“Hello! Lovely to meet you,” the doll-faced blonde says brightly, palm outstretched. And she does seem lovely — like a coed from a college catalog, all legs and dimples and long shiny hair. But does she want to shake your hand, or put a hairpin through your eyeball and then take herself out for ice cream?
You can’t blame a Killing Eve fan for asking: On the show, Jodie Comer’s Russian-born assassin Villanelle slays with the serene satisfaction of a woman for whom murder isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. She stabs; she strangles; she delivers death by minivan and poisoned cologne and even something called “vigorous scrotal massage.” And on this sunny November day in London, the actress looks appropriately dressed to kill in a cream satin duster and boots the color of dried blood, her bedazzled jeans belted with a Barbie-pink velvet sash. In between takes, she giggles and taps distractedly on her phone, swaying her hips side to side while she and a costar croon oxygen-themed soft-rock hits from the ’70s. (Love is in the air! All I need is the air that I breathe!)
But when the camera rolls, Comer snaps into focus, her round British vowels replaced by the sulky Slavic clip of Villanelle, her stare settling somewhere a thousand yards beyond the playback monitor. The scene is about her next assignment, and she nods at her handler, taking in the details. Whoever the target is, he — or she, of course — has no idea what’s coming.
“The thing about the show is that it walks such a delicate line between hilarious and beautiful and crazy, but also kind of honest,” says head writer Emerald Fennell, who has taken over the season 2 reins from her good friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “We were really conscious of the temptation to be like, ‘Let’s explode a ton of buildings!’ There are some amazing murders because everyone loves murdering people. But we’ve not gone over the top. We’re not going to see [Comer] on a high wire with a machine gun.”
Instead, Villanelle and Sandra Oh’s MI6 agent Eve Polastri will continue to play out their elaborate dance: a mutual obsession between law enforcer and lawbreaker that has become the series’ irresistible centerpiece — and had its cliff-hanging culmination in Eve stabbing her nemesis-slash-crush in the final moments of season 1. (Spoiler: She survives.)
“Now that these two characters know each other, we are exploring quite deeply what effects a psychopath having feelings for a particular person can have on them, in their limited capacity,” says series producer Elinor Day. “It’s like having a wild animal in your sitting room. You can tame them for a little bit, you can keep them interested and feed them treats, but they will eat you eventually. We’re really fascinated by Eve believing that she can control Villanelle, that she can make it better. And people keep warning her, but she can’t stop…. The [show] has always been at least in part an exploration of herself that Villanelle brings out in her, this dark side that she’s kept latent.”
As the first episodes deal with the immediate repercussions of the stabbing, they’ll also open up the story to new characters and cases, including the untimely death of a tech mogul, and a mysterious family called the Peels. (Don’t look to novelist Luke Jennings’ source material for future plot points, though; while he is still “very much a part of the process and gives his full blessing,” Day explains, the series is now officially off book.) You’ll also see the return of several regulars, including Fiona Shaw’s mercurial MI6 section head Carolyn Martens and her sweet-natured computer-whiz son Kenny, played by Sean Delaney.
The actor confesses that he wasn’t originally meant to stick around so long — let alone be Carolyn’s offspring. One day, he recalls, “I guess we’d been making the same gestures, and Sandra said, ‘You’re like mother and son!’ Phoebe took her [headphones] off and went, ‘What? Hold that thought.'” On set, Delaney and Oh seem a lot like family too; laughing and teasing each other between takes in a palatial Kensington town house, even after repeatedly shooting a tense scene involving much secretive whisper-talk in a foyer while Shaw’s character trilled the phrase “Kenny, chunky peanut butter or smooth?” from the kitchen.
“Killing Eve is a world in which there’s a great lack of sureness about anything, and I think that is very like the world today,” Shaw says approvingly. “All the old tribal loyalties of mother and son or countries or class are all broken down…. And having Eve played by a Canadian Asian person absolutely stops the cliché of the English spy thriller being trapped in this class system — it’s not a glass ceiling, it’s a lead ceiling — which has ruled everything ever written. It explodes that system, and it makes everything much freer.”
Returning fans will feel that freedom, and more: “The clothes are still incredible,” Fennell promises. “And Villanelle is still, like, terrifying, and Eve is still incredibly cool and funny, and she’s getting deeper and deeper into her job and higher and higher up the food chain.” But don’t ever, she warns, forget Killing’s cardinal rule: “Trust no one.”