I don’t know how you decide if you’re going to stick with a new television show, but for me, there’s a checklist and all the boxes must be ticked.
I read the premise. I admit it, I’m attracted to dark. I scan the show description and I’m either in right then and there or I decide to click past. Extra points for a new spin on a tried-and-true story. Descriptions are important. Descriptions, if they don’t successfully capture a show, can hurt it.
I check the cast to see if there’s anyone I’ve enjoyed in previous roles, which might be an added attraction. But I am more than open to discovering new (to me) actors. Nothing is more fun than spending time with someone who can surprise you. I’m particularly fond of actors who go under, and by that I mean they’re economical of expression and movement but huge in how their performance impacts you. They’re people I want to be in the same room with episode after episode. I collect actors like that.
But even if all these stars are in alignment, the deal breaker is always the writing. If the dialogue sounds the way we talk, but not so clever it’s reduced to TV banter, I’m intrigued. For me, less is more. Good writing will snap you into an upright position, ears pricked toward the television. You remember lines. You quote them to people. You wish you’d written them. You vow to write better.
For me, “Killing Eve” checks all the boxes, with the added benefit of the tingle. Yes, it’s so good, I actually tingle in appreciation as I watch, and trust me, there are very few shows that can deliver that buzz. You know how it feels when you hit your funny bone? TV done right gives me that kind of tingle.”Killing Eve” is suspenseful, laugh-outloud funny, erotic, horrifying and human, all at once, and that is some neat trick the creative team has pulled off.
I want to give credit where credit is due. The witty, smart snap to the dialogue in Season One of “Killing Eve” comes from the mind of creator/executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who adapted Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novellas for the small screen. If you are not familiar with her quirky genius, then you must see the first season of the comedy “Fleabag,” which Waller-Bridge wrote and stars in. The demands of “Fleabag” Season 2 are keeping her from her duties in the new season of “Eve,” so Waller-Bridge has handed the reins temporarily to fellow executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle and new showrunner Emerald Fennell. (A word about the multi-talented Fennell—in front of the camera, she played Nurse Mount in “Call the Midwife.”) So far, there’s no evidence this season of “Killing Eve” has lost a step, so Waller-Bridge chose well.
Unfortunately, pleasure can still be deferred in TV land, so Season Two, which premieres tonight (BBC America/AMC, check your local listings) won’t be available in one fell swoop. Episodes are parceled out every week, and because you’re spoiled, this will drive you crazy, because there be cliffhangers, oh-jeez kinds of cliffhangers. But if you’re one of those who hasn’t seen “Killing Eve” and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, you’re the lucky one. You can find the 8 episodes of Season One on several streaming services and then you can roll right into Season Two without having to wait. I envy you that.
The simple premise of the show: Eve Polastri (Oh, who won a Golden Globe for her role) who works as a security offer for British Intelligence MI15–okay, she’s a spy–is tasked with tracking down a ruthless, extremely efficient assassin, code name Villanelle (the über-talented Jodie Comer, who many will know from “The White Princess” and their BritBox/Acorn subscriptions) Once the two women enter the same orbit, the game is on. Eve is repulsed by her quarry, but the more she learns about Villanelle, the more attracted she is to the killer’s fearlessness, impulsivity and independence, qualities she’s lost touch with in her own life.
Season Two picks up where the first season left off, literally. The first chyron you see on screen in the premiere that airs tonight reads “30 seconds later,” which establishes the time line but tweaks the trope. You might chuckle in appreciation of the cheek, but then you come to understand why time hasn’t moved on for Eve. (Spoiler alert…if you haven’t seen last season, skip to the next paragraph) In last season’s finale, Eve catches her prey, and then unexpectedly and shockingly to both characters, she stabs Villanelle. Only half a minute has passed between Eve’s plunging a knife into Villanelle’s stomach, and in tonight’s premiere, we see her dealing with the horror of what she’s done. There’s no skipping ahead to the aftermath. If Eve’s going to have to live with that, so is the audience. One chyron, and you know “Killing Eve” is back.
Next week’s episode is equally effective. Let’s just say the expression “sometimes you pay for your sins” comes into play. To give you any more details would spoil the fun, if your idea of fun has a Psycho/Baby Jane component to it. That kind of twisted suspense is what sets “Killing Eve” apart, and the carefully calibrated performances of Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer is the reason you will find yourself more willing to hold your breath week to week.
Here’s an impressive interview with Fennell in Entertainment Weekly: https://ew.com/tv/2019/04/07/killing-eve-producer-12-hints-season-2/
I’ll post a second piece this week from the aforementioned “Killing Eve” FYC panel, held around this time as the TV voting community ramps up to the Emmy Awards.
NOTE: Many of you may not know why I’ve been missing in action on this site. I broke my wrist right after the holidays and much to my disappointment, it turned into a bigger challenge than I anticipated. The cast and brace are finally off, and now that I’ve had a few weeks of occupational therapy, my hand and my thumb are functioning well enough so I can type!