Sunday 9 June 2019

Killing off Killing Eve

Following last night’s showing of the first episode of the second series of Killing Eve, Camilla Long reviews it in the Sunday Times. (£)

It’s a good analysis and I agree with much of it. I know not everyone liked the first series, but I did. However, the new series is looking kind of lacklustre, which is all the more disappointing after the BBC’s relentless hype and bombardment of promotional material. Damp squibs come to mind. I do hope that as the episodes unfold things take a turn for the better. 

Sorry, but the verdict so far is that the new writer isn’t any good, and the direction is well clunky. The story flits from “Eve’ to ‘Villanelle’ - back and forth, back and forth, in an unexciting, predictable and stifling fashion. 

Here’s Camilla:
“Killing Eve is back, and for a second year running I’m at a total loss to explain why it’s such a wild and exciting hit. You can’t possibly come for the story, which is about as childish and silly as a tale about a female assassin could get (an achievement). You can’t come for the world our female assassin inhabits, a strange, contrived non-world of Parisian apartments and Italian villas and twee Austrian cake shops and the dreariest alcoves of English suburbia, which fans will argue is all part of the offhand, quirky humour, which I don’t get. 
You can’t come for the plot, which meanders, or the script, which in this series isn’t even half-funny, or the acting, which in the case of Sandra Oh, playing Eve Polastri, an MI5 agent trying to stop Villanelle killing businessmen, is the hysterical two-gear kabuki of daytime television. But you can come for Jodie Comer as Villanelle.”

Here, I ought to explain why I think the first series was such a hit.  It was because of the strip-cartoonish style coupled with some original ingredients and ideas. For example, the unpredictable behaviour of psychopath Villanelle played brilliantly by Jodie Comer; her interaction with her handler Konstantin, plus the actress Sandra Oh’s unusual appearance together with sparky, Waller-Bridge dialogue and the performances of a variety of actors, especially the children. The girl who played Konstantin’s daughter was outstanding.  Unlike the second series, the direction in the first series was clever, varied and made Villanelle’s activities seem almost plausible.

My thoughts are that if they couldn’t match the originality of the first series they should have left it there. This is the best bit of Camilla Long’s review:
Woo-hoo, what a sweet, sweet ballet of crazy eyes and chaffering madness and sudden murderous urges she is. Everything about this show is disposable except for Comer, who’s simply the best thing in anything I’ve seen in ages. For someone who’s meant to have zero emotions, she somehow crackles with the full range of human fury, jealousy, spite, bitterness and glee. She makes her passionate and peculiar love for Eve actually seem real. In fact, her obsession appears to have gone up a gear since the first series, at the end of which Eve finally tracked her down and stabbed her in the belly. 
Villanelle has survived and, far from being put off by this gesture, is now referring to Eve as her “girlfriend”. Her wound isn’t a wound, but… a gift. She stumbles out of her apartment, clutching her side, and into a hospital, before climbing into the boot of a car and heading for Basildon, of all places. Back in London, Eve becomes aware that Villanelle is still alive and the chase has been reversed. 
I inhaled the first series and thought I’d inhale the second, but — how can I put this? It’s a bit slow. Its self-aware, self-congratulatory tone is grating, and the only thing left is a great soundtrack and Comer in some eye-catching outfits. (She always goes shopping after a kill.)

The first series was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who managed to create at least some idea of the tension between Eve and Villanelle, even if their relationship felt like something the characters talked about, but never actually felt. For this new series, there’s a different writer, the children’s author Emerald Fennell, but it’s a shell of a production she has inherited. The entire show now rests on Comer, as Eve is reduced to a subplot about her marriage and her maths-teacher husband, who wasn’t interesting in the first place. 
Comer is as engaging and weird and complicated as ever, garrotting execs and breaking necks, but even she seems to be suffocating under the forced setups. Inexplicably trapped by a creepy guy in his house full of dolls, why doesn’t she just kill him and leave? In the past, she wouldn’t have hesitated.

I haven’t yet binge-watched the remaining episodes, which are available now on iPlayer, and having seen the first one I’m not all that eager to do so. 

I keep asking myself if I’m the only one who doesn’t warm to Fiona Shaw? I didn’t like her in Fleabag either. She always seems like,  well - -  ‘Fiona Shaw’, and I don’t even remember the names of the unconvincing characters she plays, which are supposed to be enigmatic and intriguing, but the only intriguing part for me is why she was ever cast in the first place. She doesn’t fit in. Is she Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s auntie or something?

Jodie Comer has to carry the whole thing on her shoulders and I hope she has the resilience. Oh well; if I’ve got it all wrong I’ll probably let you know.

I still haven't got round to watching the next episodes on the iPlayer, but according to Carol Midgley in The Times (£)  things are looking up. She says 'after a slow start' it's as "fresh as a new pair of knickers." How fresh is that? 

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