Killing Eve s1 ep 1

Can Killing Eve stand up to the hype? Actually, it just about can. Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is a MI5 desk-jockey, assistant to the world-weary Bill (David Haig), and living life in a state of moderate dissatisfaction. A Russian politician has been assassinated in Vienna, and Eve – to the disdain of her superiors – has concluded that the assassin is most probably a woman. So when the girlfriend of the deceased, who witnessed the assassination, lands in London, and Eve is given the job of making sure that she’s looked after, she goes a little further and carries out an unauthorised interview in the hope of confirming her suspicions.

We already know that she’s right: preternaturally skilled psychopath and killer-for-hire (?) Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is not only behind the Vienna wet job, but a pile of others as well; including, by the end of the episode, the Russian politician’s girlfriend. This, together with the off-the-books investigation, is enough to get Eve the sack, although she’s subsequently approached by Carolyn (Fiona Shaw), head of the Russia desk at MI6, with an offer to continue the investigation.

I liked this a lot. The soundtrack is terrific; I had Shazam to hand throughout the episode. And the acting is great: Oh is entirely convincing as bored-but-perceptive Eve, and Owen McDonnell does a fine job as her husband Niko, as does Shaw as the experienced spook Carolyn. Haig is magnificent as Bill, and Kim Bodnia is clearly enjoying himself as Villanelle’s thuggish handler. Comer has the toughest job of the lot – she has to convince as a barely-out-of-her-teens star assassin – but I’ve seen enough of her in the past to be confident that she’s got this.

Killing Eve also scores highly for its dialogue (this episode was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), which is witty without being sparkling, but this is by design: it’s the conversation of people in jaded, cynical middle age, fighting battles they don’t think they should be fighting any more. It reminded me in parts of the Slough House series of books by Mick Herron, and those who know me will know that there’s no higher praise I can give anything. Killing Eve isn’t at that level, but it’s tremendous Saturday-night fun.

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Public Service Announcement 34 of 2018: Killing Eve, A Discovery of Witches, Shut Eye

BBC America’s Killing Eve was, when shown in the USA, a critical hit and – on its own terms – a ratings success, with its viewing figures almost doubling during its 8-week run, and a season 2 renewal in the bag. It’s an adaptation of Luke Jennings’s novella series Codename Villanelle, which has been developed and partly written by the insanely talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer star as a MI5 agent and assassin respectively. I’m particularly pleased about the praise Comer has been getting; we loved her in My Mad Fat Diary, and she deserves her subsequent success. (Kim Bodnia from Bron/Broen also appears.) Having managed to deliver old-fashioned monster ratings with Bodyguard, the BBC has plainly decided that it doesn’t want them with Killing Eve: although it will be broadcasting it on a week-by-week basis on BBC One, starting tomorrow at 9.15pm, the whole season will be available for (ew ew ew) “bingeing” on BBC Three.

A few other things. A Discovery of Witches is also an adaptation, this time of a novel by Deborah Harkness. It’s something to do with witches and vampires forming an alliance, which sounds like the sort of thing I don’t care about. The cast includes Matthew Goode and Alex Kingston (tonight, Sky One, 9pm).

Unpopcult royalty Jeffrey Donovan stars in Shut Eye, one of the first shows on Virgin’s new Ultra HD channel. Donovan plays a magician who starts to have psychic visions. With a cast of triple-tested TV talent – David Zayas, Susan Misner, Emmanuelle Chriqui, KaDee Strickland, Isabella Rossellini – this sounds as if it might be quite interesting. The reviews and ratings would, however, suggest otherwise; it was cancelled after two seasons (Monday 18 September, Virgin TV Ultra HD, 10pm). And Constantine, an apparently mediocre DC Comics adaptation, lasted only one before cancellation (Monday 18 September, FOX (UK), 9pm).

And two from the streamers: season 5 of BoJack Horseman (Netflix), and the first season of Maya Rudolph/Fred Armisen vehicle Forever (Amazon Prime), both dropped today.