Five reasons to watch Killing Eve

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s latest project is essential autumn viewing

Searching for your autumn TV obsession? Well, you can stop looking – it’s here, and it’s called Killing EveThe eight-part series from BBC America landed on British TV screens this weekend, after months of fever-pitch anticipation. It’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s latest project, you see, who gained national treasure status after her black comedy-drama Fleabag aired in 2016.

Killing Eve is also a black comedy-drama, with the interesting twist of being an action-packed spy flick, to boot. Based on the novel Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings, Waller-Bridge wrote the screenplay for the series, turning the book into a fast-paced, whip-sharp, achingly funny take on the spy genre. Bored MI5 desk agent and titular character Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is no James Bond, but nonetheless gets sucked in to the world of international espionage when she decides to track down ruthless assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Here’s five reasons it should be on your essential viewing list this autumn.

1. It’s a spy film – as you’ve never seen it before

Killing Eve takes all the tropes of the traditional spy flick – murderous assassin, dogged ‘good-guy’ spy, shady Secret Service operatives – and turns them on their head. When we first meet Eve, she’s hungover from her boss’s birthday karaoke – and complaining about having to work on a Saturday. She can’t fight, fire a gun or execute a somersault. At face value, she’s utterly unsuitable for the role of spy – if you’re thinking of the 007 type, that is. And the villain of the piece? Villanelle is a black-humoured psychopath, who combines her thirst for murder with a dash of style, panache and a taste of the morbid – one scene sees her fake her own death as a practical joke. Above all, it’s a refreshing, lighter take on the decades-old spy genre, and a much-needed change from the heavy crime dramas that tend to land on our TVs at this time of year.

2. It’s jaw-throbbingly funny

Waller-Bridge is expert in the kind of black humour that made Fleabag such teeth-clenching, compulsive viewing. That streak of darkness is present in Killing Eve, too, exacerbated by the psychopathic humour of Villanelle – the opening scene sees her tip a bowl of ice cream into the lap of a little girl, all because she wouldn’t smile at her. However, it’s also the juxtaposition of all our expectations of a classic spy flick – think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy et al – with the sheer mundane normality of Eve and the MI5 office that creates moments of hilarity. Eve trying to subtly eat a hangover-cure croissant in a vital briefing meeting is all-too-familiar for most of us.

3. Its two main characters will keep you hooked

Eve is the everyman character we can all relate to – in fact, she’s probably how most of us would act if caught up in a case of international espionage. Oh plays her with charisma and a soft-handed approach to the character’s more earnest personality traits. Villanelle, on the other hand, is the creepy, compelling psychopath who entrances as much as she appals with her violence. Comer’s face is so wonderfully expressive that is keeps you fixed to the screen, wondering what on earth she’ll do next. 

4. It looks incredible

Comer’s Villanelle is the kind of villain every good spy story needs. But as well as her skills at killing, she’s beautiful, compelling and as sharply dressed as any would-be Bond. Her world is one of Parisian boulevards, Viennese cafés and Tuscan châteaux – just as you’d imagine an international assassin’s would be. She even takes interior decoration tips from one of her victims, before his untimely end. She’s an action woman in the vein of Lara Croft or Charlize Theron’s character in Atomic Blonde, bringing a touch of glamour to Killing Eve that rivals any spy film.

5. It’s all available right now

Yes, you could schedule in 45 minutes of dedicated Killing Eve time every Saturday night for the next 10 weeks. But the clever people at the BBC have also recognised that that isn’t how a lot of us watch telly now, and have made it all available on BBC iPlayer  – so we can gobble it up as fast or slow as we like. After all, you wouldn’t want to be late to the party with what’s sure to be the show on everyone’s lips this autumn.