When “Killing Eve” returns for its second season, the assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) will once again surprise and shock viewers. However, this time it’s not how she dispatches someone but how she responds to being stabbed by MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh).
“Emotionally how she perceives that — I think it both affects them in a way that’s not quite expected,” said Comer at the Television Critics Association press tour panel for the show on Saturday.
Oh added that “We see them vulnerable in slightly different ways. It crossed the line… How can you come to terms with a relationship that is impossible?”
Comer and Oh were joined by Fiona Shaw, writer/executive producer Emerald Fennell, and executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle to discuss where BBC America’s hit show could go in its second season. In its first outing, the thriller grew its viewership week to week, unprecedented in this day and age on television. Audiences were drawn to the seductive psychological chase between Eve and the fabulously flamboyant assassin, who is equally obsessed with her pursuer. By the end of the season, Eve hunts down and stabs the killer, who gets away.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created “Fleabag” on Amazon, brought her particular flavor of danger and dark humor to this adaptation of Luke Jennings’ “Codename Villanelle” novels. Although she’s still an executive producer on the series, she stepped back to take care of her many other projects (including a second season of “Fleabag”), and so actress and writer Emerald Fennell took over.
During the panel, Oh reminded critics that Waller-Bridge and Fennell are close friends. “I feel they have a kinship sensibility and humor and style,” she said. “Emerald has her own voice… but [the show] moved from one hand to a similar hand.”
Besides the dark tone, the series is also known for its high-flying fashion and international sensibilities. Villanelle enjoyed the fashionable fruits of her profession and traveled all around Europe to carry out her assignments. “Villanelle fetishizes clothes, she takes great pleasure in clothes,” said Fennell. “It’s something I relate to. You have to be pretty specific. Phoebe established a precision and detail. Fashion is not frivolous… as females, we know how powerful clothes can be.”
This season, after Villanelle is reeling from being stabbed and is on the run, her sartorial choices are limited. In one scene, she’s forced to wear boys pajamas and ungainly but practical footwear.
“It’s constantly expressing character,” said Oh. “You see Villanelle in a completely different and vulnerable setting… [and you’ll see] when she moves out of the vulnerable setting how much her clothing means to her.”
The show will also continue its globe-trotting ways. Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle said the show will go to Rome this season and then hinted through food – in keeping with the show’s culinary sensibilities – two other locations: bread with hagelslag sprinkles (Netherlands) and a croissant (France).
“One part of the show that we all delight in is that our show has an international feel and flavor to it… it’s another way the audience can lean in,” said Oh. “Shooting in The Tube of the city you’re in gives a depth where we don’t have to act. The setting itself tells it. A lot of locations that we’re in have such wonderful scope to it.”
Having her glamorous world upended means that Villanelle is interacting with a whole new set of characters, such as one played by Julian Barratt. “Their worlds have exploded,” said Fennell. “It pulls people into their orbit, and it’s incredibly fun to work out who those people would be.”
As Comer said, “Each actor brings an energy to the set. Villanelle is the one who spends time with these new people — for however long they last.”
While death will naturally follow Villanelle, Eve will be investigating a new killer as well. Although Fennell acknowledges that the fundamental core of the show is the “gravitational pull that Eve and Villanelle feel toward each other,” she also said that “What is without a doubt is that Eve has a particular sense of women and female assassins. [It’s a question of] what we do when somebody else comes along. Is she a female assassin expert or is she a Villanelle expert?”
Shaw, who returns as Eve’s MI6 boss Carolyn Martens, attempted to summarize the excitement of the second season because of what “Killing Eve” has accomplished as a TV show.
“Sally Woodward Gentle was a genius to put Phoebe and those books together… This series nails that nobody has a clue what happens next,” she said and compared the show to how Van Gogh’s iconic painting of olive trees has changed how people view olive trees. “I feel that the show has shifted everything a little bit. I feel that no show will be the same again.”
”Killing Eve” Season 2 premieres on Sunday, April 7 at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.