[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers from the “Killing Eve” finale, “God I’m Tired.”]
From the beginning, “Killing Eve” — an adaptation of Luke Jennings’ novellas — has specialized in surprises that both reveal and confuse aspects of its characters’ psychologies. The obsession that MI5 officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) has with the international assassin known as Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is in itself a muddled mess of desires, and that comes to a head in the jam-packed finale when the two meet again.
When Eve tracks down Villanelle to her posh Paris flat, she confesses that the killer has overtaken her every waking thought and then collapses on the bed from exhaustion. Villanelle takes the gun that Eve had been holding, lays down beside Eve, and then puts the gun away. It appears that they’ve come to an understanding with no threat of danger between them.
But as the two turn to each other in a charged, intimate moment, Eve reveals her deception: She had a knife hidden and stabs Villanelle in the stomach. Neither one can believe it’s happened, including Eve, who immediately freaks out and tries to save Villanelle, who once again gets away. While the season does not end with anyone killing Eve, it certainly seems to set up a strong, personal motive for that to happen in the future.
IndieWire spoke to the showrunner and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge and stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer about the big bedroom scene and moving to Season 2.
That Trust-Earning Confession
The speech Eve initially gives is lengthy, revealing, and ultimately incredibly flattering for Villanelle to hear:
I think about you all the time. I think about what you’re wearing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. I think about what friends you have. I think about what you eat before you work, what shampoo you use, what happened in your family. I think about your eyes and your mouth, what you feel when you kill someone. I think about what you had for breakfast. I just want to know everything.
“Oh yeah, that was so fantastic, that was so great to play,” Oh said about delivering the monologue. “In that scene … she’s playing into one of Villanelle’s vulnerabilities, which is, ‘I’m going to give you what you want. I’m going to tell you you’re amazing. I’m going to give you all the attention that you want.'”
“But also I deeply feel that what Eve is saying is true. That’s how she fools Villanelle because it’s actually true — she’s not really fooling her because she’s actually telling her something truthful.”
Villanelle, who is a deceiver herself and has betrayed so many people, underestimated Eve. But in a way, she also underestimated Anne (Susan Lynch), the first woman that Villanelle killed and castrated a man for. While she correctly judged that neither of them would be able to use a gun to shoot her, Anne actually used it to kill herself, while Eve used a different weapon.
“For Eve to have come all that way, I think that kind of threw Villanelle off. But I don’t think Villanelle trusts anyone so I don’t think Villanelle is willing enough to believe that Eve has suddenly taken an interest,” said Comer. “It’s hard to explain because, of course, I think there’s part of her that wanted to believe Eve, and she chances it. She obviously does let her guard down because she laid down with her and she sees Eve’s hands on her.”
The Psychology of the Stabbing
Eve Polastri should never have come to this. Besides working on behalf of the nation’s security, she’s really only a desk officer and isn’t meant for field work, much less killing anyone.
“I’ve just been thinking about it and comparing it, for people to kind of understand, is if you’ve ever had an affair or if you’ve ever had an addiction,” said Oh. “You enter into this very powerful complex, whether with a person [or an] addiction that kind of overtakes you. Many times with addiction, you know it’s not helping you or you know you should move away from it but it brings you back because you are in a complex dance with it.”
This explains how Eve could perform such a violent and yet intimate act of violence even though it looks like she’s calm.
“I think that’s what’s happening in that moment of the stab. Eve is being driven so much by, I think, her guilt and rage at Bill’s death,” said Oh. “Also, Villanelle doesn’t think that Eve can do what she does. She doesn’t believe that Eve has it in her to hurt her in any way, she doesn’t feel like she’s a threat at all. What Eve does in that moment is prove Villanelle wrong, which is ‘I am a threat.'”
“And again, if anything, people might be able to relate to this dynamic of either being in an affair or being in addiction where you cannot get yourself out of this complex. You really think that you are one thing when your behavior is saying something else.”
The Origins of the Scene
When Phoebe Waller-Bridge initially wrote the big finale face-off between Eve and Villanelle, it did not look like what eventually plays out on television. Instead, Oh reveals that the scene was constantly in flux.
“Making TV in the first season can be bananas. We knew that Villanelle and Eve were going to meet again and that something was going to happen,” said Oh. “Phoebe, I feel, is a very instinctive writer, and so the scenes would be changing. That final scene, on the bed with the stabbing, that was a completely different scene.”
“We also shot in a block — we would shoot three episodes at the same time. They do this a lot in the UK, and it can be really tricky because we’re basically cross-boarding things so you actually have to have all the scripts ready by the time you start shooting the block. So when we came to eventually shooting that script, it kept on changing.”
Waller-Bridge credits working closely with Oh for helping her figure out exactly how the scene would play out.
“I was drafting around the scene and I knew that Eve had to stab her — I knew that for sure, but the dance it took to get there and what happened immediately after, I was still kind of playing with the idea,” she said. “Then Sandra came over to my house for dinner, and I was talking through the scene with her, and we ended up having a bottle of wine and excitedly acting the whole thing out in my kitchen.”
“Then we were both standing in front of each other, and I was explaining to her that this is the moment that she stabbed her, and then we both kind of froze in the kitchen and I had sort of mimed stabbing Sandra in that moment. And then there was a beat, and I said, ‘She pulls it out.’ Then we both said at the same time — that she freaks out about what she’s done, and then she feels bad — because that feels like the most truthful thing.”
Oh added, “We show Eve’s humanity which is, she’s a good person. And she’s horrified with herself, because she’s stabbing a girl and that’s not who she is or who she believes herself to be, other than the fact that the moment before she was.”
What’s Next for the Show
BBC AMERICA/Sid Gentle Films Ltd
At the time of this interview, Waller-Bridge couldn’t tease out any plays for Season 2, which BBC America had already ordered. Her process of writing required that she only focused on the Season 1 arc without looking ahead.
“It’s sort of always a conversation with the channels, with any show when they say like, keep everything open for the next season,” she acknowledged. “Even though that’s a conversation that you have to have, when I’m actually writing it and creating it — and the same with Luke [Jennings] because he hasn’t finished the novellas, he was only a couple of novellas in when we started writing it — I can’t really think like that because as long as the characters are still alive and they’re still interesting, I have to trust that every time.”
“So I want the end of Season 1 to feel like it’s an intense climax. I like things that move fast. I like things that feel like you’re in a kind of whirlwind of a story, and if I know that the moment I slowed myself down in order to stretch it out, in order to give something a chance for another season, I would have failed the audience,” she said. “So I was propelling this one very much not focusing on the next chapter in their lives; just trusting that they will have won by the very virtue that I decided they’re both still alive and chasing each other.”
Villanelle may have left a lot of blood behind, but it’s assumed that she survives through Season 2. With that, however, may come a new mindset.
Comer said, “Villanelle had to have let her guard down to have allowed that to happen to her. I think it’s probably a lesson that she’s going to learn from when we come back for Series 2.”
Additional reporting by Ben Travers