TV: Killing Eve (Season 3)

It’s not uncommon for shows that make a major splash to lose their luster as they extend themselves. Such was my initial reaction to Killing Eve, a show that infused the staid traditions of the spy genre with infectious style and humor, pitting two impeccably played stars—obsessive intelligence officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and glamorous, psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer)—into precarious, globe-trotting rivalry. After a decent but unspectacular second season, the show’s third is something of a bounce-back one, not quite shaking every flaw (especially they way it unrealistically contrives to keep its characters interacting, at all costs), but extending the central conflict well enough while also introducing interesting, nuanced subplots.

As season three begins, Eve has retired from MI5 and resorted to working a menial restaurant job while estranged from her husband. She’s lured back to the hunt by the murder of a close former colleague who was working as an investigative journalist at a magazine called the Bitter Pill. While the death is ruled a suicide, Eve isn’t convinced, and forges a freelance alliance involving both the Bitter Pill’s editor-in-chief Jamie (Danny Sapani) and Eve’s former boss at MI6, Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw). The murder may have been motivated by an investigation of “the Twelve,” the nefarious organization that has long employed Eve’s nemesis-slash-infatuation Villanelle. Villanelle, meanwhile, is attempting to repurpose her murderous career, but the meddling of her former mentor Dasha (Harriet Walter) keeps her embroiled with the Twelve, and ultimately propels her back into flirtatious conflict with Eve.

I’m not sure the third season does much to advance the relationship between Eve and Villanelle, and certainly doesn’t render it more credible, but it’s an engaging enough continuation of a fun, engaging story. Oh and Comer continue their excellent work—the latter, most memorably, in an episode (“Are You from Pinner?”) devoted to Villanelle’s origins, as she tracks down her estranged birth family. Where Killing Eve gains depth is through the supporting cast, particularly Fiona Shaw and Kim Bodnia (who plays Konstantin, Villanelle’s long-time handler). Bodnia is increasingly delightful as the cynical, cranky old hand whose explosive barks of laughter punctuate his dire circumstances. Shaw, meanwhile, gets some meaty material for the buttoned-down Carolyn in a subplot exploring her emotional coldness, through a relationship to her affection-starved daughter Geraldine (Gemma Whelan). Overall, Killing Eve’s “A story” still isn’t quite as magnetic as its early days, but the show does manage to engender compelling side plots for the many people impacted by Eve and Villanelle’s treacherous dance. I’m pulling for the show to bring the story home strongly in the fourth, concluding season.

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