Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the new It Girl. Not because she is attractive and trendy (though she is both) but because she has been creating and writing (and sometimes starring in) a collection of critically acclaimed and much talked-about television series. She won a BAFTA for Crashing, the British series about a group of twenty-somethings living together as property guardians of a disused hospital. The recently released second season of Fleabag has been getting huge buzz and acclaim. She was most recently hired to help with the script of the most recent James Bond film.
I’ve not actually seen any of those things but I did fall in love with another show she created and wrote, Killing Eve. The first season of that show was as insanely clever as it was wondrously entertaining. It stars Jodie Comer as Villanelle, a childish, ever-so stylish, psychopathic assassin and Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri, the intelligence agent trying to catch her. Season One was a cat-and-mouse game where the two became increasingly obsessed with one another forming an intense but not-sexual (yet also very sexual) relationship. They become one of the most interesting, utterly fascinating girl-to-girl relationships on television.
Much hubbub was made over the fact that with Season Two Waller-Bridge was stepping down as the main writer, though she remained on as a producer. Emerald Fennell took on the role of writer. As the season rolled out, there was much complaining that Fennell was unable to fill the rather large shoes left behind by Waller-Bridge. They aren’t wrong with that assessment, though I’d argue they were overly harsh about it.
The thing is the first season of Killing Eve has its fair share of ridiculous plot developments and character decisions that made no logical sense. There is no way Villanelle could get away with the number of murders she commits in the manner that she commits them – in broad daylight, with utter flamboyance. Likewise, Eve does some terribly stupid things that would easily get her fired from the real MI6 if not immediately arrested. But the other thing is, I don’t care. The series is so endlessly entertaining and the performances from the two leads so wonderful that I never once minded when the plot went nutty.
Season Two begins with a similar charm that overcomes its plot problems. It begins exactly 30 seconds after the Season One finale with – and spoilers for that ahead – Eve having stabbed Villanelle in the belly after their romantically tinged dalliance on Villanelle’s bed in Paris. Villanelle has fled into the streets leaving Eve trying to understand what she’s just done. She immediately leaves for London deciding not to tell anyone, including her boss Carolyn (a simply marvelous Fiona Shaw) about what happened. She goes about her work as if nothing happened while secretly freaking out that she might have killed Villanelle. Meanwhile, Villanelle makes her way to a hospital under an assumed name to get stitched up. While there, she randomly kills someone and flees while wearing the pajamas of the boy she was sharing a room with. She, of course, makes this ridiculous wardrobe look absolutely stylish.
For the first couple of episodes, things feel like they are maintaining course. Sure, things are a bit ridiculous but the actresses make it work and the writing is pure entertainment. But rather quickly things start going haywire. MI6 has discovered another female assassin bumping off high-level targets, and this woman is the exact opposite of Villanelle. Where Villanelle is outlandish, practically begging to be noticed, this new killer, dubbed “The Ghost,” blends in. Briefly, the team forget about Villanelle and work to catch the Ghost. When they do, naturally they hire Villanelle (an assassin who they spent the entirety of last season trying to catch) to help break her in order to find who hired her. Ludicrous as it is, I accept them hiring Villanelle for this task as the Ghost seems petrified of her and they want to use scare tactics in order to get results. Using Villanelle, they are able to discover who did hire her, a Mark Zuckerberg-like tech giant who plans to sell all of the sensitive data he’s collected on virtually everybody to the highest bidder.
There have been numerous dramas that use this tactic. It isn’t unusual for a group of crime fighters to ask for the help of a villain in order to stop an even greater threat. The enemy of my enemy and so forth. But here they aren’t using Villanelle to stop a rogue agent with a dirty bomb or some other catastrophic event; they are simply stopping a guy from using our personal data. That’s something that we seem willing to accept every day of our lives with social media and search engines knowing more about us than our closest loved ones. Why they need to bring in a multiple murderer to stop this is stupid. It’s not even like Villanelle has some kind of special sauce that allows her to gain access to the guy. Any other agent could do what she does (well, almost, as naturally things go off the rails when Villanelle gets angry at him).
The central relationship remains really interesting, and a lot of fun. Both Oh and Comer are a delight (and seriously, Fiona Shaw is marvelous, she almost steals the show). The secondary characters aren’t nearly as interesting, especially the new guy Hugo (Edward Bluemel) a pretty boy who tries to win Eve’s affection but she’s already spoken for (in more ways than one). Speaking of which, her husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) spends much of the season increasingly irritated at Eve’s behavior and gets drawn into the intrigue with pretty horrifying results.
There is still a lot to love about season two and by the final episode they’ve done a fair amount of course correction but Killing Eve has gone from a series that I couldn’t keep from watching (and perpetually let the autoplay function keep playing) to one where I put it on because I wanted to see how it ended, sort-of.
BBC Studios presents Killing Eve: Season Two on Blu-ray with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1080p transfer rate. Extras include several short featurettes on the characters, costume design, and locations.