The second season of BBC America's Killing Eve briefly experimented with a thoughtful exploration of its two central characters and the magnetic relationship between them, but it ultimately failed to do more than spin its wheels with plots fabricated to force them onto the same team. By the time Villanelle (Jodie Comer) shot Eve (Sandra Oh) in the back at the Roman ruins in the Season 2 finale — a funhouse mirror of the Season 1 finale in which Eve stabbed Villanelle — it was more than clear that Killing Eve's sparkle that had enraptured the world wasn't just fading, it had all but gone out.
Villanelle tricking Eve into killing Raymond when she had a gun on her body the entire time and could have easily dispatched him revealed a sharp flicker of the terrifying woman within, the madness that initially drew us to her and has regularly made her a delight to watch, but her reaction to Eve walking away from her after realizing the truth of the matter didn't so much emit a gasp as it released a half-hearted shrug. The writing felt strained as the series labored its way through a second season that initially showed promise but eventually came to be held together with a few electrifying moments. So as Season 3 approaches, we wonder: Is it even worth watching? Can the show we all loved be salvaged?
In Season 3, Eve is recovering from her gunshot wound in England, eating and drinking her feelings, and working in the kitchen of an Asian restaurant because it requires little movement or actual thought. She's alive but no longer living. At first it feels like we're in for at least a couple episodes of this wheel-spinning, but as early as the second hour, the murder of someone close to her made to look like a suicide has Eve back in the orbit of MI6 and Carolyn (Fiona Shaw). The show moves quickly at the outset of the season, but the problem is that it doesn't feel as if it's going anywhere interesting.
While Eve and Carolyn and a pair of journalists investigate the murder and its possible connections to the Twelve, Villanelle, believing Eve is dead, has seemingly moved on in other parts of Europe. Of course, we all know that once she finds out the truth, the game they used to play will once again be back on. But for now, everyone's favorite stylish sociopath is once again working with the Twelve, and as one of her conditions for returning to do their shady business, she has requested to become a keeper, a management position that also involves training new assassin recruits.
Unfortunately for us, none of this is particularly interesting. An international assassin killing people in classically beautiful destinations is intriguing and enthralling television, especially when that person is Villanelle; creating one feels like watching an HR management training video about what not to do. To be fair, it's not like the show isn't aware of this; the second episode is literally titled "Management Sucks." But even as the show is acknowledging the detriments of so-called promotions, not even seeing Villanelle dress up as a clown for a job with a new recruit has the same spark it probably would have two seasons ago. It feels a little too much like the show is trying too hard to recreate the flashiness of its past even while acknowledging the ludicrous nature of the moment.
It's obviously not a spoiler to say Eve and Villanelle eventually come face-to-face once more, or that both women remain conflicted with regards to their emotions and feelings for each other. The show isn't treading new ground, and it won't until someone, it doesn't matter who, makes a move that isn't stabbing or shooting the other and then running away. And that is at the heart of all of Killing Eve's problems.
The first season of Killing Eve felt swift and effortless. Under Phoebe Waller-Bridge's leadership, Eve and Villanelle sparked, and their game of cat-and-mouse propelled the show through a truly thrilling freshman season even if it sometimes felt like someone wrote "Hannibal but with women" on a whiteboard. Every move they made felt dangerous, and the moments they were together thrummed with a current of electricity. It was always going to be difficult to maintain this aspect of the show — there are still glimpses of it here and there but it's not like it used to be — but the fact the series is cycling through head writers with each passing season makes it increasingly so.
Emerald Fennell bravely took over for Waller-Bridge in Season 2, and now Suzanne Heathcote has stepped in as lead writer and executive producer for Season 3. As each new writer is left to pick up the pieces left by the person who came before, they valiantly try to recapture the magic of Season 1, but the shine only continues to wear off as the characters never seem to move forward in any meaningful way and the narrative doubles down on its least interesting storylines, mainly the shadowy organization known as the Twelve. To quote the great Michael Keaton in Multiplicity, you know sometimes you make a copy of a copy, it's not quite as sharp as, well, the original? That's what Killing Eve now feels like: a copy of its former self. The edges are now duller, the lines less distinct. If there was ever a show that would have benefited from being a limited series, it is Killing Eve.
TV Guide Rating: 2.5/5
Season 3 of Killing Eve premieres Sunday, April 12 at 9/8c on BBC America.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Suzanne Heathcote as showrunner. Her title is lead writer and executive producer.