Previously on Killing Eve… well, the critics loved it, everyone won awards, writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge became the hottest property in Hollywood, and everyone said it was the best thing since sliced bread.
So how do you follow such success? Buoyed by three stellar performances, by Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer and Fiona Shaw, powered by a transgressive gender-bending plot and fashionable violence, and sauced with dark humour and stylish costumes, Killing Eve could well have bowed out after one series as a classic.
Having pursued psycho assassin Villanelle across Europe, dowdy MI5 agent Eve could have taken her revenge for the killing of her colleagues, embraced her new more dynamic personality, and that could well have been that. But by chickening out in the final encounter – stabbing Villanelle but not killing her – Eve leaves the plot open for a follow-up.
While we’re now departing from the story of the original Villanelle novelettes by Luke Jennings, new writer Emerald Fennell has to recapture the spirit of the first season without repeating its tropes aimlessly.
The action follows on 30 seconds after the end of the last series, with Eve escaping from the Twelve’s clean-up team onto Eurostar, as the injured Villanelle staggering off into the Parisian streets, and managing to trick her way into a hospital.
Returning home to drippy Gabriel, Eve is traumatised by her experience – but is it because she fears she’s killed Villanelle, or because she couldn’t? ‘Sometimes when you love someone you will do crazy things’ as Villanelle says. She is soon finding her feet – though she isn’t comfortable in a stolen pair of Crocs – and is wrapping the doctors, patients and relatives around her little finger.
Eve has to confront her boss Carolyn, but lies to her about finding Villanelle – presumably because she suspects Carolyn is one of the Twelve. But if she hoped to be taken off the case, she’s disappointed, as Eve finds herself sucked in even deeper, as Carolyn drags her along to the autopsy of internet mogul Alister Peel, apparently a victim of Villanelle, according to informant Nadia.
Perhaps unwisely, Eve now asks Carolyn about her relationship with Villanelle’s controller Konstantin, and with the Twelve – but gets no answers.
Villanelle discharges herself from hospital – thoughtfully euthanising a despairing patient on the way – and gets as far as Calais, where she stows away in the boot of a family car. They’re going to have a shock at the other end. As she approaches London, she’s evidently looking forward to her reunion with Eve as much as Eve is dreading it – but surely Villanelle is in no condition to take her revenge?
Apart from Villanelle’s one casual murder, Eve’s obsessive consumption of Pick’n’Mix, Carolyn’s borrowing of a boy in the park and a little business about double-glazing, there’s little sign in the first episode of the humour of the original series – or of its fashion sense, unless you count Villanelle’s comic-book pyjamas.
Is Emerald Fennell (best known as an actress in Call the Midwife) just not up to the task? – she certainly has very little in the way of a writing track record. Or is she holding something in reserve? Let’s hope so – Killing Eve is too hot a property for it to be allowed to suffer from ‘difficult second series’ syndrome, but on the evidence of the first episode, it may already be in trouble.
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