[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Killing Eve” Season 3, Episode 8, “Are You Leading or Am I?” — the Season 3 finale — including the ending.]
The thing about ill-fated romances is you usually have to see them through to the end anyway. Sure, they may seem like a bad idea, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Whether it’s a secret crush that later festers into regret, or a platonic friendship that veers into more intimate territory, knowing a coupling won’t work out is both a rational perspective and an incomplete one. You have to explore the nature of that attraction until you can really know where it stems from, and typically, that means telling the person how you feel and seeing what happens next.
“Killing Eve” has hidden behind the atypicality of its central relationship for three years now. Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) are obsessed with each other; what started as a cat-and-mouse investigation in Season 1 morphed into an unlikely working relationship in Season 2 and finally turned into near-total separation during Season 3. Sure, one could argue they’ve flirted, come together, and broken up, but they’ve never given a real relationship a shot.
Even after Season 3 goes to great lengths to strip away the reasons these two shouldn’t be together, the finale stubbornly adhered to doing nothing. Not only does Episode 8, “Are You Leading or Am I?”, sideline the central couple during the season’s climax — literally sitting them down on a couch to watch what happens — but when their inevitable shared moment finally comes, just as it did at the end of previous seasons, new showrunner Suzanne Heathcote leaves it up to next year’s lead writer to determine Eve and Villanelle’s fate, giving an edgeless set of episodes even less purpose.
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Seeing Villanelle run after Eve, only to soon pivot and make them walk in opposite directions, carries the kind of staged drama this series tends to avoid. Pacing away from each other as if they’re about to dual, being told to never look back only to turn and gaze longingly one more (last?) time — it’s all a bit much. Who does that? Not Villanelle, who just hopped up and down in a train station like an over-sugared kiddo. Not Eve, either, who’s always been more of a pragmatist than a romantic and tends to be awkward whenever Villanelle comes on strong. (Remember their bus kiss?)
But even more irritating is the lack of logic in their conversation. Rather than build up reasons why Eve and Villanelle have to stay away from each other, Season 3 gave every reason it could to make their pairing more reasonable than ever. When the two opened the episode by sharing a dance, Villanelle looked at an elderly couple and asked, “Do you want that?” “No, not anymore,” Eve said. She’s not interested in preserving the calm domesticity she once craved; that could mean she’s not interested in being tied down to anyone, but there’s little grief shared for Niko (Owen McDonnell) anymore (and his unlikely survival earlier this season is just one more way “Killing Eve” avoided making any consequential choices at all).
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Villanelle, meanwhile, doesn’t want to kill people anymore. Let me say that again: Villanelle, a trained assassin whose giddy, imaginative homicides have become a series trademark, no longer wants to kill people. One could argue that’s the biggest turn of the season, if only Villanelle hadn’t just kicked one of The Twelve’s hired guns in front of a train. Still, progress takes time, and a desire to back away from being the goon squad’s “agent of chaos” could be encouraged and nurtured by Eve, who should be more understanding than ever after nearly murdering Dasha (Harriet Walter).
So Villanelle wants to switch sides and Eve wants a more adventurous life — they’re a match made in heaven, and they’re hopelessly attracted to one another. So what’s the problem? Why can’t Season 4 open with Eve and Villanelle on assignment in Iceland, sharing a cozy hotel room in Búðakirkja and working as Carolyn’s investigator and hired gun, respectively? “I think my monster encourages your monster,” Villanelle tells Eve, as a reason to remain apart. Maybe that was true, but Season 3 proved otherwise. Villanelle is a better person because of her attraction to Eve, which is a weird thing to say about an assassin, but it’s true. Look at what she was doing when the series began and where she is now: She was a murderer, and now she’s ready to quit. Eve, meanwhile, may have seen a darker side of herself than she’s comfortable with because of Villanelle, but she owes her escape and evolution to her, too, which may not be a reason to run away with her, but it’s not a reason to avoid her either.
There are just as many reasons why the two of them should follow their romantic instincts as there are reasons not to — OK, OK, there are definitely more in the “pro” category. And maybe they will. Maybe that’s what’s implied when Eve and Villanelle turn to look at each other. But a look isn’t enough at this point, and it certainly doesn’t compare to the past finales’ stabbing and shooting. “Killing Eve” is missing the decisive action that made it such an addictive hit. Remember when early fan-favorite Bill (David Haig) was murdered while tailing Villanelle through a nightclub in Season 1? That would never happen now, as highlighted by Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) inexplicably letting Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) off the hook in the finale. Konstantin is too big of a character, too well-liked, and offers too much potential for future complications to be offed right now, which are good reasons to preserve him from a writers’ standpoint but terrible reasons from Carolyn’s. He killed her son! Or let him die! Instead, Paul (Steve Pemberton) gets killed? Paul? Who cares about Paul? (And, in another vexing issue for Season 3, not even the great Fiona Shaw could get us to care about the convoluted storyline surrounding her son’s death.)
When Season 3 began, I wrote that “Killing Eve” had sacrificed jaw-dropping drama in order to embrace its procedural roots, and that held true to the end. So much of what happens in the finale is about preserving characters and story for future seasons — prolonging the series rather than risk writing it into a corner. That’s a slightly different show than the one audiences were first introduced to, but even (good) broadcast procedurals know they have to be honest to their characters. You can’t feed the audience silly reasons for delaying the inevitable and expect them to keep coming back for more. So just give everyone what they want, and let these two women kiss already. “When I try to think of my future, I just… see your face over and over again,” Eve says. Well, maybe there’s a reason. You love each other. Let’s see where it goes — at least then, it will be going somewhere.
“Killing Eve” has been renewed for Season 4 at BBC America. Seasons 1-2 are streaming on Hulu.