Killing Eve producer breaks down the fates of Villanelle and Eve in series finale
Warning: This story contains plot details from the series finale of Killing Eve, "Hello, Losers."
And so it ended for Eve and Villanelle by a London bridge over the Thames, much like last season. But this time, the Pair That Couldn't Be (Apart) truly and painfully parted ways. Because this time, only one of them survived.
The final two episodes of BBC America's subversive spy thriller Killing Eve — which aired back-to-back on Sunday night — brought the duo's four-season-long co-dependent disturbing/alluring/mesmerizing relationship that had transcended convention, common sense, and international borders to a happy ending-free close. Untethered-but-now-of-purpose intelligence agent Eve (Sandra Oh) traveled to a Scottish island where the salvation-seeking narcissistic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) was shacking up with a fellow assassin named Gunn (Marie-Sophie Ferdane). After Eve gouged out Gunn's eyes in self-defense (much to voyeur Villanelle's delight), she persuaded Villanelle to join her mission of crashing a meeting of all the higher-ups in the Twelve. Meanwhile, in a not-hilarious misunderstanding, slippery assassin handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) met the wrong edge of a pizza cutter wielded by mortician-turned-murderer-in-training Pam (Anjana Vasan), who'd later walk away from an employment offer from stone-cold spy boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw).
On the way back to London, Eve and Villanelle found refuge at a cabin with an overbearing, tarot card-bearing couple, and then, well, they finally decided to be together, fully accepting that the other was the only one who really saw them. They shared a statement kiss on the road. When they arrived at the city, the duo crossed paths with Carolyn, who was also tracking the Twelve, but she seemingly ceded to them this unique shot at the mysterious, nefarious organization — one that she'd helped to found a lifetime ago.
Turns out, the head honchos were meeting below deck on a ship that was hosting a wedding, and when the officiant was late, Eve filled in as a distraction for Villanelle to get to work. While Eve danced it out during the reception, Villanelle did her own special dance, slashing and bashing her way through the Twelve with knives, pole, pans, and… was that a corkscrew? Afterward, on the ship's deck, as Eve and Villanelle embraced, a bullet seared through Villanelle. Gunfire continued as Villanelle instinctively pushed Eve toward the water to save her before following her in. Villanelle would take a few more bullets before floating away lifeless, the blood around her seeming to form angel wings, her hand just out of reach of Eve's. And then, viewers saw that this hit was ordered by… Carolyn, who relayed a "Jolly good" into her walkie-talkie. As Eve swam to the surface and let out a primal wail, two words appeared on the screen: The End.
How did it come to pass that Villanelle would die but Eve would live? How monstrous is Carolyn? And how soon might there be a Killing Eve spin-off? Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle just finished warming up her tea in the microwave and is ready to offer some key intel on the End.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you walk viewers through the discussions about the end game in the writers' room? Were there times where you considered having both live or both die?
SALLY WOODWARD GENTLE: Once we knew that we were going to finish off the series in season 4 — because we'd been thinking about it for a while — and then to go, "Yeah, we're going to do this. We're going to do this properly," there were loads of discussions about how you end it and how you honor four seasons of their relationship, and [how] you also honor the new arc for season 4. Ultimately, what we wanted to do was something that felt the most truthful for what we knew about those characters and what we felt the journey that they'd been on through season 4.
And to remember that Villanelle works — and has worked — in a very high-risk job. The fact that she's survived as long as she has was a bit of a miracle; it was down to good luck and her skill. We were also very keen that, actually, what she's looking for at the beginning of season 4, which is some sort of sign that she isn't a monster, gets a degree of pay-off by the end and that she embraces and demonstrates her own humanity. And I think that her instinctive desire to protect Eve and throw her off the side of the boat was a demonstration that she has grown and that she does change and that she feels something. She loved Eve and she loved her properly.
Eve living was incredibly important for us. If you liked the flawed everywoman who had explored what it was like to live life on the edge and without fear, and to really shine a light on the darkest elements of herself survived — we didn't want her to die because of that. That, ultimately, was the thinking behind it. Of course, we went backwards and forwards. We thought, "Kill both?" "No, that's just too f---ing tragic." We wanted there to be some sort of sense that they had learned and that it felt poetically, romantically true.
What were Sandra's and Jodie's reactions when you pitched them the final fates of Villanelle and Eve?
Since we knew this season would be our last, coming up with the ending was a collaborative process across all teams, including our cast.
Carolyn destroys the heads of the Twelve, with Eve and Villanelle doing her dirty work, and it'll help to repair her relationship with MI6. How did the writers formulate her grand plan? How much of her revenge mission for Kenny's death was an excuse to gather power? As she says, "Even loyalty is a dubious virtue, except when it's to me." In the end, she's a bit of a monster.
Yeah, she's a monster. She's almost the devil. Carolyn is always several steps ahead of everybody. Even if she was suffering from this extraordinary grief over Kenny [Sean Delaney] — I mean, she can't bear Geraldine [Gemma Whelan], but she really did love Kenny — and even though there is a sense at the end of [season] 3 that she knows that Konstantin is responsible [for his death], she's not taking that on board because she needs to stay in the game and she needs to have a purpose. She needs somewhere to vent that energy. But by the end, when she realizes that Villanelle and Eve are after the same thing that she's after, which is to damage the Twelve in some way, she realizes that she can have them do her dirty work. She keeps her hands completely clean. She can go to MI6 and go, "Listen, I can deliver you the death of this assassin who's been taking people out."
It was a win-win situation for her, but I think it really shows how brutal Carolyn really was and how clever. It was incredibly humiliating for her to be sent as cultural attaché. And then to have Hugo [Edward Bluemel] essentially be her boss, it was a terrible thing. So to be able to get one off on Hugo and then to take this prize to MI6 — and, one assumes, buy her way back into the organization with massive gold stars — Carolyn has now been reborn in a way. Has been relieved of the grief that she was feeling, or at least slightly recovered from the grief that she was feeling for Kenny. This has got her back to where she wants to be. I don't think she saw it coming, but she saw all the pieces falling into place, and she's smart enough to know that Villanelle and Eve would go off and do this reckless thing....
I do think Konstantin probably was the one that killed Kenny, and she always knew that, but she needed to push that away as: "Maybe he was carrying out somebody's orders, maybe he was warning Kenny about something and he tripped and he fell backwards." She needed to hold onto that so that she could give herself an excuse to stay in the game. And to work through her grief. She's always been tracking the Twelve. Now we know that it was because she was there at the very origins of the Twelve. But it's been a terrible sword in her side for decades. And she wasn't going to let that go after Kenny died.
The bullet pierces Villanelle's shoulder as she and Eve hugged. Was Carolyn trying to kill Eve too, or did she just consider her collateral damage in the assassination of Villanelle? And if she did, does she think Eve's dead now?
I suspect it was collateral. If it got them both, absolutely fine. And I think she stares out at that river long enough to go, "Right. They're not surfacing. Job done."
There will be fans who wanted more about the Twelve after the show built all this intrigue over the years. Carolyn says that even if you kill one, they'll just be replaced with someone else. Did the writers talk about delving deeper into the Twelve and providing a few more answers at the end of the show? And maybe showing more of the Twelve on the ship when Villanelle is whacking and slicing her way through them?
We didn't want to take the focus away from Eve and Villanelle. Ultimately, this is a show about relationships and about those four people. It's not an espionage show. It's not a show that's about the Twelve. It's not about who the big evil is that's controlling the world. I think it's far more abstract than that. Frank, in [season] 1, when he is asked, "Who's done this? What do they want?," and he says, "They want chaos." Ultimately they're like a hydra; you cut off one head and they keep on going.
In the awful world that we are currently living in, one, you sort of don't want to go there. It's an entertaining show and one that's meant to be escapist. You don't really want to sort of delve into the nature of evil that connects people around the world. But at the same time, I think it is interesting that the Twelve started off as a group that clearly had an ideology that Carolyn must have felt was quite attractive or quite appealing. And it just became more and more perverted, and more and more self-serving. Maybe there are echos of that in terms of relationships. I don't think that's what we're saying about the show, but to do a big Wizard of Oz reveal: "And thus we see it was X," I don't think feels right. It feels too reductive. And we liked the messiness of the Twelve being somewhat unknowable.
Konstantin was killed by Pam right as he wanted out of the spy life. When Pam learns that her assassin recruiter, Hélène (Camille Cottin) is dead and tries to stop his bleeding, he directs her to just let him die. Was he just tired of all his lies and games and all the running, plus the heartbreak that his daughter was working for the Twelve now?
It's probably two-fold. One was probably practical, which is like, "I'm really not gonna survive this." [Laughs] He's not daft. I think he felt he wasn't going to survive it. But I also think that he was really exhausted. He was very, very happy in his little mayoral role, eating chubby bangers with his lovely assistant who could massage his head, and he gets roped back into this world that he's exhausted by. You know, the man should've died many times over. He probably wasn't paid enough for what he had to do all the time. He was in trouble. He had embezzled money. He probably was responsible for Kenny. He's just a man who was knackered and did want to disappear. He's found his humanity; he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want to be responsible for the brutality or the using of any of these women anymore. And he'd said [to Pam], "We're going to pack our bags. They'll find us eventually, and they'll do horrible things to us, and then we'll probably die, but at least we will have gotten away from a while." Poor Konstantin is just exhausted.
What is the status of the spinoffs? There's reportedly one in the works focusing on Carolyn's early days in the British Secret service.
That's not necessarily happening. I think somebody picked up on something and sort of ran with it. Of course, there's various thoughts. It's well-known that we've been thinking about where we could go next in the Killing Eve universe, but we're quite a long way off and there's a few ideas in the ether. There's nothing solid yet.
When the books of TV history are written, what do you hope the legacy of the show is?
Oh God! I mean, we don't even think about it, because we're still in shock that anybody watched it in the first place. I'd really like to think that people would say that we've approached this in a way — it's about a female assassin and there's been various female assassins that have always been approached by the sort of male gaze. And I think we've shook that off with this. Yet we still have created iconic characters who people love to see. That's not because they stripped down to their undies, and it's not because they killed people with the strength of their thighs. And I'd really like to think that that is maybe, if we've made any difference, it's the fact that you can still be wildly entertaining. You can fall in love with your characters. They can take you to places you can never imagine that you'll go to. But you don't have to resort to… tits.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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