Socialist Worker

Killing Eve is a show defined by its complex characters

The new series of this high octane BBC thriller builds on the complex relationship between spook Eve and assassin Villanelle, writes?Sophie Squire

Issue No. 2657

The anti-hero Villanelle is seriously wounded in the opening shots of the new series of Killing Eve

The anti-hero Villanelle is seriously wounded in the opening shots of the new series of Killing Eve

Killing Eve is back after a first series that was a television ­highlight of last year.

It’s a fast-paced and thrilling ride centred on a female assassin and the MI5 staff tasked with taking her out.

It all has all the enjoyable aspects of a spy or police thriller and would be immensely entertaining even without the aspects that make it truly special.

Killing Eve is at times funny and camp, at times shocking and ­stomach churning.

But what truly makes it stand out is its outstanding characterisation.

Eve and Villanelle—played compellingly by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer respectively—are characters so well written that the audience can’t help but immerse themselves in their worlds.

Sandra Oh’s character is capable, honest and above all flawed.

As series one progresses, her obsession with Villanelle becomes ever more apparent, affecting all aspects of her life including her relationships.

She disobeys orders and does things that seem irrational.

Yet these are the most winning aspects of her character and why we are able to feel such a sense of sympathy with her.

The audience is made to feel similarly for Villanelle, despite her being a ruthless assassin.

Series two begins just after series one ended—with Eve stabbing Villannelle in the stomach. The beginning of series two finds Villanelle gravely wounded.


Villanelle is at her most vulnerable. She uses her skills as an assassin to stay alive.

She has to adopt the character of a woman being abused by her stepfather to get a place for her to stay

at a stranger’s house. Her frustration at a situation in which she doesn’t have the upper hand is visceral.

These scenes will certainly resonate with anyone who has had to play a predesignated role that they had no control over.

The greatest achievement of Killing Eve is that it presents two incredibly complex female characters.

Often a mistake that is made in the writing of female characters for film and television is they are just strong. The trope of the “strong female character” becomes the idea that such characters can only be one thing.

They can’t hurt or make mistakes or do bad things because they are too busy being good and capable.

The writing of Eve and Villanelle never strays into this.

They are both deeply flawed with demons and conflicting emotions while still both beings skilled at their jobs and resilient.

Expect the tension between Villanelle and Eve to build to

unbearable levels. Above all expect to have your idea about who is bad and who is good turned on its head.

Killing Eve begins on BBC One on Sat 8 June. Also available on iPlayer

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 4 Jun 2019, 16:10 BST
Issue No. 2657
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.