It’s been almost two years since high stakes spy thriller Killing Eve last graced our screens, so don’t be too hard on yourself if the odd plot point has slipped your mind.
The final scene of series three left off with cat-and-mouse Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh) agreeing they bring out the worst in each other, vowing to walk away and never meet again – but as they part in opposite directions, they can’t help looking back. The show has always been at its best when the unlikely pair share the screen. This is partly down to the chemistry between Oh and Comer. Sadly though, even as we head into its final season, the show struggles to contrive situations to have the pair share screentime.
For those who need a bigger refresher, the first series of Killing Eve begins with a startlingly similar string of murders. MI5 analyst Eve Polastri is the only one able to spot the connection between the crimes, as she’s taken to researching them in her own time. She’s come to the conclusion that the person responsible for these murders is a woman – Villanelle. After continuing to meddle in the investigation despite being warned off by her superiors, Eve and her associate Bill (David Haig) are fired. Little do they know, their work has caught the attention of Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw), head of the Russian Section of MI6. She recruits Eve and Bill ‘off the record’ to help with the case.
Meanwhile, hired assassin Villanelle becomes increasingly reckless in her work, and her handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) is worried. He informs Villanelle of the MI6 task force – led by Eve – dedicated to finding her. However, our favourite murderer isn’t too worried as she claims her latest victim, killing her with poison-laced perfume.
As Eve and Villanelle continue to seek each other out, the stakes rise when Villanelle kills Bill on the dancefloor of a crowded club, in front of a distraught Eve. This is where things get truly personal for the pair and perhaps the first of many decisions that, in hindsight, might’ve sent the show and the story down alleys the writers weren’t sure how to fix. To be fair, original showrunner Pheobe Waller-Bridge could never have known how successful the first series would be. Beloved by legions of fans instantly and lauded by critics, it was the rarest of things: an instant hit. While Bill’s death provided a catalyst for Eve to go after Villanelle, it also meant the series lost some of its magic. The chemistry and playful banter shared between Sandra Oh and David Haig is what made those early episodes so special. They added levity to the darkness of Comer’s story and it’s something the series has never been able to recapture since.
In the final episode of series one, Eve once again takes matters into her own hands. She tracks Villanelle down to her Paris apartment, where the two have a surprisingly calm heart-to-heart, confessing their growing obsession for each other. The episode ends quite shockingly, with Eve violently stabbing Villanelle.
For the second series, Phoebe Waller-Bridge stepped aside for a new showrunner in Emerald Fennell. Fennell made the decision to explore the shadowy organisation that Villanelle worked for further. It opens with Eve and her team (minus the brilliant Kirby Howell-Baptiste as she had found fame in America) investigating a new murder supposedly ordered by The Twelve.
They conclude that this murder wasn’t carried out by Villanelle, but by a new assassin – who they nickname The Ghost. In a twist that fans seemed to like, but that critics shuddered at, Eve and Carolyn end up hiring Villanelle to work on The Ghost case, where she quickly makes progress. It was a decision that didn’t really feel organic. Would this dangerous assassin really want to team up with her nemesis? Would Eve really want the woman who killed Bill working alongside her? It was a decision that seemed designed purely to have Eve and Villanelle sharing more screentime because that’s what fans craved.
When the first footage from series three emerged, with Villanelle giving a speech at her wedding, fans were in shock and critics shook their heads. Of course, her happiness is short-lived when the wedding is interrupted by the woman who trained Villanelle – Dasha (Harriet Walter). Dasha persuades Villanelle to come back to The Twelve, and Villanelle agrees on one condition: that she becomes a ‘Keeper’, a position that holds great power.
Meanwhile, Eve has resigned from MI6 and is now a civilian working in a Korean restaurant. Eve’s friend – and Carolyn’s son – Kenny has also resigned and is now a journalist investigating The Twelve. When Eve shows up at Kenny’s office she finds it deserted. She looks around and finds his body has been thrown from the roof of the building.
After hearing that Kenny’s death was ruled a suicide, Eve teams up with his boss Jamie (Danny Sapani) to investigate. Eve also meets with Carolyn, who is frustrated she has been forbidden from investigating her son’s death. She informs Eve that Villanelle has returned to The Twelve, and Eve agrees to help Carolyn find her.
By looking through Kenny’s phone records, Eve finds out that he was investigating a bank account belonging to one of Villanelle’s previous victims. She and Carolyn suspect that the account is being used by The Twelve’s accountant, Charles Kruger (Dominic Mafham). Shortly after Eve’s discovery, Villanelle kills Kruger, and sends a message to Eve – once again leaving her in no doubt who has the upper hand.
Another thing you may have forgotten is that Eve’s husband Nico is stabbed by Dasha. However, Dasha remains hidden during the stabbing and leads Eve to believe that Villanelle is responsible.
Series three really shows signs of strain. Another new showrunner, Suzanne Heathcote had her own ideas of where to take the story and it began to feel less and less like the show we’d fallen so hard for. Though funny in places, the episode that saw Villanelle go home to her family in Russia seemed a real misstep. The brilliance of the character up to this point is that we knew virtually nothing about her. It made her feel more dangerous. Getting to know her utterly bonkers extended family stripped away more of what made the series so special.
Eve learns that Nico has survived the stabbing, and quickly realises Dasha was the attacker. She confronts her before Dasha returns to her apartment and finds Villanelle, who admits she now wants to live a normal life and stop killing.
The final episode sees everyone involved in a confrontation. Carolyn learns that Konstantin was responsible for Kenny’s death. He had been trying to recruit him into The Twelve in order to save him, Kenny became scared and fell to his death.
In the final scene of the series, Eve and Villanelle are on a bridge, admitting they are drawn together, and unable to walk away from each other without looking back.
*Includes minor spoilers for the first two episodes of the fourth season. These happen early on in the episodes and aren’t plot crucial*
With series four comes yet another new showrunner. Laura Neal. From the first episode, it’s clear that the extended time away hasn’t really helped spur the series on, worryingly, it feels like it might be treading the same ground we’ve seen before.
Months have passed since Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle had their heart-to-heart on the bridge. Villanelle seems to be living life as normal, speeding through the barren Russian landscape on a motorbike, before pulling a gun and breaking into Konstantin’s (Kim Bodnia) cushy new office. But when the helmet comes off, it’s not Villanelle pointing a gun straight at a bemused Konstantin: it’s Eve! Determined to find high-ranking member of The Twelve, Helene (Camille Cottin), she shoots Konstantin in the hand and demands answers. He tells Eve that Helene is responsible for monitoring young assassins, and gives her the name of one that was recently murdered. Before she leaves, Konstantin warns her, “You’re going to die, you know. Whatever this is, you won’t come out of it.” Foreshadowing, perhaps?
Eve, having left MI6 behind is working at a private security firm with Yusuf (Robert Gilbert), a very fit colleague who encourages Eve’s vigorous new exercise routine via regular sparring sessions and even more regular sex.
A woman sings angelically in church, watched by an adoring congregation. It’s Villanelle, and she’s found God! She’s living with a Christian family, Reverend Phil (Steve Oram) and his daughter May (Zindzi Hudson), cooking fish and loaves for them every night, and eagerly awaiting her baptism. This is all her attempt at being good and being normal. She is trying, perhaps too hard, to be good – but things soon head south. Scratched by the family’s cat, she lashes out and flings it into the bath, where it drowns. Instead of confessing her sins, when the cat’s body is discovered and she’s asked by Phil why she was seen in the graveyard with its corpse, she lies and says it was already dead when she discovered it. The cracks are already starting to show.
The event that almost tips her over the edge and back to her old ways, of course, involves Eve. After sending Eve an invitation to her baptism, Villanelle reserves her the best seat in the church. When Eve doesn’t show, Villanelle goes to find her – and earns herself a slap in the face from the object of her obsession.
Despite the surprises in the episode, there are numerous times it falls flat, and this is largely due to the plot that will no doubt unfold over the series. Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) – now a bored Cultural Attache in Mallorca – meets with Eve and hands her a file. There has been a string of murders, all linked with Paul Bradwell (Steve Pemberton), an MI6 agent brought in to oversee Carolyn in the previous series, whom she ended up shooting in the finale. The victims of these murders were all tortured before their deaths and were all members of The Twelve. Carolyn asks Eve to take over the case and, in what seems like a very self-aware moment from the writers, Eve says, “We’ve been here before.” We certainly have. Numerous times!
Since the start of series two, Killing Eve has taken on a ‘killer of the week’ or, in this case, ‘killer of the series’ approach. Unfortunately, the ‘baddies’ of the series’ do nothing to drive the plot forward, often taking too much of the spotlight away from the main characters and their development. During the final series of the show, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect more of a focus on Eve, Villanelle, Carolyn, and Konstantin tying up loose ends, however, it seems like the remaining episodes will instead be another ‘whodunnit’ in regard to the new murderer.
The new characters introduced across the new series aren’t very interesting and while the show scrambles for ways to get Eve and Villanelle together, we’re left feeling as if we’re going round in circles.
It also has a habit of making you think that the new characters you’re introduced to are going to be key going forward only for them to die and serve no further purpose. One early example sees a pair of characters who are given backstories quickly disposed of. It makes you wonder why the show bothers at all.
Upon hearing Eve is planning to meet Helene Yusuf (Robert Gilbert) also warns her that she might not get out of this alive – yet more foreshadowing about what is to come for Eve? – she goes against his advice and comes face to face with Helene at her home in Paris.
The scene where Eve spends time with the dangerous Helene feels reminiscent of Villanelle breaking into Eve’s house in series one – shepherd’s pie included – the two face off in an intense, somewhat sexually-charged confrontation and while that leads to a big revelation, it’s quite clear the show will continue to tread too much familiar ground.
Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are still as brilliant as they ever were they’re just not together as much as true fans of the show would like. Comer is still able to find ways of making Villanelle bonkers but also very funny. In the opening episodes, she does very dark things, all under the guise of finding religion but her comedic moments offer a much-needed break from the darkness.
The early surprises in the first episode work, but once you get past finding out where the key characters are, there’s little else to make it overly memorable. There’s hope that an early revelation about The Twelve may see the show close that chapter before too long. I’m glad the series has an endpoint because it’s showing the strain of stretching the story across four series.
Killing Eve series 4 is available on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from 28th February.