'Killing Eve' Treads Familiar Ground in the Season 3 Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 1 of Killing Eve Season 3, "Slowly, Slowly, Catchy Monkey."]
Killing Eve is one of those shows that had such a perfect first season that it never really needed a second, let alone a third. Yet, it's central characters are so captivating that it's hard to let go, even if there isn't much of a story left to tell. In fact, the obsession viewers have for Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) fittingly mirrors the characters' own dependence on one another. It's an addiction that we just can't quit even if we know it's bad for us.
New showrunner Suzanne Heathcote (Fear the Walking Dead) faces the same issues that her predecessor Emerald Fennell came up against in Season 2. How do you maintain a compelling story with characters that, by their very nature, never really change or progress? It's a problem that made last season somewhat of a chore at times. Yes, the characters were still fun, the dialogue was as deliciously dark as ever, and there were some stand-out moments, particularly the savage ax murder in the finale. But there was also a lot of treading old ground. The cat-and-mouse chase between Eve and Villanelle became almost formulaic, to the point where the final scene of the season was merely a reversal of Season 1's finish, this time with Villanelle leaving Eve for dead.
It was clear the show would never do something as daring as killing Eve off — and to its credit, it never pretended otherwise (Sandra Oh was seen in all the preseason press and previews) — but I held out hope for a major shake-up coming into Season 3. Killing Eve's trend of bringing on a new showrunner each season gives them a chance to put their own stamp on the show, to do something out of the ordinary, rather than follow the blueprint of the cat-and-mouse, obsessed lovers/enemies narrative. And the way this premiere began, I thought Heathcote was about to shift the story in a brand new direction. However, the moment is fleeting, as things quickly return to the tried and tested methods.
The moment I'm talking about, of course, is Villanelle getting married! Opening the action at a wedding reception — where a suited-up Villanelle delivers a morbid speech about love and death — is a bold reintroduction to the story. As the international assassin toasts to her new bride, Maria, she reminisces about her troubled past. "When we met, I had just had a really bad break-up," she says, clearly referencing her unhealthy relationship with Eve. "When I think about my ex, I realize … I am so much happier, now she’s dead." The wedding guests react in uncomfortable laughter to Villanelle's awkward speech, but this is really no laughing matter. Little do they know, this newlywed is a stone-cold killer holding a cake knife and murdering the dance floor.
Villanelle being hitched is such an unexpected development that could create lots of new story avenues — a domesticated ex-assassin trying to juggle married life with her murderous tendencies while grieving over her ex. But, sadly, that's not what we get, at least, not just yet. Because before we know it, the wedding reception breaks out into an all-out brawl as Villanelle is dragged back into a life of murder-for-hire by The Twelve's Dasha (a brilliantly brutal Harriet Walter), an old foe of Villanelle, who literally crashes the wedding in an uncontrollable rage.
Suddenly the new becomes very familiar. Villanelle is once again urged to return to work as Dasha bribes her with the promise of money and a new apartment. But if Villanelle is going to rejoin the organization, she wants something more than luxuries — she wants power. That means she wants to move up the ranks to become a Keeper. It's a tough ask, but Dasha believes she can make it happen, so long as Villanelle proves that she is still up to the task. So, just like that, Villanelle is back to being a hitwoman, disguised as a delivery driver and bashing in the brains of a herbal tea shop owner with a glass jar.
Comer and Walter play off each other well, making for some amusing interaction between Villanelle and Dasha. Both characters share a lot in common as bloodthirsty, coldhearted, Eastern European femme fatales. And Dasha is an excellent addition to the show's eclectic mix of characters — a menacing Russian gymnastics coach, who we first meet in flashback form, beating the crap out of a boy who is smitten with her. But in terms of story, there's nothing we haven't seen before. In a way, you could credit the show for not wasting time and quickly getting back to the swing of things, but I honestly think I'd have preferred a detour into Villanelle's marital life.
The same can be said for Eve, who is back in London, recovering from her brush with death. Much like at the start of Season 2, Eve is trying to move on with her life and forget Villanelle. She's quit the MI6 and is now working in the kitchen of a Korean restaurant. She lives a quiet, solitary existence, spending her days at work and her nights alone drinking wine and watching crappy TV. That is the way she wants it right now. When her boss recommends she start working at the front of house, Eve hastily shuts her down and says she's happy working in the kitchen. Eve doesn't want to be seen or heard — only bad things happen when she's out and about.
She hasn't completely shut Villanelle out of her mind, though. Throughout the episode, her two work colleagues act as a sort of Greek chorus, talking about a girl one of them met and how infatuation turned into love, but now this girl is making excuses not to meet with him. Eve eventually snaps, telling the guy that the girl is lying to him. "You are crying because you feel stupid. Because you are stupid!" she shouts. Eve is evidently still hurting and blaming herself for what happened in Rome. She tells Kenny (Sean Delaney) she's done with Villanelle when she mistakenly presumes he was asking about her — the fact he was actually talking about Niko (Owen McDonnell) tells you everything.
This is all very much a rinse and repeat of how the second season started — Eve is again hoping to regain some normality and distract herself from all things Villanelle. And the other characters are in a similar stasis. Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) is chastised by her superiors for the mistakes made in the Aaron Peel investigation; as punishment, she's appointed a chaperone, "massive wanker" Paul (a superbly slimy Steve Pemberton), who will oversee all operations going forward. Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) is still pottering around London, ignoring calls from his daughter to return home. And Niko, traumatized by seeing his teacher friend murdered by Villanelle, is still angry with Eve.
If there is to be any shake-up this season, then it likely comes in the form of a plummeting Kenny. Having left the MI6, mostly to get away from his domineering mother, Carolyn, Kenny is now working as an investigative journalist for an "online publication" (don't call it a website). He hasn't written anything yet, though, as he spends most his days stealing his colleague's Haribo Tangfastics and looking into the criminal activity of the Twelve. As with most characters in this show, Kenny is driven by obsession, and he doesn't want to let this go, especially seeing that the group is still active, and he tries to persuade Eve to help him.
It's Kenny's snooping, though, which gets him killed by the end of the episode. That's right, as Eve arrives to hang out and enjoy some late-night beers at the office, Kenny is (presumably) thrown from the building's rooftop to the concrete below. Surely this will act as the catalyst for events to come? Eve will be back on the hunt for the Twelve to get justice for Kenny, which will return her to Villanelle's orbit. And, perhaps most intriguing, Kenny's death could reveal a different side of Carolyn, a character who is usually aloof and emotionless. Hopefully, we will see a different shade of the cool-and-collected Carolyn now that she's lost her son.
Everything you know and love about Killing Eve is present in this episode: darkly humorous dialogue, violent murder, beguiling performances. But that also means — outside of the opening wedding scene — there is nothing genuinely unexpected. That's fine ... for now. It's only the first episode, so you can get away with a certain level of re-familiarizing and scene-setting. However, you can't repeat itself forever. Thankfully, the show seems cognizant of this fact.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Sally Woodward said, "We never want to repeat ourselves ... We want to move the story on." So, with that promise, I still hold out hope things will move in a new direction this season and not just rehash Seasons 1 and 2. With a fourth season already commissioned, now is the chance to truly shake things up.
Killing Eve, Sundays, 9/8c, BBC America and AMC