On Sunday, the premiere of the third season of the wildly popular BBC show “Killing Eve” hit the screens, and audiences rejoiced at the return of the curiously lovable assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and the intelligent and disheveled MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh).
Seasons 1 and 2 saw the introduction and development of the obsession Polastri and Villanelle have with each other and the gradual chaos that results from it, and its popularity can be seen from the one million viewers that tuned into the Season 3 premiere.
The show has become a watering hole for fans of crime, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and queer representation on-screen, garnering a dedicated following. But those factors aren’t the sole reason people keep coming back to the show. Not only does it have witty writing, compelling acting and a show-stopping wardrobe (we’ll come back to this), “Killing Eve” turns the spotlight onto a female psychopath — someone audiences rarely get to see — and our own obsession with these twisted characters.
A psychopath is an anomaly to begin with. But a portrayal of a fictional psychopath on-screen isn’t; think of Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Men,” Hannibal Lecter from “The Silence of the Lambs,” Dexter Morgan from “Dexter,” Moriarty from “Sherlock,” the Joker, Zach Efron’s recent portrayal of Ted Bundy and so on.
There seems to be a strange fascination with trying to capture the essence of a psychopath on screen — if they’re male. In a recent study, 10 psychiatric professionals and movie critics analyzed 400 movies for characters with realistic psychopathic traits; the results found 126 films that fit the criteria. Out of those 126 possible psychopaths, only 21 were female.
Yet with her glamorous outfits, unwavering self-confidence and all-around bad-assery, Villanelle shows how fascinating a female psychopath-assassin extraordinaire can be. Within minutes of the first episode of Season 1, we can see that her character is one we know is bad, but some sick part of us enjoys watching her spill a little girl’s ice cream all over her.
Seeing her kill people should evoke some sort of revulsion within us, but instead, her flamboyance and nonchalance over each assassination fascinates us. Her outfits are outrageous (never forget that iconic pink dress from Season 1 or the preppy Oxford look from Season 2), and she doesn’t behave how many female characters normally do. She’s a messy eater, she draws attention to herself, she doesn’t let anyone take advantage of her, she’s unapologetic and she yells “Boring!” in museums full of priceless art.
Perhaps Villanelle’s lovability comes from the fact that she’s doing things that we wish we could do too — minus all of the murder, of course. We love to watch her boldness because we wish we were a bit bolder ourselves.
The flair she brings to the show is what makes the series so captivating to watch. Like Polastri, we become more and more enamored with her, continuing to come back for more of her despicable, yet fascinating work as an international assassin.
At this point, I should warn you to proceed with caution if you aren’t caught up on the show, because there are some spoilers ahead.
For viewers of the premiere of Season 3, Sunday’s episode may have felt a little … off. The overall atmosphere of this episode was very different from the extravagance and glamour of the other seasons, and that may in large part be due to the reduced amount of screen time Villanelle has. Villanelle’s flair is what drives the show, as everything that happens in the series somehow revolves around her actions or interactions with other people. Without it, the episode didn’t feel quite the same.
However, this may be entirely purposeful on the creators’ part. At this point in the show, Polastri’s life is pretty lackluster now that she isn’t working for MI6 or tracking down Villanelle; instead she’s living in a small apartment in London, working as a cook in a small restaurant with annoying coworkers, separated from her husband and clearly unhappy with her situation.
If Polastri is the lens through which we experience Villanelle’s story, it’s no wonder her lack of on-screen time coincides with the lack of presence Villanelle has in Polastri’s life right now.
Season 3 also contained a lot of exposition and readjusting, making the episode feel slower than others, but after the bombshell that was the Season 2 finale, there are a lot of pieces for this season to pick back up.
The new season establishes that yes, Polastri is still alive; no, Polastri doesn’t have her MI6 job back; yes, Villanelle is still as wild as we remember; yes, Carolyn is in hot water for the unauthorized operation in Season 2; no, Niko and Polastri are not back together; and so on.
This recalibration from the whirlwind of Season 2 to the supposed return to reality of Season 3 may have been a jarring transition for fans, but it was one that had to be made.
There’s still potential for Season 3 though; the last three minutes of the episode saw an unexpected death, leaving fans shocked, while also hinting that the flair and appeal of the first two seasons is still very much alive and well.
With the introduction of an interesting new character for Villanelle to contend with, the remaining mystery of the organization known as the Twelve, and the knowledge that this recent death will revive the MI6 investigation, Season 3 promises viewers all of the mystery, intrigue and drama that we loved in previous seasons — oh, and of course, more of Villanelle’s jaw-dropping outfits.