Television Time: BBC’s Killing Eve Season 3 (Review)
A meandering plot sees Villanelle and Eve going their own separate ways before setting the series up for a fourth season.
When BBC’s Killing Eve arrived on television in 2018, its deliciously dark, winning combination of factors quickly made it a must-watch show that ranked among the best of 2018. With a writing team led by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the dialogue featured was sharp and witty, the fashion arresting, and the action sequences indulgently bloody. In Season 2, head writer Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) managed to keep up with the black humour, intriguing mystery, and above all, the improbable, deeply intertwined relationship between leads Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh).
But if Seasons 1 and 2 of the spy-thriller presented us with the forbidden flames of a relationship that threatens to burn everything and everyone around it, then Season 3 would be akin to a plateau, as if a bucket of cold water were suddenly splashed over it. Led by head writer Suzanne Heathcote, Season 3 takes on a considerably slower, more reflective pace compared to the episodes that came before it, and makes for a far more introspective season as Villanelle and Eve retreat into their heads, struggling to lead separate lives after the fall out at the end of Season 2.
That’s not to say Season 3 doesn’t start off promisingly. If anything, Episode 1 seems to set up the season for a truly epic finale. With a major character death that practically begs audiences to get to the bottom of the perpetrator’s identity, one would expect more of the mysterious Thirteen to be revealed, and perhaps even expect an epic showdown between tougher, even more scheming assassins in the hierarchy.
It’s a little disappointing then that much of Season 3 plods along, meandering its way through messy storylines with no end goal in sight. Eve has gone into hiding, but is drawn out again by the aforementioned death, and her vow to unravel the mystery. Villanelle has set her sights on a promotion, but along the way, suddenly finds herself increasingly disinclined to kill. Both these arcs are consistently bogged down by distractions, taking the form of new minor (short-lived) characters introduced, and plot points that seem designed for padding the runtime rather than contributing to the series’ mythos and character development. Eve’s husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) for example, seemed very much out of the picture after Season 2, only to make a guest reappearance this time for little more than to fuel Eve’s guilt.
Of the new cast members, Harriet Walter is by far the most intriguing, as Villanelle’s former trainer and mentor Dasha. The uneasy tension between her and Villanelle is a joy to watch, as we wonder at what point either of them will finally snap, be it Villanelle at being controlled, or Dasha at her out of control ward. Stars Danny Sapani and Gemma Wheelan also join the main cast, and one hopes that in future, their characters are granted more depth and material to work with and become beloved in their own right, besides serving as accessories for the protagonists to build their own characters off.
Still, despite its flaws, Killing Eve season 3 still boasts some of the best acting on TV right now, with Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer each producing some of their best work to date. The level of introspection allows for Oh to scale back on the melodrama seen in Season 1 and 2, and suggests that there is a degree of madness we have yet to see released from her. Jodie Comer continues to shine as Villanelle, and her self-doubt and realisation of her own limitations allows her to bring out a vulnerability to the cold-blooded killer as she tussles with concepts of morality and a conscience. Episode 5 in particular, features Villanelle returning to her family home in Russia, and allows her to literally exorcise some of the demons in her past, a rare glimpse into her still enigmatic past with still plenty of mysteries to decode from her. And with the introduction of both Carolyn and Konstantin’s children, Fiona Shaw and Kim Bodnia are given additional layers of humanity that sheds some light on their still-mysterious characters.
The fashions displayed in Killing Eve also continue to be a highlight of every episode, with Villanelle still turning it out in every appearance. If there’s any reason to watch this show, it’s to see just how well Jodie Comer is able to get away with wearing the most outrageous of outfits while making a clean kill. Episode 7’s green tartan, shearling-sleeved coat (designed by Charlotte Knowles) is the season’s most memorable, and as her outfit of choice to a golf resort, encapsulates Killing Eve’s gleeful, darkly comic murder scenes, as she delivers a near-lethal head wound with a golf club.
Season 3 acts as a breather, a far slower-paced year for the series as it takes its time to lay out the foundations for its subsequent seasons. Killing Eve is at its height when Eve and Villanelle are pit against each other, and these moments, while few and far between, are still electrifying when they happen. When we reach yet another final confrontation between the two in the final episode, this time with neither guns or knives, it is to the credit of both Oh and Comer that we still feel the tension and uneasy desire between them that forms the core of the series. With the additional backstory given to both leads, there’s plenty of new material and potential storylines to be explored in future. As for how their relationship continues, that’s something we’re willing to hold on to and follow, as we wait for all this buildup to pay off and for Killing Eve to return to its heyday in the seasons still to come.
Killing Eve Season 3 is available on BBC First (StarHub Channel 502) and BBC Player. Season 1 and 2 are also available on BBC Player. The revamped BBC Player app will also allow you to watch your favourite programmes on a bigger screen with Chromecast and Airplay.