- Writers: Laura Neal, Kayleigh Llewellyn, Georgia Lester, Sarah Simmonds Cast: Sandra Oh, Judie Comer, Fiona Shaw, Kim Bodnia, Anjana Vasan, Camille Cottin, Adeel Akhtar
- Genre: Dark comedy, espionage thriller
- Language/Country: English / USA
- 8 episodes, approx. 45 minutes each
The review ahead has major spoilers for ‘Killing Eve’ as the article discusses the show’s ending in detail.
The final episode of ‘Killing Eve’ has finally aired on Prime Video. And looks like fans have a lot to say about it. In fact, they have a lot to say about Season 4, in general.
The fourth and last season of the much-loved thriller sees Eve and Villanelle team up to uncover the secret organisation named The Twelve who are a global organisation with the power to assassinate any political figure they want. Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) is hot on the heels of finding The Twelve. And so is Hélène (Camille Cottlin), who has a personal agenda of her own. Meanwhile, Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) has been given the job to train a young and upcoming assassin as his apprentice, the awkward oddball named Pam (Anjana Vasan).
Every season of ‘Killing Eve’ was penned by a different, talented screenwriter. Season 1 was penned by the maverick Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of ‘Fleabag’), while the second season was taken over by Emerald Fennell (‘Promising Young Woman’). The third season saw Suzanne Heathcote (‘Fear The Walking Dead’) as in-charge. The latest season is primarily penned by Laura Neal of ‘Sex Education’. Each screenwriter has brought a different perspective and mood to the spy thriller, which is based on the ‘Villanelle’ novels by Luke Jennings. This difference in mood is not always a bad thing. But as the head writer of the final season of a show, Laura Neal has a unique responsibility on her shoulders that her predecessors did not. She had to tie all the loose ends, answer the burning questions, resolve all the conflicts in a satisfying way, and avoid any unnecessary cliff-hangers. Neal also had to make the finale memorable, as a proper send-off for the fans who have loyally supported this BBC-produced show for five years. Hence, one must commend Neal for taking up this gigantic task as the head of the final season as all eyes were on her. Unfortunately, Neal and her team have let the ‘Killing Eve’ fandom down. Badly.
Although Season 4 had its fair share of comic moments, intriguing situations, and incredible turns from the entire cast, the show was still not up to the mark, with especially the final episode being a crushing disappointment to fans who wanted to see Villanelle and Eve finally get together. But let’s start from the beginning.
The season faltered from its very first episode
The season falters majorly in its very first episode and scene, setting the tragic and steady descent of the rest of the season. Season 3 had ended on a poignant, heart-touching note which had Eve and Villanelle walk away from each other on a bridge. But they turned around to look at each other and their eyes met. The moment was cathartic, romantic and almost a game-changing moment in this slow-burning cat-and-mouse chase, as it gave the hint that the two women are finally going to get together. So it felt like a betrayal, like a “sike!” moment, when Season 4 began with the two women being more separated than ever before, and on completely different paths. Not only that, but the show jumps one year ahead. And Eve and Villanelle resent each other more than ever.
The Villajesus subplot
One year later, Villanelle has had a spiritual reckoning of sorts. Living with pastor Phil and his daughter May (Zindzi Hudson), the assassin has decided to put the killing shenanigans behind her and embrace Jesus Christ as her Lord and saviour. Once a cold-blooded killer, she now wears conservatively long dresses and quotes the Bible. She also sees visions of Jesus speaking to her, who oddly looks like Villanelle herself, but with a beard. Fans impressively call this figure Villajesus. This entire ‘religious’ scenario is supposed to be absurd, quirky and hilarious. But this ‘Villajesus’ subplot feels completely out of place in what is supposed to be a sleek and stylish British drama about a world-class assassin who loves dressing lavishly and hotel-hopping around the globe. Written by Laura Neal, the first few episodes have hints of the show ‘Sex Education’, with the saturated, pop colours in the clothes of Villanelle and May, as well as the subplot of young May feeling repressed and trying to come to terms with her sexuality, a theme much in common with ‘Sex Education’.
What’s worse is that this religious-themed out-of-place subplot, and Villanelle’s spiritual inner monologue, are never visited again by the show. And that contributes to the tonally jarring mood of the entire show. This inconsistency is a clear example of clumsy screenwriting which is evident throughout the season.
Who are The Twelve?
The basic plot of this year’s season is that Carolyn appoints Eve to uncover the covert Twelve who are responsible for multiple assassinations across the globe. But we never really care about this organisation as we aren’t given enough information to be intrigued in the first place. When we finally do care about them by the last episode, it is part of what is supposed to be a climactic showdown. Eve and Villanelle are on a yacht where a wedding is taking place. The Twelve are apparently in disguise, holding a secret meeting on this boat. When Villanelle starts fighting the members and kills them one by one, we aren’t even given clear glimpses of their faces. Nor do we get any dialogue exchange between these members and Villanelle where they explain their reasonings for doing what they do, or how The Twelve came to be. Their existence remains a mystery in what is expected to be the last season. So we will never know who exactly they are. And while some may find this intriguing in itself, most viewers are left simply frustrated by this holding back of information. Hence, this yacht wedding showdown is an anticlimax more than anything.
The plus sides
We get A+ performances all around. Anjana Vadan plays Pam, an awkward assassin-in-training who works at the morgue. She is able to convey much of her creepiness and confusion in silence simply with her expressively large eyes. But it is a shame that the character is mostly wasted as she doesn’t meet the high expectations laid out for her.
Imogen Gaines is another revelation. Playing a younger Carolyn in the flashback scenes (filmed in crisp monochrome), she expertly portrays Carolyn’s icy steeliness and youthful energy, often balancing them in a spectacular manner.
Not only are the actors’ performances stellar as ever, but the soundtrack is deliciously seductive as expected of the show. The scoring and choice of songs never fail, often creating a sexy or dreamy mood for Eve and Villanelle.
Violence as art
The show also continues its winning streak in making murder and violence look mesmerising, like a piece of art. This is achieved rarely by TV which often makes violence, action and gore something to be disgusted by, something to look away from. But like ‘Hannibal’, ‘Killing Eve’ makes blood look sexy, and violence looks either funny or akin to a sex act. Look at the scene where Villanelle slices Hélène while having her
eyes on Eve. Eve, in spite of her horror, can’t help being turned on by Villanelle’s daring action. The two never break eye contact as Hélène bleeds to death on the carpet. This scene needs to be watched to get how hypnotisingly erotic it is.
As always, characters find creative ways to kill and dispose of people in ways that entertain. Gunn (Marie Sophie-Verdane), is a psychopathic assassin who, in a series of immensely watchable scenes, practises hunting trespassers on her island and fillets them like fish. When Eve catches her and Gunn tries to kill Eve, Eve in retaliation tears out the eyes of Gunn. A blind Gunn is now howling in rage while wandering around with bloody sockets where her eyes used to be, lost on a deserted island of her own. It is brilliant sequences like these where the writers succeed in putting a layer of drama and horror onto what otherwise would have been straightforward scenes of characters doing their job.
Loose ends and underwhelming characters
While undeniably talented, some of the actors just don’t make for engaging storylines, all thanks to the uninspired writing with one underwhelming scene after another. Hélène, for example, is hyped up to be a fear-mongering and ruthless head assassin. She constantly puts Villanelle in her place and warns her and Eve that they should never underestimate her. But the French lady’s bark seems to be harsher than her bite because she is just as easily sliced off and disposed of by a fed-up Villanelle. Also, Hélène’s seduction scenes with Eve are, for this author at least, not in the least bit interesting. So when she is finished off, it is a relief, but not in a good way.
Konstantin’s romantic arc with Carolyn is another less-than-intriguing subplot that stretches itself far too thin and for far too long. Their love story should have wrapped up in Season 3.
And then there’s Yusuf, Eve’s new working partner in security. His dynamic with Eve is not only uninteresting, but it comes out of nowhere and adds nothing to the show’s major plots and themes. Most of the time, we even forget he exists.
And finally… that ending
The final episode sees Villanelle infiltrate the wedding and defeat The Twelve. She reunites with Eve on the top of the boat and the two embrace. They utter with content, “We did it”. That is when the unthinkable happens. A sniper from offscreen shoots Villanelle. Panicking, she and Eve jump into the water to swim away from the flying bullets. But more and more bullets start hitting Villanelle. And then, she perishes. Eve is left in trauma and utter heartbreak over the loss of her love. The End.
With this scene, the writers of the show undeniably adhere to the archaic “bury your gays” trope. This trope is found in films, TV and books again and again, and involve a same-sex couple, where one of them, or both, are killed off. This is a way to deny a lasting love and a healthy, strong relationship to non-straight characters. Whether the homophobia behind this cruel trope is intentional or not is hard to tell. But what is clear is that millions of viewers were patiently waiting for not two, and not three, but four seasons to finally see Eve and Villanelle get their happy ending. What a stake in the heart it was for them to watch this illusion shatter to a million pieces as Villanelle succumbed to her injuries and floated lifelessly in the water.
If someone had to die, it would have been smarter to have it be Eve. Now hear me out. Killing off Eve would be loyal to the very title of this show. Not only that, but her demise would have been the cherry on the top of a gruesome cake which is all about Eve’s descent from a conformist, but peaceful, life and its slow breakdown into chaos and violence as Eve increasingly has bloodlust and connives with killers like Villanelle. With one single scene (killing Eve), the writing team could have penned this entire show as a supposed heroine’s steady demotion to tragedy and death, à la Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’. This would have been a better move than to kill off Villanelle.
And even if they had to kill off Villanelle, it could have been executed with more drama, suspense and tragedy. But the actual scene unfolded breezily and with such haste as if the cast and crew were desperate to wrap it up and go home.
We are left to wonder what the show’s comedy would have been like if writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the genius behind the first season) remained with the show throughout. And if not that, then would it be so bad to have invited her to take the reins in simply writing the last episode? It is not a far-fetched decision, after all, to have a writer who wrote the first-ever episode of a show to also write the very last episode, in order to maintain consistency. And yet, this didn’t happen for reasons beyond our knowledge.
With this utterly heartbreaking, meaningless, underwhelming and anticlimactic season, ‘Killing Eve’ can be said to have pulled a ‘Game of Thrones’, in that just like GoT, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’, TV shows which started off strong only to alienate its audiences, ‘Killing Eve’, too, became a mess as it sank in badly written plots before becoming unwatchable.
But fans of the show will, no doubt, keep revisiting all the seasons. After all, Eve and Villanelle are iconic characters who have provided us with immense comfort over long and lazy weekends, and during quarantine. And secondly, did you know that the Villanelle novels actually provide Villaneve with a happy ending where they share an apartment in Moscow? Eve has a job and Villanelle finishes her studies. Nobody can take that sweet ending away from us.
Finally, here are some of my favourite hot takes about the final season which best reflect my own thoughts on the subject.
‘Killing Eve’ Season 4 can be streamed on Prime Video
Also read | Review: ‘KGF: Chapter 2’ betters its predecessor in every department
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