Here’s the thing about Killing Eve. Do I enjoy spending time in its world? I do. Do I love its cast? Absolutely. Is it fun to watch? Usually. After watching the first half of the season, which included my favorite episode (Villanelle returning to Russia), I gave a positive review. Because sure, though Eve didn’t have as much of a role and narratively things were treading water, the bottom line for me was that it continued to be a fun show with a glossy, immersive world that I was once obsessed with but still enjoy. What’s not to like?
The problem is that as Killing Eve has continued, it has taken fewer and fewer risks. The examples in this season were glaring, and exacerbated in the finale. I defended Niko through two seasons, but no more—he should have been killed by Dasha. And Dasha should have been killed the first time. What point did her hospital scene serve? What did Niko’s? We know Eve feels guilty about him getting hurt and her essentially ruining his life. We didn’t need the show to save him to feel that.
There was still a chance in the finale that things could be put to rights. Though the show had ostensibly neutered Konstantin into a grouchy teddy bear, the revelation that he murdered Kenny (or was at least there when Kenny died) was a potential upending of that trajectory. Perhaps we didn’t know him as well as we thought, and now Carolyn can have her justice, or there will be something revealed about this organization and the mysterious Twelve that pulls everything together.
Instead, the show took the biggest copout possible. Not only did Konstantin beg and plead that it was an accident, Carolyn spares him and kills (as Eve notes) the only person with answers. Carolyn gives a typically cryptic reply about never being able to stop the Twelve, and that Eve should give it up. That’s the show speaking there: There was never a good answer for the Twelve, and we’re being told to stop caring about it so they can move on.
The finale wasted the only actual death that had any stakes in Season 3. Nothing new was revealed here, no dynamic that we didn’t already know. Carolyn has a soft spot for Konstantin. Eve and Villanelle are attracted to one another. Villanelle is tired of doing the bidding of others. Konstantin is cagey. So what?
If something of worth had been pulled out of a hat in this finale, it might have at least partially made up for the fact that Eve had absolutely no story this season. The final moments between her and Villanelle were full of more unsatisfying half measures. Villanelle wants to stop killing (why?), but she was obviously full of bloodlust during the scene where Carolyn was about to kill Konstantin or Paul (also, remember when she was tasked with training new killers? That was a season’s worth of material wasted instantly. And nothing about her current position or “promotion” make any sense).
Eve has dabbled in killing, but she was never going to go Full Villanelle with it. So the show has them meet in the middle—the most drab possible option. You could say that the two of them changed each other, Eve softening Villanelle and Villanelle opening Eve’s eyes to more exciting possibilities in life. But that was true in Season 1. It’s all the show has at this point, and it continues to desperately repeat it, culminating in (this far into the story) a weaksauce “maybe they are finding a workable middle ground?” There could not be anything less dramatic or interesting for two characters who, up until now, were absolutely both.
No stakes, no purpose, no story. Part of the problem might be the production’s decision to change showrunners (or head writers, in English parlance) every season. This isn’t an anthology. It’s not even remotely structured like one. It has left the show with a tonal whiplash, uncertain of what it even wants to say. Carolyn was given a huge amount of screen time this season, for what? Great outfits and excellent acting from Fiona Shaw, sure—but narratively, what was the point of any of it? Even if you can forgive the show any forward momentum in term of plot, it also didn’t move the needle character-wise.
Killing Eve would certainly not be the first lauded show to dive off a cliff because of a lack of vision past the first season. But given its short run, excellent cast, fantastic aesthetic (the clothes!), and genuinely interesting (at least, initially) dynamic between its leads, it’s frustrating to see it miss every opportunity to shock and surprise and delight the way it did previously. It began as something special because, like Villanelle, it was alluring and wildly unpredictable. But it has settled into the same drudgery and risk avoidance that Eve was desperate to escape. Now we are, too.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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