How Killing Eve Season 3 Abandoned Its Main Character

TV

The following contains spoilers through the Killing eve Season 3 finale.

Perhaps the inevitable danger of a show like Killing Eve was always going to be in the fact that its antagonist might turn out to be more interesting than its protagonist. Jodie Comer’s Villanelle is one of the most memorable breakout television characters of the past few years, a ruthless, violent killer with incredible fashion sense, a quick wit, and a dedication to her craft rivaled only by other darkly famous names like Hannibal Lecter. The show revels in using her character to subvert expectations about what female villains are allowed to be and do, as well as how we, as viewers, are meant to feel about them. Plus, she’s just so darn fun to watch.

Comer’s co-star Sandra Oh has always had the more thankless onscreen job of the two, but the fact that she’s made normie Eve’s compulsive attraction to danger and darkness so compelling to watch is a testament to both her skills and to the show’s writing up until this point. This is precisely why it’s so disappointing that Killing Eve Season 3 so thoroughly abandons Eve as a character and leaves her journey to stagnate.

Killing Eve has seemingly lost most interest in Eve’s point of view and, as a result, the character has become a nonentity in the show that bears her name. She had nothing that might even charitably be called an arc of her own this year, and the series itself seems to have little idea where her story might be heading. 

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Eve’s continued obsession with Villanelle often seems to stem not from Eve’s own character, but because the show can’t exist without it, and the narrative makes no attempt to interrogate why Eve is still so desperately interested in a woman who almost killed her. It doesn’t bother to address how she feels about almost dying at all. In fact, other than Eve wincing occasionally in the season’s first two episodes, you’d be hard-pressed to determine whether that near-death experience had any long-term effects on her in any real, emotional way. While Eve begins the season estranged from MI6 and her husband, those are results not of Villanelle trying to kill Eve, but rather Eve’s decision to prioritize Villanelle over both the mission and her marriage.

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Eve spends most of Season 3 in various stages of inarticulate moping, pining after a woman who left her for dead months ago and moved on afterward. If the earliest episodes of Killing Eve are about the mercurial tension between these two women, and the ways their obsessions with one another simultaneously drove them closer and pushed them apart by turns, the third season is about one regressing while the other moves forward, though not in a way that is clearly motivated by their relationship to one another. 

Honestly, it’s easy to understand Killing Eve’s fascination with Villanelle. Most of us share it to some degree or another. And, to its credit, the show does push the character forward in new and unexpected ways in Season 3, forcing her to confront both her past and present as she wrestles with what she wants her future to look like. 

In Season 3, Villanelle gets a promotion and murders her mother. She realizes Konstantin truly matters to her, only to choose a life that doesn’t include him in it. She develops cold feet about killing, and only manages to off her latest assassin rival by shoving her in front of a train, rather than indulging in the elaborately-styled kills of yore. Villanelle is also the one who proposes she and Eve should part ways for both their sakes, even if she’s also the one who can’t quite go through with it herself yet. That’s growth, and though Villanelle’s journey has been equal parts broken and bizarre, it’s still a story in which her decisions feel, largely, like earned ones. Unfortunately, for every brilliant insight we’re given into Villanelle’s character, it’s just another reminder of how little we know about Eve’s current interiority. The question becomes: why isn’t Eve granted this same depth, complexity, and growth? 

In Season 3, Villanelle is a propulsive character who drives her own story, as well as the stories of those around her. Eve is just…there. Perhaps we’re meant to assume that Eve clings so tenaciously to her Villanelle obsession because, at this point, she’s lost virtually everything and everyone else, but the show never feels the need to look too deeply at any of her motivations or, in a season that introduces us to more of the members of Villanelle’s family—both found and biological—we still have yet to learn anything substantial about Eve’s own family or where she comes from.

Eve’s obsession with Villanelle has evolved from something that was once a way for her to explore and confront the darker aspects of her own psyche into something that feels pathetic, rather than edgy. In earlier seasons, Killing Eve would have acknowledged Eve’s transgressive glee at crushing Dasha’s chest with her foot, or slyly subverted the circumstances surrounding her decision to literally dig for evidence of Villanelle’s affection in a dumpster. In Season 3, these are simply more sad, depressing moments in her spiral towards a rock bottom that doesn’t entirely feel as though it’s arrived yet.

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By the end of the season, Eve appears to have abandoned her plan to use Villanelle to bring down mysterious shadow organization The Twelve, instead apparently settling for the opportunity to simply be near her instead. Which, narratively speaking, isn’t the worst development in the world, but it’s far from the story that Season 3 initially seemed to be telling. 

To be fair, Killing Eve should be applauded for finally committing to the obvious sexual tension between these two women instead of trying to pretend it’s not there or queerbait viewers into expecting something that might never come. But that also means the show needs to actually tell Eve’s side of the story rather than just count on fans to fill in the blanks themselves.

Truly admitting her feelings for Villanelle in an overtly romantic sense, as something that goes well beyond her previous insistence that she’s chasing after her in the name of justice for Kenny or whatever, should be a huge deal for Eve. It should rock the very foundations of her life and the core of her being, forcing her to drastically recalibrate how she sees herself and how she envisions her future. And that’s an important enough process that we, as viewers, deserve to see actually play out onscreen.

A mere handful of episodes ago, Eve was busy planning a reconciliation with her worthless husband (who really should be dead, but that’s a rant for another day). Now, in the season finale, she’s telling Villanelle she no longer wants things like a husband and a nice house, and that their pseudo-social distance killing of Dasha together is romantic. Sign me up for this, because I ship it, but excuse me? At what point did Eve even accept her romantic feelings for Villanelle were legitimate, let alone decide to act on them in a real way? Don’t we, as viewers who’ve been with this twisted relationship from the beginning, deserve to see how she got there?

Though it tries to frame the moment as a cliffhanger, the Season 3 finale seems to acknowledge pretty definitively that not only can Eve and Villanelle not live without each other, they don’t particularly want to. Maybe it’s time for Killing Eve to stop fighting itself and admit that it’s run out of reasons for both Eve and this relationship to spin its wheels for another year. As much as we all loved the magic of the series’ first season, the characters, their relationship and the show itself have changed since then. And Season 4 needs to explain what that means – for everyone involved.

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