WARNING: mild spoilers for Killing Eve series 2 episode 1 below.
Killing Eve was, hands down, the best television drama of 2018. Cleverly written, tightly plotted, beautiful shot and impeccably performed, the debut series of BBC America’s Golden Globe and Emmy-winning spy series comes about as close to perfection as television gets. An enormous hit with audiences and critics alike, it was an absolute powerhouse. A titan of a show. And that very rare thing – a phenomenon where the hype was justified.
So no pressure on series 2 then, eh?
Following up a bona fide smash hit is never easy. Bands and singers have always famously feared the dreaded ‘second album syndrome’. This sense of terror doesn’t escape film and TV producers, either. A sequel to – or second series of – a successful outing comes with added expectation and responsibility. What do you do? Do you up the budget? Bring more creatives in? Sign up a big name actor in an attempt to go stratospheric? Or do you keep things as they are…?
Well, it all depends. Perhaps the most logical – and certainly the easiest – way producers can try to replicate their success is by sticking to the tried and tested formula. Thankfully, that’s just what they’ve done here with everyone’s favourite cat ‘n mouse psychosexual feminist thriller. With only a few very minor tweaks.
Killing Eve may have been off our screens for some seven months, but you’d never have known. Series 2 episode 1 picks up just half a minute from where series 1 episode 8 left off. In other words, we’re thrown immediately back into the chaos.
We pick up with Jodie Comer’s sociopathic Russian contract killer Villanelle having fled the clutches of Sandra Oh’s smart-but-awkward MI6 agent Eve Polastri in Paris. On the lam, but with a nasty Eve-inflicted stab wound to the belly, our assassin-y antagonist has to get herself into hospital, keep her visit anonymous, get treated and get out. To achieve this, she recruits the assistance of bruised and battered kid Gabriel in the bed next to hers. It’s a sweet – if short – relationship that ends in typically atypical Killing Eve style. Out of hospital, Villanelle heads to Calais and hides herself in the boot of an English family’s car. She’s on her way to The Smoke for a showdown with her old friend/nemesis Eve.
Meanwhile, Eve’s making the same trip, returning to London from Paris, believing she may well have killed her great foe/beau Villanelle. Swapping her bloodied knife for about 120 Euros worth of consolatory L’Pick et Mix at the Gard du Nord train station, she gets the Eurostar home, back to her husband Nico and no job. Her spell of unemployment doesn’t last all that long though, of course. Idiosyncratic MI6 boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) rehires her toot sweet. Her first job? To investigate a murder. The likely suspect? A certain Russian hitwoman.
Both alive and both recovering from their rather hectic last meeting, the two-way hunt can begin again.
One of the maiden season’s biggest strengths was its writing. To such an extent that its head scribe – the woman tasked with adapting Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle novellas – became something of a star in her own right. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s stock is so high at the moment that’s she currently co-writing the new James Bond movie. So busy has she been since Killing Eve hit the big time, she decided to hand over writing duties on this series to fellow writer and actress Emerald Fennell, though Waller-Bridge is still on-board as a producer.
Luckily for us, Fennel gets it. This opening hour of series two is a total barnstormer. Every bit as smart and funny and sharp as the eight episodes before it, everything we came to adore about the first run is on display here. It’s still a drama, it’s still a thriller, it’s still a comedy, it’s still a twisted love story. It’s still very much Killing Eve.