Rather large claims have been made about the importance of Killing Eve, especially by those involved in it. Star Sandra Oh told us TV critics in February that the series is “examining and taking the female psyche seriously.” We’ll get to those large claims in a minute. First, the main news.
Killing Eve (Sunday, Bravo, 8 p.m.) returns as gloriously good as it was in its initial season. Its clever, jaunty tone and wickedness are all intact. Based on the first two new episodes sent for review, the fresh, sly humour is definitely humming along. It is fabulous entertainment.
The first season ended with Eve (Oh) tracking the sensationally clever and stylish assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) to her Paris apartment and after a tussle, stabbing her in in the stomach. If you need catching up – the first season is available on Bravo’s website – Eve started out as a dutiful but bored MI5 employee in search of more exciting work. Turns out she had a knack for understanding female killers and was put on the case of finding Villanelle by her boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw). After traipsing around Europe and after many murders, Eve and Villanelle became locked in what is either an intense blood feud or a psychosexual entanglement.
This season opens 30 seconds after last year’s ended. Eve flees and is unhinged by the thought of what she’s done. Villanelle flees too but, badly injured, is hampered in her escape. While Eve tries the solace of domestic bliss in London (a scene in which she indulges a sales call about new windows is priceless), Villanelle is stuck in hospital. In a scene that defines the twisted dynamic, she tells a fellow patient, a teenage boy, that a woman stabbed her. “Women don’t stab,” the boy says with certainty. Villanelle replies, “It surprised me too. She did it to show me how much she cares about me.”
The cat-and-mouse game resumes, as Villanelle sets out for London and her “girlfriend,” as she describes Eve. Meanwhile, Eve is drawn back into serious spy work since the calculating Carolyn knows that Villanelle will find Eve, and that’s the honey-trap she wants.
There is one long scene that is both deftly funny and commands serious attention. Carolyn takes Eve to a morgue where a pathologist, a woman, shows them the body of a man who might be linked to Villanelle’s killing spree. The rhythm of the conversation among the three is startlingly demotic, with an incomparable drollery that is, you could say, also incomparably female. Its deadpan texture separates it from every other kind of action-drama on TV. And in a larger context, most dramas about a good agent chasing an evil assassin exist in that fixed duality – two completely different types of substances interacting with each other. Killing Eve posits that the good in the good agent, Eve, is not indivisible. First bored, then intrigued and awakened, Eve can be a very, very, very bad person.
Yet this second season is also a reminder that the series is not really bossed by Sandra Oh. While Oh got the acclaim, Jodie Comer’s work is formidably compelling, especially in the first two new episodes. They belong to her; Villanelle would be a ridiculous figure if Comer did not inject a sly facetiousness into the role. She is exquisite, bringing impeccable levity to a physically demanding sequence in which an injured Villanelle attempts to escape the hospital.
Killing Eve is gloriously good prestige popcorn. Take all the larger meaning you want from it, but everyone should stay for the furious fun of its cunning entertainment.
Also airing this weekend
Our Planet began streaming on Netflix on Friday, delivering eight hours of awe-inspiring footage that is both a celebration of the natural world and a cautionary tale about human impact on it. Netflix teamed with Sir David Attenborough and the World Wildlife Fund to create both a stunning visual experience and a primer on how this planet has changed.
A Discovery of Witches (Sunday, AMC, 9 p.m.) arrives on mainstream cable after running on the horror-streaming service Shudder. It’s not really a horror show. Main character Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is an academic and also a witch, but doesn’t want to be. She resents it, but might be the best witch in the world. One thing leads to another, and eventually she’s hooked up with Matthew (Matthew Goode), an ancient vampire and a professor of biochemistry studying alchemy. Or something. The original books by Deborah Harkness are way-popular and considered devilishly sexy.