Killing Eve Gives A Name To The Feeling Of Female Obsession

Photo: Courtesy of BBC America.
For a show about a hired assassin, Killing Eve isn’t really about murder. Instead, murder is a plot device used to tell the stories of the two women on either side of the crime. Female duos aren’t a novel concept for a TV show, but Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and her would-be assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) are something different. They’re not at all similar — more like two sides of the same mirror, mimicking each others movements but never quite able to touch. They’re also, to put it less metaphorically, absolutely fucking obsessed with each other.
This is what initially made Killing Eve, the latest Phoebe Waller-Bridge creation that’s already been renewed for a second season, so alluring to me. I love true crime as much as the next shut-in, but the BBC show explores an emotion that doesn’t yet have a word for it. What do you call becoming infatuated with your enemy? With having, a non-romantic, non-sexual non-amicable crush?
It’s the emotion I associate most closely with a current partner’s ex- girlfriends, or an ex- partner’s subsequent ones. No one would begrudge your curiosity about a partner’s romantic past, or keeping tabs on their next relationship. But there’s a twisted energy that comes when you’re looking at their photos late at night, scrolling through their tweets, immersing yourself in them. In a way, you are parallel versions of each other, looking for your similarities but also comparing your differences, feeling envy, apprehension – and the strange notion that, under different circumstances, you’d probably be friends.
I had the uncommon experience of actually becoming friends with my ex’s ex. One night over dinner she told me that she had once hated the sight of me; at the same time, neither of us went too long without Instagram-stalking the other We confessed to this mutual obsession, which cooled off the moment we broke down the mystery and saw each other as people.
Eve and Villanelle don’t share a mutual ex, but they exhibit similar behaviour. Episode 2, “I’ll Deal With Him Later”, ends with Villanelle hunting Eve down on the internet, and Episode 3, “Don’t I Know You?”, begins with Eve describing (to a police sketch artist) all the details she’s projected onto the elusive Villanelle, without actually knowing her.
“Uh, so is that like a square face or an oval face?” the sketcher asks at the end of her reverie.
Later in the episode, Villanelle steals Eve’s luggage, going through and rabidly inspecting her things; l. When she later hooks up with a woman, she asks to call her “Eve.”
The brilliance of the series hinges in this liminal space. I don’t want the two women to end up connecting romantically, but I don’t want them to become buddies, either. For as long as they stay on opposite sides of that mirror, the audience gets to exist in that undefinable space between them. At a certain point, of course, the illusion has to shatter, and the reality of their feelings (friendship, hatred, or something more) will bring us back to earth. Until then, it’s refreshing to see this exciting new show give life to a private feeling I’ve never been able to name. Maybe we should call it “Eve.”
Killing Eve will premiere on BBC One soon.
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