In Killing Eve, Women Finally Aren't The Victims

Photo: Courtesy of BBC America.
There's a certain masochism that comes with watching crime dramas if you're a woman. More often than not, you're going to see yourself dead on the screen. Or, you know, a version of you, faceless enough to make you wince with sympathy pains as the male detective lists the horrible things that happened to her. It could easily be you, a fact that you repeat to yourself later that night as you walk to your car with your keys between your fingers, as your friend asks you to text her when you get home. At a certain point I wonder why I'm watching shows that are fictionalized versions of what I'm already worried about every single day. If I'm going to consume fiction, shouldn't I have the luxury of identifying with a woman who doesn't end up dead?
Phoebe Waller-Bridge burst onto U.S. soil with Amazon's Fleabag, which followed her massively underrated one-season show, Crashing (no, not that one). She's a comedy writer who doesn't shy away from the dark parts, so it actually makes sense that her most recent project isn't a comedy at all. Killing Eve premiered Sunday night, and on the surface may sound like any other show: a murderer is on the loose, the death toll is mounting, and one detective is hellbent on figuring it out. But the murderer is a woman. The detective is a woman. The best friend is a woman. The boss is a woman. The victims are mainly men.
The best part about Killing Eve is that it hasn't marketed itself as some kind of female-centric show. There's no flashy gender-swapped-Ghostbusters-style tagline that portrays powerful women as a novelty. In the world of Killing Eve, women are living, breathing people, their worth so solidly inherent that I didn't realize why the show felt so good to watch until I was already waist-deep in it. The men on the show are neither antagonists nor bumbling idiots, they're simply secondary to the women's goals, be that getting to the bottom of a case or literally committing murder.
For instance, Eve's (Sandra Oh) partnership with Bill (David Haig) remains professional and also genuine, but there's no question of who shines brighter in the script. The same, perversely, goes for Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), a relationship that would have likely been made sexually sinister or abusive had it been written through a sensationalized male gaze.
Because, yes, while sometimes women are the victims of Villanelle's wrath, their power is never underestimated. They are not faces that fill a diversity quota or objects of of violence for shock value, but every kind of person because that's how life works. Maybe it's not so much fiction after all.

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