There’s a moment in this second season of Killing Eve where Eve (Sandra Oh) contemplates pushing an innocent man in front of a train. She’s stood on a crowded platform and the man innocently pushes past her to get in front. The music builds as the lightly touches his back and the audience know what she’s thinking. At the last second, the man turns around and a stunned Eve apologises for touching him. Another sees husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) pin Eve up against a wall and ask her whether she wants him to protect her or frighten her. The implication in both scenes is that Eve has gone over to the dark side and that she has started to morph into the person she’s supposed to be protecting people from. This is the main theme that runs through the long-awaited second season of Killing Eve. It’s interesting but ultimately, it’s one of many threads this season that feel narratively unsatisfying.
When it was announced that showrunner Pheobe Waller-Bridge would be stepping down from her role to focus on other projects I, like the majority of Killing Eve obsessives, worried that the series would lose something. Waller-Bridge’s twisted humour and off-kilter look at the world was at the heart of what made the first series such a hit. Waller-Bridge is still listed as an exec producer in this second season, and it’s worth noting that she didn’t write all of the first seasons’ eight episodes either, but as this series progresses you do start to notice that there’s a new captain steering the ship.
Emerald Fennell was brought in as showrunner and her take on the world first seen in the graphic novels by Luke Jennings feels quite different. That’s not to say that the series has lost any of its quirky humour and it goes without saying that Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer and Fiona Shaw are as brilliant as ever, but as the series goes on, the direction it takes feels slightly more contrived and a little unsatisfying.
If the first season was about the exhilarating cat and mouse chase between the assassin and the woman determined to bring her down, this second season seems, at first at least, a little unsure where it wants the characters to end up. To be fair to Fennell, Pheobe Waller-Bridge hadn’t made life easy for her successor having Eve brutally stab Villanelle. There was no way the series could ignore the fact the two had come to such blows. The first episode of this second season picks up moments after the shocking attack and sees a wounded and far more vulnerable Villanelle desperately trying to seek help but not wanting to answer questions about how her injury was sustained. Meanwhile, Eve struggles to come to terms with what she’s done and keeps her violent act from Carolyn who quickly hires Eve back after firing her late in the first season.
It’s Fennell’s attempt to broaden the world where the series starts to feel more generic. Eve’s new colleagues at MI6 don’t feel as well observed or as interesting as Bill or Elenor were in the first season. Eve is introduced to Hugo (Edward Bluemel) an Oxford graduate who feels more like a caricature than a fully formed character, the series devotes far too much time to him and the scenes between him and Eve don’t ring true. Her other new colleague is Jess (Nina Sosanya) is more likeable but the pair don’t quite feel as well formed as the characters we got so attached to in season one.
Luckily, the series manages to move at a similarly quick pace as the first with various plots butting up against each other well. A promising and exciting plot this season sees Eve, still as fixated on Villanelle as she ever was, on the hunt for a second female assassin who has a very different M.O. Where Villanelle thrives on the showy and gruesome murders, this second killer is harder to track down. She hides in plain sight. Her victims don’t suffer the same indignities but she appears untraceable.
Jodie Comer continues to steal every scene. She never puts a foot wrong. She’s a magnetic performer who, much like her character, transfixes you and doesn’t let you go. Her kills this season are perhaps more inventive and macabre and Comer manages to make this unhinged killer incredibly likeable making sure the viewer is always on her side.
The start of the season sees Villanelle at her most vulnerable. Her stab wound means she’s not as agile and not able to think so quickly. The second episode sees her unwittingly place herself in danger after befriending a man at a supermarket. Whilst the episode is fun, I struggled to believe it and it didn’t feel like something that the series would’ve done under Waller-Bridge. The brilliance of the first series was the humour came from the characters rather than deliberately putting the characters in comedic situations. This second episode puts Villanelle in a purposefully comedic situation which comes across as silly rather than the more quirky style of humour the series has done so well before.
If the first season had a flaw, it was perhaps that Eve and Villanelle met too quickly. The scene where the pair reluctantly share a meal at Eve’s kitchen table is an iconic scene and whenever Oh and Comer are together their on-screen chemistry is electric, but once they meet it’s harder to keep the chase going. This second season tries to get them together again, but unfortunately, it comes across as more contrived as before.
Perhaps inevitably, this second season of Killing Eve does feel like the difficult second album. The first series was such an instant hit, and this second season struggles to keep up the excitement level. I hope it hasn’t come across like I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. The lead characters feel as fresh and exciting as they did in the first, and although the quirk has been turned down slightly, there are still plenty of moments that could only happen in Killing Eve. There’s a gruesome and exciting sequence in Amsterdam, there’s Villanelle singing along with Listen To Your Heart by Roxette and there are some interesting cameos that I won’t spoil for you here.
Killing Eve was my favourite show of last year and whilst it may not be quite up to the standard the series has conditioned me to expect, it’s still an exciting and unpredictable thrill ride that feels like nothing else on television. I can’t praise Jodie Comer, Sandra Oh and Fiona Shaw enough, and for the most part the majority of the time I’m just happy to be spending time with these larger than life characters. If I’ve learnt anything from this series is that the story isn’t one that can run and run. This season feels like Killing Eve diluted. There are interesting aspects to the plot that are quickly forgotten about or glossed over too quickly. With a third season already in the works and a new showrunner in place, I’m just hoping that the magic isn’t lost entirely.
Killing Eve starts Saturday 8th June on BBC One with the entire second season available on the BBC iPlayer.