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Killing Eve: Season 2 - Finale review and season overview

Killing Eve: Season 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE sophomore season of Killing Eve may have had its detractors, and was certainly flawed, but it still had a lot to recommend it.

As if to underline that sentiment, the climax, which aired on BBC1 this past weekend, was a dark, twisted, complex beast of an episode that pretty much summed up all that was good and bad about the second run of eight episodes.

On the plus side, the Rome setting added the required glamour, while the performance of Jodie Comer, as chief villain Villanelle was typically mesmerising. The final moments also neatly subverted the final moments of the first season, flipping the script to have Villanelle apparently kill Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh).

But there were ultimately more questions than answers, as well as a growing sense of dissatisfaction.

The central conspiracy surrounding ‘The 12’ stagnated. There was no real movement, even though they were intermittently mentioned.

The story of Eve’s husband, Niko (Owen McDonnell) also seemed forgotten at a pivotal moment… and despite the fact it was alluded to in the recap prior to the final episode. After all, the previous episode had ended by showing how Niko had woken up in a container to find his fellow teacher, and potential new love interest, suffocated to death by Villanelle. There was no returning to this, and no setting up of its repercussions.

Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn also finished the second series in pretty much the same way she did the first: in an ambiguous position, with Eve having apparently turned her back on her once more for shady dealings. Again, this didn’t really feel like a progression for an otherwise excellent character.

Some of the violence in the final episode, and second run in general, also felt unnecessarily graphic – never more so than during the climactic fight between Villanelle, Eve and Raymond (Adrian Scarborough), involving an axe. Quite why Raymond thought to bring something so heavy-handed to that confrontation – then leave it lying handily around – was anyone’s guess. But it hardly fit into a show that has taken pride in showing how ruthlessly efficient its assassins can be. This felt like placing style before substance, and trying to shock for the sake of it.

And yet, Killing Eve remains enjoyable by virtue of its quirky eccentricities, its wilfully black humour and its sustained ability to [mostly] subvert expectation and surprise.

Up until his demise, Raymond had been another interesting – albeit fleeting – new character: a potentially worthwhile opponent for Villanelle, who she seemed to genuinely fear. Likewise, the sociopath Aaron Peel (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), who again offered a tricky opponent for Comer’s assassin.

The decision to shift the focus away from the cat-and-mouse game between Eve and Villanelle for long periods was also a wise choice, in that it helped to avoid a feeling of repetition setting in. Indeed, for long periods during the final two or three episodes, it looked as though Eve and Villanelle might actually be about to team up properly, which made the last minute about turn so effective.

Of continued note, too, was Kim Bodnia’s Konstantin, Villanelle’s side-changing handler, who enjoyed a typically slippery arc throughout the season. He brought sustained charisma to his role and proved nicely enigmatic throughout.

But the main reason for its success was Comer. If Oh’s Eve sometimes tested the patience in terms of how she played each scenario (especially those involving her long-suffering husband), Comer’s playful, occasionally spiteful Villanelle always demanded your closest attention, if only to see what she was capable of doing next.

And where Oh’s Eve never seemed to be quite sure of her feelings and priorities, Comer’s Villanelle continually proved something of a puppet master, dropping in and out of people’s lives and ruining them whenever she saw fit.

But there was complexity too. On occasion, there was vulnerability. At others, jealousy. Most of the time, however, there was just sadistic relish. Comer got to showcase a wide range of emotions, never more so than when playing ‘victim’ at a rehab session in order to first lure Peel’s sociopath [via his sister]. That scene offered Comer an acting showcase that she grabbed with relish.

But then she continually challenged the audience, too, tip-toeing the line between being likeably cool and cruelly psychotic. It’s for Comer, more than anyone, that a third season of Killing Eve remains a tasty prospect.