**SMALL SPOILERS AHEAD**
I’ve been hearing a buzz about Killing Eve, a BBC America show, so I dropped the latest season of Arrested Development (sorry, I’ll get back to you) and queued up all eight episodes for a two-day binge.
Sandra Oh starts as the titular Eve Polastri, a dowdy MI5 security agent who has more ambition and intelligence than her current role calls for; fortunately, she’s quickly sacked and given an opportunity to run a covert MI6 operation tracking and identifying a new female assassin who’s been making quite a name for herself internationally. But what is that name and who does she work for?
Her name is Villanelle (codename, of course) and she’s a young, Russian psychopath living and partying in Paris. Portrayed by Jodie Comer, she is, all at once, humorous, rude, manipulative, cold, brazen, childish, and lovely. She has a complicated father-daughter-type relationship with her handler, Konstantin, from whom she learns of Eve’s special (and apparently not-so-secret - do you smell a mole?) operation and soon develops an infatuation with the frumpy agent who is just her type, sexually speaking.
And speaking of ladies who know what they want, all the major leads in Killing Eve are women. In addition to Oh and Comer, we have Fiona Shaw, a veteran Irish actress who played Mrs. Dursley in the Harry Potter film franchise. Shaw plays Carolyn Martens, a living legend in MI6 and Oh’s new boss. All these women are determined, intelligent, self-possessed, and the definition of badass… but can they be trusted? It’s no wonder strong women are the central focus of this show - Killing Eve was created (well, adapted from the novels by Luke Jennings) by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, an immensely talented writer and actress whose off-kilter appeal has been a magnet for success of late.
Aside: As a Britcom lover, I was also pleasantly surprised to see several appearances from British character actors, including David Haig and Darren Boyd - not women, but actors I love nonetheless.
Killing Eve is a spy show in that there are secret agencies, covert operations, and intelligence gathering, but it’s not always as intense as traditional spy shows tend to be. Yes, there’s double-crossing, questioning of loyalties, and wondering who really works for whom, but it’s very light-hearted at times, playful and witty, even, with a fantastic soundtrack of 1960s French pop (think Françoise Hardy and Brigitte Bardot). What makes these madcap moments even better is that they are always followed by a sharp, emotional gut-punch, quickly bringing the viewer right back into the dark world of espionage and assassination.
Also unlike a traditional espionage drama, the cat-and-mouse game is a little different. The mouse wants to be caught by the cat -- and Eve and Villanelle are both each others’ mouse, if that makes any sense. Each is infatuated with the other and the two meet face-to-face much earlier than is normal in a classic spy chase. Traditional genre cliches are thrown out the window and this lays the groundwork for the rest of the season (and indeed the next season) - When will they meet again? Will one kill the other? Do they love each other? Who does Villanelle work for? And will Eve ever wear any of those fancy French garments?
The first season of Killing Eve is set to premiere on Hulu in Fall 2018, but you can stream it via AMC until June 25th.