“Killing Eve”: The End of the Affair
April 21, 2022 Philadelphia Gay News
"Killing Eve" (AMC+ / BBC America)
Spoiler Warning: Series finale of “Killing Eve”
“Killing Eve,” which just ended in a series finale, has been quite the thrill ride. Over four seasons, 32 episodes, a dozen awards — including BAFTAs and Emmys for the series itself and the three principals — several dozen award nominations and one pandemic we have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with the BBC spy chiller.
To say there is nothing else like “Killing Eve” on TV is not hyperbole. The story of bored MI5 analyst Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) who gets fired from that job and then hired to do foreign intelligence for the British version of the CIA, MI6, is the stuff of every queer girl’s Jane Bond dreams.
When Eve meets Villanelle (Jody Comer), a Russian assassin, their cat-and-mouse, frog v. scorpion game of skill and killing becomes the central structure of the series. Who will kill the other first? The concomitant storylines of their individual spying settles into being yet more ways to propel these two together. And to heighten their obvious and intense erotic attraction to each other.
“Killing Eve” is a four-season slow burn to the culmination of a love-affair-in-the-making that we witnessed over and over again. Both Eve and Villanelle are highly sexed and sexual women. Oh’s Eve is a laconic but exacting lover of men and women, who is married to a man as the series opens. Jody Comer’s Villanelle is a fashion icon and incendiary flirt who romances nearly everyone in her path, often before killing them.
In season three, Villanelle marries another woman, but it doesn’t last because Eve comes back into her life. In the beginning of season four, Villanelle romances the biracial daughter of an evangelical pastor as she tries to turn her life around. But the ways in which that goes awry are both hilarious and horrifying. And as the final season draws to a close, Villanelle finds a woman more murderous than she who lives on her own island and is an Amazon right out of a Wonder Woman fantasy — with knives.
Eve and Villanelle try to kill each other every season, but only succeed in horribly wounding each other. That physical reality, borne out of their actual jobs of being tasked with killing the other, is a metaphor for their relationship. Over and over we see them in clinches — lying in bed together, one of them bleeding.
In season four it all builds to a climactic, bloody finale.
While Villanelle is trying to make herself over as a “good person” in a religious enclave to make Eve care for her, Eve seems over Villanelle and onto other spy things with her handler, Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw), head of the Russia Section at MI6, and the mysterious and alluring Hélène (Camille Cottin), a high-ranking member of The Twelve, an international spy ring for whom Villanelle is working.
There are a series of clashes among Eve, Villanelle and Hélène. But when Hélène has Villanelle shot with an arrow — in a wildly visual testament to this highly eroticized affair of the soul but not the body — Eve is hysterical, trapped in a locked car with the vengeful Hélène who delights in Eve’s distress as she frantically tries to get out to save Villanelle.
When Hélène finally releases Eve, she rushes to the body of a crumpled Villanelle and grabs her up, keening over her, trying to bring her back to life.
This is when the audience who has rooted for this couple to get together and finally plight their troth and climb into bed sans any weapons but their own incredibly broken selves first saw the shadow of the dead lesbians trope that has ended so many lesbian love stories going back decades.
The 1961 film of Lillian Hellman’s play “The Children’s Hour,” starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, the 1967 film of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Fox,” starring Sandy Dennis (a lesbian and cat lady in real life) and Anne Heywood (who got typecast in queer roles), Willow and Amber in the cult TV series “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and dozens more all ended with one or both women dying.
But Eve manages to save Villanelle who then, incredibly, tells Eve she is done with her and walks out while Eve, still unable to tell Villanelle about her feelings, just lets her leave.
There is yet more violence before, in the two-hour finale, Eve rescues Villanelle and they finally, finally, finally kiss and go off to make love in a stolen camper.
The duo, now inexorably and vividly giving vent to their love for each other, have a final job to do at a wedding on a yacht. While Villanelle kills a bunch of people, Eve performs a wedding of two gay men.
A bloodied but exhilarated Villanelle reunites with Eve on deck. They embrace, and then Villanelle is shot, the two go into the water in the darkness and that is the end of the affair four years in the making.
“Killing Eve” is a brilliant series. Comer is an extraordinary performer. Her campy, over-the-top versatility (in season four she also plays Jesus Christ) and her sublime fashion flair make Villanelle an unforgettable character. Oh’s Eve is compelling and anchors the series. We know who she is — we’ve been her (without the killing). We understand her interiority and her pathos — and why Villanelle lights her up.
The soundtrack is a genius mix of old and new, with European hits in French, Italian, German and Spanish. The visuals are fabulous. The whole series is a feast for the eye, the ear and also, the heart.
Which makes the ending deeply, irrevocably wrong, misguided and ultimately homophobic and misogynist. At some point series have to stop using this antiquated trope devised initially by men who couldn’t imagine two women together. Yet Eve and Villanelle were made for each other. Even now, the writers could bring Villanelle back to life, as they did when she was shot with the arrow, and plow into a new season — “Killing Eve: The Return.”
It’s what we deserve. It’s 2022 — time to stop killing the lesbians. We can live happily ever after, even as assassins.
All four seasons of “Killing Eve” on Hulu and BBC.