TV review: Killing Eve, BBC Three
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 September 2018
Implausible if enjoyable cat-and-mouse crime caper, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with a smirking assassin slashing her way across Europe
The BBC has produced a line of contemporary crime shows where the unconventional investigator shares a mutual obsession with their arch, and usually psychopathic, enemy. Think Sherlock, Luther and The Fall. But where the fixation there has either been male-on-male or between a male and female, Killing Eve produces a narrative sidestep by making the obsessive pair both female.
Based on Codename Villanelle, the novella series by Luke Jennings (The Observer's dance critic by day and crime author by night: or maybe it's the other way around), this eight-parter is scripted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge with all the nous and wit that you'd expect from the creator of Fleabag. Whether people who are in mortal peril or are about to inflict life-changing devastation can come up with the type of juicy bon mots or amusing responses as they do here is one thing, but it too often threatens to traverse into the kind of hooey Bond territory that Jennings claimed to be avoiding with his e-book creation.
Jodie Comer (Remember Me, Doctor Foster) plays Villanelle, a Russian assassin whose heart of stone is displayed immediately when tipping ice-cream over a young girl before she moves onto yet further atrocities such as stabbing a man through the eye with a hairpin, or poisoning a woman with an overly toxic new perfume range. Castration also seems to be a large part of her modus operandi as she hops across Europe to key metropolises communicated to us in very large type ('PARIS' and 'BERLIN' for example yet 'BULGARIA' seemingly isn't possible to narrow down to a city).
Stumbling in Villanelle's way is Sandra Oh as the slightly ruffled yet obviously brilliant Secret Service operative whose stable homelife is about to be turned on its head by her tunnel-vision attitude towards capturing her target. There are classy turns from Kim Bodnia (The Bridge's Martin) as Villanelle's avuncular coach, and Fiona Shaw as the steely-eyed MI6 boss whose guard only ever drops after a G&T at breakfast or Russian cocktail at night.
When the initial shock of the horrors being inflicted by our smirking killer have eased somewhat (though the penile massacre simply never lets up), the drama rather dips into a fairly humdrum cat-and-mouse escapade where you can just about see the double crossing coming over the horizon. And then there's the audacious finale which will either have you purring with enjoyment or feeling your jaw drop to the floor with the implausibility of it all.
Episodes watched: Eight of eight.
Killing Eve is on BBC One from Sat 15 Sep, 9pm, with full boxset available the same day on iPlayer.