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This review contains major spoilers.
The long-anticipated series finale of the BBC series “Killing Eve” aired on April 10, capping off a four-season run. A hit since its release in 2018, “Killing Eve” is an edgy drama-slash-thriller following MI5 employee Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and the cat and mouse game with glamorous Russian assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) that she soon finds herself entangled in.
While “Killing Eve”’s final episode in many ways could have been worse, it still left a lot to be desired. Rather than capitalizing on the bold elements the show is known and loved for, the finale is, for the most part, mediocre. Not only is the fate of Villanelle and Eve unsatisfying, but the episode in general is a rather gray (both literally and figuratively) and unexciting end to an otherwise dynamic series.
The finale stays true to some distinctly “Killing Eve” qualities, which were able to be appreciated one last time. Viewers can spend the final episode enjoying the grand scenic landscapes of the show’s various settings, the block letter location labels and signature dripping title scene, and unrestrained portrayals of violence and gore. There’s nothing quite like seeing a character’s eyes be gouged and popped on camera.) To a respectable degree, the show has also managed to retain its characteristic offbeat humor, and its morally-questionable characters still remain their same lovable selves throughout.
This episode — and Season Four as a whole — are noticeably underwhelming in aesthetic terms when compared to previous seasons. The majority of the action in this season takes place in dreary, overcast locations (which in itself is not the end of the world) but is disappointing when compared to the vibrant, chic scenery of Paris, Barcelona, and other cities that appeared in seasons past. Perhaps the choice to limit the variety and vibrancy of locations is a deliberate choice that mirrors Villanelle and Eve’s gradual journey towards living settled civilian lives. For a show all about a glamorous international assassin, however, the gray demeanor of Season Four feels less like an unfavorable aesthetic choice and more like a hit to an aspect of the show that, up to this point, had been one of the many things that made the series special.
The performances of the cast are consistently stellar, however. Sandra Oh’s Eve, Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn Martens, and Kim Bodnia’s Constantin Vasiliev have brought immense depth and impeccable comedic timing to “Killing Eve” since Season One. And Jodie Comer occupies a category all her own: her brilliance would shine in just about anything, but the nature of “Killing Eve” has given her unique room to play that she has taken full advantage of. The mild-mannered Liverpudlian is almost unrecognizable on screen: Her entire demeanor transforms as she not only portrays the flamboyant, charismatic Russian assassin Villanelle, but also shifts in and out of Villanelle’s various accents, personas, and false identities. Comer is an unforgettable lead from beginning to end — making a psychopathic killer a genuinely adored fan favorite — and makes the series worth finishing despite the questionable quality of its finale.
Even the best actors cannot save bad writing, though. Each season of “Killing Eve” thus far has had a different head writer, with screenwriter Laura Neal taking over as the anchor for this leg of the relay. The impression the script gave off, however, was that of resignation. For the most part, loose ends were tied. But they were tied in the simplest and least remarkable of knots, many of which were underdeveloped character deaths. Hélène, one of the highest-ranking members of the shadowy anarchist organization The Twelve, is swiftly assassinated (this plot decision is perhaps the most forgivable, as this character had only recently been given a bigger role to play). Constantin — a long-running central character — is also murdered without fanfare over a minor misunderstanding and bleeds out on the floor in a plot sequence that is given little heed elsewhere in the show.
And of course, The Twelve themselves are killed. The series attempts to frame this showdown as dramatic, but it ultimately falls flat. Since Season One, The Twelve have appeared omnipotent and omniscient, mercilessly punishing and eliminating anyone who crosses them, all while remaining untraceable by authorities — not to mention that they have caused Villanelle and Eve a whole lot of grief over the years. And yet, they are all slaughtered off-screen during a music montage as Eve dances her heart out at a wedding reception on the deck above. Though this quick and painless resolution is good news for Villanelle and Eve, it could not be more anticlimactic for the viewer.
One redeeming aspect of the finale that must be addressed is that it finally gives the people what they have been asking for: Villaneve. After years of teasing a relationship between Eve and Villanelle, the finale delivers on this front with a real kiss — one that is not hasty, a surprise to either party, or on a moving bus. And for about 20 minutes, viewers are allowed the rare pleasure of seeing Eve and Villanelle enjoy a few moments of peace as a couple. For the dedicated fan, this is a win that cannot be overstated.
Unfortunately, the consummation of the Villaneve relationship is too little, too late. This brings up the elephant in the room: Villanelle’s death. The scene itself is quite stunning, with both Eve and Villanelle suspended in the water of the Thames, reaching for each other in a manner reminiscent of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” The actual circumstances of the murder, however, are much less satisfying. Although fans would have likely preferred that both protagonists survive, the least the show could have done was allow Villanelle a sendoff consistent with her distinct flair and dramatics. Instead, she — who has evaded death time and again — is abruptly finished off by an unseen sniper. It also appears that Carolyn, the legendary Head of the Russia Desk at MI6, orchestrated the murder for unexplained reasons, and this lack of clarity only further detracts from the finale’s effectiveness.
Villanelle’s death is not only upsetting for fans of the character, but it is also troublesome in the fact that it is yet another instance of unhappy endings for lesbians in media. From “The 100” to “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” to “The World to Come,” one is hard-pressed to find many lesbian relationships in film or TV that don’t end in separation at best, or death at worst. Unfortunately, “Killing Eve” — though some viewers were brave enough to hope that the show would avoid this fate — becomes only the most recent victim of the “bury your gays” trope.
Overall, it has been a pleasure to watch the series over these past few years. Its superb cast and visual brilliance are enough to justify viewing it in full, and, despite its general decline over Seasons Three and Four, it has still solidified its place among the top ranks of television. It is sad, then, to see it fumble in the home stretch. Above all, the mediocrity of the finale feels like a betrayal to the bold, unapologetic nature of the series — if you’re not going to be fantastic, at least be terrible and unashamed! Like that of Villanelle and many other characters, “Killing Eve”’s life ended without fanfare and without a sense of catharsis — a lukewarm, resigned ending to a show that was once full of zest and energy.
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