“Killing Eve” Is Your New Queer Obsession

In this age of endless dragons, androids, zombies, superheroes and dystopian hellscapes on television, it turns out the most exciting new show is just about two intelligent women chasing one another.

Killing Eve is also proof positive that if you flip the script and allow women to take roles traditionally held by men, the results can be enthralling. The new BBC America series debuted in April and is deliciously addictive in an, “OMG, is this episode already over? Please make it next week already”-kind of way.

Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh)

The concept seems simple: a British spy named Eve Polastri (played the incomparable Sandra Oh) chases an international assassin named Villanelle (played by the mesmerizing Jodie Comer). But, goodness, is this more than a game of cat-and-mouse.

First, it’s super queer in a way that is entirely unpredictable and exceedingly interesting. Villanelle sleeps with men and with women – sometimes at the same time. But you can tell it is only women who she becomes infatuated with in a deep and seemingly unconscious way.

You always hurt the ones you love

Is it admiration? Is it lust? Or is it the intrinsic desire to know every part of another woman because her face and entire being fascinate you to your core? I have no idea where they will take Villanelle’s sexuality, and that’s thrilling.

Plus, Villanelle isn’t the only queer character on the show. But to discuss it would ruin the wonderful revelation, so I won’t. But if you know, you ache as I do.

Second, it stars the resplendent Sandra Oh, which alone should be enough reason to watch. Sandra has one of the most expressive visages on any screen. Oh, the things she can do with just a few muscles of her face. And in Killing Eve she is allowed to showcase her full talents, from her infallible comic timing to her intense physicality and her fierce intellect.

This is also Sandra’s first lead role on a television series in her 30-year career (she was integral to Grey’s Anatomy, but admittedly not the lead). And as you watch her here you will curse even louder at the artificial limitations Hollywood has too long placed on people of color. We could have had all of this from her all along.

Oh said as much an interview with Vulture after Killing Eve premiered: “I remember I was walking around in Brooklyn and I was on my phone with my agent, Nancy. I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So I’m like, ‘So Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’ And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot. Of just going, how deep have I internalized this? [So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us. It’s like, how does racism define your work?”

I can’t believe she spent ten years with people called McDreamy and McSteamy either

There’s also the chilling and fascinating Villanelle. Jodie Comer plays her as everything you could ever want in a psychopath. She clearly loves her work. But she is also smart enough to know that it can make it harder to do her job. So she purposely studies the human condition – like mimicking laughter from the radio or watching a child respond to the kind of smile that crinkles your eyes.

Villanelle has style and secrets, and lives to watch the spark drain from people’s eyes. She makes her utter lack of remorse seem like a strange kind of freedom. Is it weird that if I ever have a hit put out on me, I want her to do it?

Warning: Psychopaths are closer than they appear

Killing Eve also features queer Irish actress Fiona Shaw. While to most she is Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter movies, to me she is a criminally underused actress who once happened to date Saffron Burrows. As MI6 department head Carolyn Martens, she is preternaturally calm and unquestionably capable. She has the ability to do so much with so little. Like I kind of want to be her when I grow up.

Her Carolyn epitomizes the series’ show-don’t-tell feminism. It’s like, see, this is what you get when you put a lot of women in charge, both on screen and off.

This is her “muggle nonsense” face

Now, there are plenty of other reasons to watch. The soundtrack is impossibly cool in a way that makes you want to drive across Europe on a Vespa. For all of its crime and murder and espionage, Killing Eve is also slyly hilarious. Like Jason Bourne was never this funny. There’s also the winsome Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who plays a member of Eve’s team, who discerning viewers will be thrilled to see landed squarely on her feet after the criminally short-lived Downward Dog.

And then queer women will no doubt recognize Eve’s obnoxious boss Frank, played by Darren Boyd, as the cad best friend from Imagine Me & You. I wonder if the casting call simply said, “Dude who annoys the shit out of lesbians.”

Oh, and have I mentioned Killing Eve has already been renewed for a second season so you don’t have to worry about falling desperately in love with it only to have the object of your affection ripped away from you? Because, yeah, it is. So now you can safely become as obsessed with this show as Eve and Villanelle are with each other.

Killing Eve airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on BBC America. You can catch up with a marathon of all this season’s episodes so far starting at 8 a.m. Sunday on the channel.

Find more from Dorothy Snarker: visit dorothysurrenders.com or @dorothysnarker.

Dorothy has written 14 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Holy crap, i did not recognize obnoxious boss Frank as the cad best friend from Imagine Me & You, but no wonder he seemed familiar. Wow.

    I’m totally love this show. I tuned in because Sandra Oh…I have not been disappointed at all. Can’t wait to see where it all goes.

  2. I just saw part of an advert last night for this show. I didn’t recognize the queer, but thought it looked really really fantastic.

    So, it looks like 👍SOMEBODYS👍 queerdar isn’t quite so broken after all.

    [Tosses *TV Gaydar* onto my giant pile Inconsequential Things.]

  3. So excited about this review (v happy to see Dorothy Snarker here again!) and to watch this show!

    Definitely I will come back with more detailed thoughts/probably lots of emotions once I’ve watched. For now I will just say that that Sandra Oh interview was SO good, and that “And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve” moment punched me right in the gut.

    • As an Asian-American woman, that quote from Sandra went straight to my core. I remember as a kid watching Miss America (I know, I know – but the women were pretty OK), and knowing intrinsically that I could never be her because I had never seen an Asian-American Miss America. That’s what racism does to a person, even as blindingly talented as Sandra Oh.

  4. Sandra Oh has always been a top celebrity crush for this Canadian kid of the 80s and 90s, and now I get to see her be so damned badass and face off against probably the most terrifying woman tv character I can remember, and all my dreams are coming true. Loving this show!

  5. This show is so fucking good. BBC America is pumping out such good shows. If you loved orphan black you will love this show. Also what a great time to be alive that Sandra Oh was able to get a good part like this. Normally after a women does a good job on a show you never ever ever ever see her again like they dropped off the face of the earth or disappeared into that lword character like black hole.

  6. If you don’t have plans on Sunday, get BBC America, somehow, where you live and have not yet seen the show, catching up on that marathon with an English breakfast and an orange juice/coffee situation will be a very perfect Sunday morning that I will envy you for.

    P.S.:If I would have written fanfiction about all of the spy dramas with female leads that I have stumbled across and obsessed about in my life, it would have looked a little bit like this show.

  7. I truly love this show. Every episode is so taut and well done that you’d think you were watching a mid-season finale every episode (I stole that from a fellow-watching friend, but it’s apt). I have paused to analyze the way queerness is represented through the show, because queer characters as psychopaths is a time worn trope. So I don’t know if everything feels fresh and necessary because of the gender flip, or the care with which each episode is crafted, or because the queerness isn’t treated as a sideshow or shortcut (mostly; I’m still struggling with the notable exception and pondering the gender-flipping reasons for my somewhat muted reaction), but rather another matter of fact bit of biography for these characters, but it’s working for me. Episodic television where I have to wait an entire week is the pits! Haha.

    • Very true. I think the way Villanelle’s queerness is handled, in such an unpredictable definitely not Sharon Stone crossing and uncrossing her legs kind of way, really helps the depiction. It’s one of the things that makes her seem more human – in a good way – and draws us to her instead of repelling us as a symptom of her psychopathy.

      • I also think it is because Villanelle is portrayed as a full person with layers of depth. She is not just a cut out character that has no reason to be on screen except to titillate. She is deep and is going to be further explored throughout the entire series and that is a journey I am willing to go on.

    • The murder and blood is really..punctual. Maybe you could get someone to screen the episodes for you and give you a timetable on when to close your eyes for three minutes? It’s really brief and matter of fact,and disturbing for that reason, if you ask me, but so far, I’ve managed to soldier on, and I spent most of „The 100“ flinching and hiding behind my hands.

        • Most of them you know it’s coming because Villanelle has a lot of flair, but there are a couple I didn’t see coming. I thought I couldn’t watch this show because I hate thrillers, suspense, horror, crime, etc. I read a recap of episode 1 and then was so into it I just kept watching. I love it. I’d recommend reading recaps of each episode before watching. If that’s too much spoiler then have someone who has watched it before watch it with you. I’m sure it’s super interesting to watch a second time.

  8. I literally had a dream last night that I was making out with Sandra Oh and just as I’d daydreamed and imagined for so long (ever since binge watching the first 5 seasons of Grey’s a few years ago) she was a fantastic kisser. There’s something so subtly amazing about her that I’d follow her anywhere. This show has not disappointed and I’ve loved her in it since the opening scene with the sleeping arms and the screaming. Jodie is fantastic as well but come on…I’m here for Sandra.

    I’d also like to add that I’m looking forward to the inevitable full blown awakening that Villanelle will spark in Eve when they finally come face to face. It’s been a slow electric burn watching Eve sleepily open her eyes to what’s she’s closed herself in order to lead this normal cookie cutter life. I’m excited to see what that means and where the realization/confrontation takes her.

  9. I’ve been waiting for Killing Eve review but a Dorothy Snarker review is a wonderful surprise. Now can we get a Dorothy Snarker recap please? I loved her recaps much more than the actual shows.

  10. The ice cream parlor scene got me hooked immediately! This series has everything…humor, intensity, great writing, and smart, complex characters. And the soundtrack! I’m watching each episode with Shazam on standby, the music is perfect. Thrilled that it’s already been renewed for season 2!

  11. Sandra Oh is PHENOMENAL!!! The amount of work she puts into expressing Eve’s ambition, bravery, and lovable awkwardness is unparalleled.

    My Asian-Canadian friends are super proud to call her as one of their own. And as an Asian American viewer, her representation means so much to mean — and her role as a titular character is LONG overdue.

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