There's a pervasive line of thinking, especially in 2019, that says the people and things we love will eventually let us down. It's never an if, always a when. So our heroes will inevitably turn out to be trash monsters. Our favorite bands will enter an experimental phase, even though no one asked them to. And our favorite TV shows will fail not only to reach greater heights, but they won't even come close to the same level of success they once had. And it was with this cynical mentality that I approached the second season of 2018's breakout hit Killing Eve.
How could a series that was so well written, so well acted, and so fiercely addictive in its freshman season possibly maintain the same level of quality in Season 2, especially since Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who developed the series for TV and wrote four of the first season's eight episodes, wasn't involved in the writing of the second? It seemed like an impossible task.
But then a strange thing happened: Killing Eve's second season, at least the two episodes screened in advance for critics, didn't let me down. In fact, I was immediately transfixed by the second season, which kicks off Sunday and picks up just a brisk 30 seconds after the surprising events of the Season 1 finale. The new episodes, brimming with crackling electricity, elicited the same amount of joy I experienced when I watched Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) dance around each other during the first go round, only this time the stakes were considerably higher.
When the show returns, Eve is fleeing from Villanelle's flat in France back to the relative safety of her life in England. The tension you'd expect to follow a terrified woman on the run is dutifully present throughout her escape, but the show never loses its wry sense of humor along the way either. There's a great moment in the premiere as Eve stocks up on jelly beans and other candies to cope. There's another when Eve realizes, right before she has to go through security, that she's still carrying the knife she used to stab Villanelle and must find someplace to ditch it. Every time the show reminds us of Eve's relative inexperience in this area is a moment that reminds us of the many ways in which the show is bringing something fresh to an often familiar story.
As for Villanelle, who was left with a serious abdominal wound at the end of Season 1, she's vulnerable in a way she's never been before -- at least since we've known her -- and her current predicament reveals not only how stubborn she is, but also how far she is willing to go to protect herself and also track down Eve. And once again, the show uses her costuming to great narrative effect. Gone are Villanelle's glamorous, eye-catching pieces that once defined her and made her instantly memorable. In their place are ill-fitting but adorable kids pajamas, Crocs, and oversized sweaters she's stolen in an attempt to move around undetected. No longer in control of her life, Villanelle is essentially stripped bare in the first two episodes, having to rely on others in a way she's not used to doing, and it allows us to dig even deeper into a woman who clearly craves human connection and normalcy but doesn't know how to achieve it.
Honestly, it would almost be easier if Killing Eve had stumbled into a groan-inducing sophomore slump, because it's familiar territory we know how to navigate. It's easier to accept failure and move on to the next thing, especially when there are more things than ever before, than continue under the unbearable weight that comes with worrying something we love will eventually come crashing down. And as hard I fight against it, even though I've seen evidence proving otherwise, it's hard to escape the feeling that Killing Eve's runaway success is still just a fluke, that even though it's still great right now, it won't be forever.
After nearly 32 years on this Earth, I've been conditioned to believe we can't have nice things, especially if the we in question is women. We're not meant to find this level of success, at least not in the longterm. And I have, at times, shamefully contributed to this unhealthy, cynical mentality. There have been instances in which I've looked at the drama unfolding on Killing Eve and thought, "This Show or That Show told a similar story to this one already, and it did it it better here, here, and here." Even if that's true in some cases (and I'm not even sure it is), Killing Eve is still a fantastic and well-made show that is not only worth celebrating for any number of its own obvious merits, but worth embracing for taking a familiar set up and crafting it into a series that is also refreshing and new. And I hope it stays that way for however long it continues to air.
Killing Eve premieres Sunday, April 7 at 8/7c on BBC America. Season 1 is currently streaming on Hulu.