like it was dictated by a decision early on to hold season one up to a mirror and repeat it right down to the season-ending cliffhanger.
Putting aside the sort of contrived way in which Eve was paired with a serial killer in order to investigate another serial killer — a thin storyline that was botched through and through — the reason why the sexual dynamic between Eve and Villanelle was so compelling in the first season was because Eve was pulled between her attraction to Villanelle and her obligation to what was right. There was good, and there was bad, and it wasn’t so much that Eve was stuck in the grey in between, it’s that she was being pulled equally by both sides. The tension resided in whether she would be split apart by her loyalty to MI6 and her attraction to Villanelle.
In the second season, that tension began to dissipate as soon as it became clear where Eve’s real fidelities sat. That became fairly evident to me when Eve put up little to no fight to save her marriage, but even more so when Eve shrugged her shoulders when witnessing Villanelle push a woman to her death in front of a bus. Eve was nonplussed by that murder, but she was very invested in Eve’s soul-baring during a group session that same day.
Ultimately, that’s why it felt hollow when Eve finally decided to draw the line. Eve watched Villanelle push a woman in front of a bus. She watched her slash the throat of another man in front of her. She was completely indifferent to the wellbeing of Hugo — a man she had just fucked the night before — after he was shot, and Eve seemed all too willing to run off with Villanelle after she realized that she’d been played by Fiona.
But the line that Eve finally drew was not in killing a man with an ax, but in the fact that Eve didn’t kill him first. Eve was fine throwing away her marriage, selling out her co-workers, and even in killing a bad-guy assassin, but she bailed because Villanelle manipulated her into killing the bad guy. In other words, the line for Eve was, “I’m fine with murder, just as long as I’m not tricked into perpetrating it.”
And where does that even leave Eve, ignoring the fact that Villanelle shot her at the end of the episode because that was obviously total bullshit (the show is called Killing Eve, it’s been renewed for a third season, and Sandra Oh has already given interviews talking about the potential direction of her character next year). Why even shoot her when it’s so obviously a hollow cliffhanger? For that matter, it doesn’t make sense for Villanelle to draw the line there herself: All season long, it’s been about the thrill of the pursuit for Villanelle. Season one Villanelle — who was stabbed by Eve and left for dead — would see this rejection as a challenge instead of an ending point in their relationship. Villanelle has been pursuing Eve for two seasons, and now — after Eve chopped a man to death with an ax to save her — she’s going to give up on Eve? Why not let Eve blow off some steam for a few minutes before shooting her in the back?
In either respect, I don’t know where season three can possibly go. Eve has burned bridges with Fiona and MI6. Her husband has not only left her, but Villanelle killed his potential mistress, and Eve is obviously on the outs with Villanelle herself, what with the bullet in her back. It’s not so much that Killing Eve has been written into a corner as it has been written into a black hole. That’s for the new showrunner, Suzanne Heathcote, to figure out, but I am not sure I have a ton of confidence in the story editor for Fear the Walking Dead, my fondness for that show notwithstanding.
Header Image Source: BBC America