Phoebe Waller-Bridge returns to TV with a wonderfully weird cat-and-mouse thriller
It’s two years since Fleabag turned Phoebe Waller-Bridge into a critical darling and marked her out as one of Britain’s most exciting and singular young writers. As much as she seemed to have the world at her feet in the immediate aftermath, it’s hard to imagine too many people would have predicted her next move would be to turn in a darkly comic spy thriller (via an appearance as a feminist droid in Solo). That’s precisely what she’s done, though: Killing Eve, based on a series of novellas by Luke Jennings, is a deliciously cool and consistently engaging eight-parter that, through a pair of electrifying central performances, wears its various stylistic masks lightly. Jodie Comer is the mouse to Sandra Oh’s cat, the former excelling as Villanelle, a psychopathic assassin who's equal parts icy and endearing.
Oh is the increasingly obsessive title character, an MI5 agent who's on the assassin's trail as she dispatches targets across the continent with consummate ease and obvious enjoyment. The plotting is sharp, the pace brisk and there is a blackly funny crackle to Waller-Bridge’s dialogue that, even in a context as far removed as this, anybody who saw Fleabag could identify at a thousand yards. Comer’s character, in particular, is effectively the series in microcosm; throughout, you feel as if she’s performing the same juggling act on the screen as Waller-Bridge is on the page, with Villanelle’s stark remorselessness offset by a kind of campy weirdness that deliberately leaves the viewer conflicted.
Much has been made about Killing Eve’s feminist credentials in the #MeToo era and that’s understandable at a surface level, both in the increasing complexity of the relationship between the two leads and the fact that we’re watching unsuspecting misogynists routinely offed by a female contract killer. Ultimately, though, the triumph lies in Waller-Bridge’s deft ability to realise two genuinely transgressive and multifaceted roles for women.
Killing Eve is available on BBC iPlayer