I’ll Deal With Him Later
Don’t I Know You?
I Have A Thing About Bathrooms
Take Me To The Hole!
I Donn’t Want To Be Free
God, I’m Tired
Fresh off the recent success of heavy hitting drama Bodyguard, BBC’s latest espionage thriller Killing Eve seems like another to follow suit. Playing on the archetypal tropes you’d expect to see in the spy, heist and thriller genres, Killing Eve confidently walks a fine line between its dark comedy and gritty cat-and-mouse plot at its core. At least, the first 3 episodes do. Unfortunately, the halfway point of this 8 episode series sees Killing Eve abandon logic, plotting, characterisation and its finely balanced tone, launching a barrage of questionable plot developments sprinkled with contrived bursts of humour until its underwhelming finale.
The story predominantly revolves around two women; bored, excitement-starved MI6 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and illusive assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Their stories run parallel to one another during these opening few episodes before converging together in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Having not read the book this series is based on it’s difficult to tell how close to the source material Killing Eve sticks but the second half of the series feels a lot messier and sporadic than the tightly wound first half.
While Eve’s character is charming and certainly likeable, helped along by a brilliant performance by Sophie Oh, the rest of the cast fall by the wayside with lacklustre performances and damaging characterisation. MI6 boss Frank (Darren Boyd) is the biggest victim here, devolving from a cold, confident boss to cowering, scared runaway. The only other side character with some promise, Bill (David Haig), isn’t in the series for as long as he perhaps should be which is a bit of a shame. Antagonist Villanelle is certainly endearing and flawlessly acted but despite her villainous acts and a lack of remorse, her character bizarrely has the most amount of comedic quips and humour. It’s a really odd choice too and one that rarely hits the mark, offsetting any sort of fear or danger we should feel from her. Early on when we’re just getting acquainted to the characters it’s not too overwhelming but late on this completely overpowers the plot and makes for quite the odd tonal choice.
Visually, Killing Eve does a great job with its various stylistic ticks to help it stand out from other thrillers. Much like the heist genre, Killing Eve uses bursts of rock and pop music during its establishing shots with bold, block writing used to inform us of the various locations to great effect. Especially early on when the action takes place across various countries, these clever little touches help give Killing Eve some much needed polish.
There is enjoyment to be had here though and Killing Eve certainly has its fair share of exciting and action packed moments. From car chases and assassinations to tense confrontations between characters, if there’s one thing Killing Eve manages to do well, it’s the ensuing action and bursts of tension in its storyline. Much like Bodyguard before it, Killing Eve starts out strongly with a handful of heavy hitting episodes that do a really good job establishing the pace and suspense as Eve and Villanelle play their game of cat and mouse. It’s a pity then that the series just can’t keep this strong momentum going, abandoning its tightly wound plot for a much more messy and illogical storyline that defies belief. To give much more away would be bordering on spoiler territory but suffice to say there will be many that lament the ending to this storyline, regardless of the set up for the green-lit second season.
Killing Eve is likely to be one of those shows that divide opinion. There’s certainly an enjoyable thriller at the heart of this show and some will love the dark comedy at play that contrasts against the tense drama. When it comes to tonal shifts though, Killing Eve doesn’t quite do enough to effectively juggle the comedy and drama for its full 8 episode run time. The first half of the show is excellent, layered with some decent characterisation and plotting as the cat and mouse game unfolds. The second half abandons logic and reason, ladling contrived bursts of humour that rarely hit and engaging our characters in nonsensical plot developments and an underwhelming finale. It’s a shame too as Killing Eve certainly had potential but despite this being an enjoyable thriller, this is one show that drops the ball and never quite looks like recovering.
Verdict - 6/10