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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Killing Eve returns with a gut punch of a premiere

Illustration for article titled iKilling Eve/i returns with a gut punch of a premiere
Image: Des Willie/BBCA
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What’s a show to do when all of its major players have scattered to the winds, too bruised and distracted by what’s happened between all of them to reunite? It’s a question that Killing Eve answers steadily over the course of its third season premiere, which ends up making the argument that all of these people are going to keep getting sucked back into each other’s orbits until some or all of them are dead or imprisoned.

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It’s a slightly depressing concept—that a group of people would be bound together, fated to return to each other’s lives, no matter how badly they’ve hurt each other. But in its third season, it’s one that Killing Eve needs, as it tries to figure out what show it is now that its two leads have gone through a couple iterations of their dangerous duet. Villanelle’s return to the fold is perhaps the simplest. After all, she walked away at the end of season two in the best shape, on the run from no one except perhaps her employers and every European government, and without major injury. That she would boredly return to her old gig is perhaps the least interesting reason any of them have for coming back, but it’s hard to argue that it’s out of character. Her glamorous wedding is off even before she gets in a fistfight during it, from her waxing on about how rich her new wife is to her inability to relax and enjoy the festivities. Settling down with a partner is a fantasy we’ve heard her say she wants before, but she was obviously never going to settle down and do it with a partner who doesn’t love her more…eccentric characteristics. She’s playing, and the only downside to the joke of her having an elaborate wedding only to leave in the middle is that we don’t get to see her squirm while she tries to be normal.

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Konstantin’s return to the fold is just as inevitable. The man with a confusing number of cell phones has obviously lived a life too dangerous to ever fully retire from his illicit activities. The only real question is whether the same entity is coaxing both him and Villanelle back in. They are theoretically employed by the same criminal syndicate, which should also know that the two of them can’t interact without the threat of extreme and public violence.

But what the show does with Carolyn and Eve is far more interesting, in part because as the two characters who are supposed to be on the legal side of the law, they have to at least try to have normal lives. They both come across as having made more meaningful efforts to reintegrate back into non-Villanelle society, even if Eve’s restaurant job seems inherently temporary. When she connects with Kenny, there’s a genuine affection between them, and while we know she will eventually get brought back onto the team, she seems on some level to have recognized how bad and messy things got before. It’s naturally that affection that will be the thing that draws her back into the fold, given that Kenny was one of the only people she could really be herself around.

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Illustration for article titled iKilling Eve/i returns with a gut punch of a premiere
Image: Laura Radford/BBCA

The uniqueness of her connection with Kenny is patently obvious during the scene where she visits Nico. Sandra Oh has always excelled at creating a sort of bright and brittle version of Eve when she interacts with her husband. It’s very effective at clarifying how little her old life suited her, but it always made it hard to understand why Eve stayed with him. The show has often struggled with what to do with that marriage and how to not make it seem like a bit of a chore. Eve’s relationship with Villanelle may be irredeemably toxic, but it always seemed like a much more honest connection than the one she had with her husband. It was inherently going to be a little hard to root for her to maintain her normal marriage against the glamour that Villanelle promised, and it was only more one-sided when the marriage didn’t seem terribly happy or organic. Nico abruptly ending it with her in a mental hospital is something he should have done a long time ago, but it also feels a bit pat as an ending to that story. Why did we spend so much time trying to remain invested in that relationship?

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Illustration for article titled iKilling Eve/i returns with a gut punch of a premiere
Photo: Nick Wall/BBCA

But Eve’s temptation to return to chasing Villanelle was always going to be present. The question of what would make Carolyn want to bring back Eve or take the risk of returning to pursue the Twelve was more complicated, and the show is taking a bold step in giving us an emotionally shattered Carolyn. During the conversation she had with Kenny about moving, I found myself thinking that I would watch an entire show about the complicated relationship between the two of them. It’s so weird! And unhealthy! But it’s also working for them? It was one of the show’s more offbeat creations, and Kenny was also its most innocent character. Somehow, the fact that he was wearing shorts all episode really drove this home.

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What kind of season will this be if grief hangs over the whole thing? Death has long been something the show moves on from quickly, a meaningful and occasionally erotic experience, but not something that lingers with any of the characters. This one sure feels different.


Stray observations

  • Paul is clearly going to die, right? If only for the temerity of touching Carolyn’s shoulder affectionately, which was somehow one of the most uncomfortable violations I’ve seen on this show.
  • To nitpick a depiction of my industry, there are almost no journalism jobs and you cannot get the ones there are with no journalism experience, nor can you hang around for weeks on end with no experience and not produce a single piece of writing. What was Kenny doing all day?
  • “I’m back now. With bells on.” “So we can hear you coming.”
  • Admit it: You thought Eve was in Korea, didn’t you.
  • Proud to say it took me like three days before my brain finally did a South Park “They killed Kenny!”
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Lisa is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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