‘Killing Eve’ Is a Spy-Drama About Obsession and Role-Playing
Killing Eve is a spy-drama that tells the story of Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer).
Killing Eve is a spy-drama that tells the story of Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer).(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Killing Eve)

‘Killing Eve’ Is a Spy-Drama About Obsession and Role-Playing

A young woman sits opposite a little girl in an ice-cream parlour. There is something rather odd about the woman’s behaviour; she doesn’t quite know how to act in public. She smiles at the kid. But when the leaves the parlour, she does something you’d expect only a psychopath to do.

Thus begins the Golden Globe-winning spy-drama Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh as secret agent Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer as the formidable and psychopathic serial killer, Villanelle. The first season of the show is written by none other than Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame.

While the show has garnered global acclaim and has been renewed for a third season, Indian viewers are getting to experience it only now. Better late than never, I’d say!

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‘I Know You’re Into Assassins’: Of Spies and Serial Killers

Killing Eve, which is based on the Codename Villanelle novel series by Luke Jennings, tells the story of Eve Polastri (Oh), an MI5 agent bored of her desk job and obsessed with women assassins.

When a Russian politician is murdered, the head of the Russia Section of MI6, Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw), hires Eve to “find the pattern” in seemingly unrelated killings that may lead them to the untraceable Villanelle.
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in <i>Killing Eve</i> Season 1.
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve Season 1.
(Photo Courtesy: BBC America)

“Trouble is not interested in me,” says Eve and, of course, she is wrong. Trouble is all that’s interested in her, as we follow her and Villanelle through the eight episodes of Killing Eve Season 1. What begins as a cat-and-mouse chase ends up, as Oh says in an interview with Ellen Degeneres, being a cat-and-cat relationship.

Eve is inescapably sucked into Villanelle’s world as the show takes us to Vienna, Paris, Tuscany, Berlin and more beautiful locations. The obsession costs Eve dearly, as she begins to unravel, but it’s also what keeps the audience hooked to the show.

‘I Think About You All the Time’: Of Fixation and Role-Playing

The most obvious interpretation of the show is in terms of the Biblical story of Eve’s fall, the title of the show and the main protagonist’s name being the natural giveaways.

The premise too lends itself to this reading. Eve takes a bite of the ‘forbidden fruit’ in her unhealthy fixation with Villanelle and has a lot to lose as she ‘falls’ deeper into the mystery of Villanelle’s past.

Eve and Villanelle play into this Biblical fantasy, though the show doesn’t limit itself to this framework alone. What it does, instead, is make role-playing a central motif and a medium of storytelling.

Clothes and languages are a huge part of Villanelle’s shifting identity and Comer plays the part exceedingly well. The BAFTA-winning actress’ masterful grasp of languages and her skill in delivering different accents is beyond amazing!
Jodie Comer as Villanelle in <i>Killing Eve</i> Season 1.
Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve Season 1.
(Photo Courtesy: BBC America)

Villanelle’s got style in both her costumes and killings. She is outlandish, arrogant, and a complete show-off, and her attire, particularly when she is playing herself, reflects that. Eve, on the other hand, is a rather rushed, everyday dresser. For Eve, it’s clearly more about substance than style.

Despite the obvious differences, there is a strange mirroring between Eve and Villanelle such that, by the end, you’re not really sure who is doing the ‘killing’.

‘I Fall in Love With Who I Fall in Love With’: Of Social Codes and Sexuality

What ties Eve, Villanelle, and Carolyn is that they’re all kind of weird when it comes to sticking to social codes of behaviour. Villanelle trips the bowl of ice-cream on the little girl in the first scene of the show, Carolyn remarks about being fascinated by a mouse drinking from a can of Coke, and Eve gives a rather detailed plan, in jest, of how she’d kill her husband.

The three women are eccentric but brilliant, if you ask me, and, along with the role-playing element in the show, they highlight the double standards of the social codes that put people into neat boxes and define ‘normalcy’.

Villanelle is the more obvious psychopath but you’re left wondering, is everyone mad here?
Villanelle and Eve in <i>Killing Eve </i>Season 1.
Villanelle and Eve in Killing Eve Season 1.
(Photo Courtesy: BBC America)

The show also challenges social codes in its treatment of sexuality. When Eve asks her work-partner and friend, Bill Pargrave (David Haig), whether he is gay, he says, “I fall in love with who I fall in love with.”

Killing Eve has been criticised for queerbaiting, especially because the relationship between Eve and Villanelle is never explicitly defined in the show. There was a huge backlash when Oh, in an interview to Gay Times, said, “You guys are tricky because you want to make it into something… but it just isn’t.”

However, if one views this in the context of the show’s overall attempt to defy exacting definitions — of madness, identity, and sexuality — it does make sense.

Finally, if you’re a fan of spy-thrillers, watch Killing Eve on Hotstar Premium for its plot, brilliant acting, and gripping twists and turns. If that’s not your preferred genre, watch the show for everything else that it has to offer.

Also don’t miss the show’s fantastic soundtrack!

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