Killing Eve producer explains shocking death in season 3 premiere
"Nothing was going to bring [Eve] back into investigating the Twelve for a professional reason," says executive producer Suzanne Heathcote.
Warning: This story contains plot details from the season 3 premiere of Killing Eve, which aired Sunday night.
Allow us to explain. The final scene of the spy thriller's season opener concluded with a body plunging from a building and splatting on the ground, only to be discovered by a horrified Eve (Sandra Oh). And when the former MI6 operative recognized the unfortunate victim, there was only one thought racing through viewers' minds: Oh my God, they killed Kenny!
That sharp, reserved, shorts-clad ex-hacker (Sean Delaney) who had worked for a stealth MI6 branch run by his mother, Carolyn (Fiona Shaw), had quit the agency to work as an online investigative reporter. In his new job, he was apparently continuing to poke around the Twelve and the financial trail leading through Frank Haleton (Darren Boyd) and Fat Panda (Simon Chin). At work late one night, he heard a few suspicious noises and proceeded to investigate. Taking Kenny up on his social invitation, Eve showed up at the office at that moment, and the next noise that she heard was the body falling. Foul play? To borrow a phrase from his cell phone case, it's not rocket science.
Before that, elsewhere in the episode, Eve was mired in self-punitive misery, living an anonymous new life in England, medicating with wine and isolation, working in the recesses of a kitchen. The woman who lured her into a world of hurt, Villanelle (Jodie Comer), was trying to move on by getting married (that union didn't make it past the reception) and by moving to Barcelona. But her past kept popping up: old mentor/handler and wedding crasher Dasha (Harriet Walter) tried to lure her back into the killing game for the Twelve. Seeking more control, Villanelle demanded a promotion to "keeper." But first, Dasha needed her to take out a target to prove she was back in the game. So she trolled her old mentor with a spicy kill. (In this case, saffron.)
Meanwhile, Eve's husband, Niko (Owen McDonnell) — who ended up on the wrong side of a Villanelle mission, waking up next to murder — was attempting to recover at a psychiatric facility, not hiding his resentment toward Eve for the entanglement. Carolyn was busy at MI6 answering for the mess of the mission in Rome, finding herself under the thumb of an old work rival, Paul (Steve Pemberton). Carolyn's sometimes partner in mystery, Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), was seen ignoring pleas for a report that he was supposed to file and receiving an ominous order: Time to go fishing. Let's go on our own fishing expedition by interrogating new Killing Eve exec producer/head writer Suzanne Heathcote to glean insights into the season 3 premiere — and what lies ahead.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Well, that was quite a way to start a season and end the episode. How painful of a decision was it to kill Kenny? And did you do it for the South Park reference?
SUZANNE HEATHCOTE: Do you know what? The South Park reference was almost a reason not to do it. It was like, “Oh, are we ever going to be able to avoid that?” And also in the writers’ room, it must have been said a million times as we were just discussing the story. We had to think long and hard about it... Those decisions are never easy. But with this story, given everything that had happened to Eve the past two seasons, we really felt we had to honor where she was at. And nothing was going to bring her back into investigating the Twelve for a professional reason. It was just too much water under the bridge for her, emotionally. So we knew there had to be something really personal happen to bring her back in. And the more beloved the character, the more it means when they go. So it's always a double-edged sword. Like, Bill [David Haig] in season 1. It means so much because you love the character so much. Those decisions are always hard — and we mourn the characters just as much as the audience does.
How did Sean react when you told him the news?
Actually, Sean was amazing. I didn't have the very initial conversation with him; Sally [Woodward Gentle, executive producer] did. But at the read-through [of the first two scripts], we spoke at length. He was the first, really, to say he thought as a plot point it was brilliant, and he could really see how it was going to propel the story. And he said, “It's funny, he was actually weirdly a huge part of the season.” Even though he's not physically there, he is the propelling force. But he was great, and he’s beloved, and the cast loves him and he was amazingly gracious about it. But it was sad to see him go.
Is it possible we will see him again in flashback form?
It's a world in which anything can happen. So never say never.
There's a mystery brewing around his death, as he was poking around something with the Twelve and the money trail leading to Frank and Fat Panda. As far as conspiracies go, how high up does this one go? What can you say about the scope of what he was investigating?
There's a definite trail that they're on. I hate to be irritatingly cryptic, but I can say there are very specific twists and turns. There's a lot to be revealed, right to the end of this particular story.
Just before he dies, Kenny trashes the file with the financial information on his computer. Was he worried that someone might find it and he was starting to getting rid of evidence or... was he actually deciding to quit the investigation?
For Kenny, he can sense he’s onto something very dangerous, and it's that tight rope, which I think both he and Eve have felt throughout. When you're on the precipice of something, there's something very dangerous lurking around the corner. And so it's his own self-preservation that moment, really. He can sense that it's in his best interest that he stop investigating the Twelve. He's trying to step away from it, the way everyone else has. But like all of them, they keep getting drawn back in.
What about the seahorse investigation that was on his computer? If this all ties in to illegal seahorse poaching, that would be pretty amazing.
[Laughs] The seahorse investigation — I mean, we’ll just have to wait and see how that resurfaces.
How disillusioned with MI6 was he? And since MI6 shut down the investigation into the Twelve, what role might it play in what he was pursuing?
His disillusionment is both with MI6 and his mother, too. He felt that her integrity was really lost in what she did in season 2. So as a result, that's partly why he feels he has to do this on his own, which makes it all the more dangerous really. He doesn't have the protection of the institution in the way that he would have had before. But MI6 has a very specific role. That is Carolyn’s homeland, and it always will be. She would never work for anyone other than MI6. She’s fully institutionalized there even though she obviously has her rogue moments. So that definitely remains Carolyn’s hub through the season. Albeit a difficult place for her, with her new relationship with Paul.
Does Carolyn make a mission to find out what happened with Kenny and what he was investigating? We know that Carolyn is not someone who enjoys feelings, but does she carry around any guilt for feeling that she may have pushed him away and into this rogue investigation?
This is the biggest challenge that Carolyn has ever faced in her life. Fiona and I really discussed at length, actually, what this would do for Carolyn as a character. In a conflict, she is someone who always wants to appear to be in control and she would never want sympathy from anyone. So the need to maintain that veneer, and yet of course what's going on internally is a huge conflict for her. And I think finding out what's happened and why this happened to Kenny is a way of her feeling like she's in control somehow. But, of course, whatever the investigation turns up, she has still lost her son and nothing will really be able to remedy that.
Gemma Whelan is joining the show as Carolyn’s daughter, Geraldine. This obviously is the impetus for bringing Geraldine into the fold. After talking with Fiona, we can tell that they are cut from very different cloth. What can you hint about their clashing energies?
As you say, they’re cut from very different cloths. They're a mother-daughter dynamic where neither of them fully understands the other. They’re just such different people, as I think often happens in families. Carolyn’s buttons definitely get pushed by Geraldine who feels that Carolyn should illustrate how she’s feeling more openly.
Eve seems rudderless and is reeling from what happened in Rome. And now comes the trauma of witnessing the death of Kenny, who’s one of her last friends. Does this activate her from the nihilistic post-traumatic haze that she's living in?
This is definitely like a personal bombshell in her life. And something that really wakes her up. When we initially see her in the first episode, she's chosen to remove herself from the world, because it's almost as if she feels the world is better off without her fully participating in it. And [there's a] realization that she just doesn't have a choice — she’s needed, actually. No one else is going to investigate this. No one else is going to find out what happened to Kenny. No one else is really going to find out anything about the Twelve. It's something that she understands from this. She's going to have to go forward and make this her role.
And that brings up an interesting complication. Eve felt betrayed by Carolyn and quit MI6, and this brings her back into Carolyn's orbit. But their dynamic would be changed because Carolyn is not calling the shots.
Yes. There's no quick fix for the rift that happened in season 2 between Eve and Carolyn. Eve felt so betrayed by Carolyn — and understandably so. So they’re both in grief and they're both massively affected by what happened, but it doesn't necessarily mean an easy reconciliation for them.
Let’s talk about Villanelle, who got married! Obviously, it was an act of desperation and denial to move on and put Eve in her past, which, as evidenced by her wedding toast, did not exactly work. There were only so many minutes in the premiere you can dedicate to that part of the story, but what else did the writers imagine for Villanelle up until her wedding day?
Oh, we had great fun! We felt like she'd really be trying for normal — what it was like to eat spaghetti with someone and watch TV, and the reality of that really not satisfying her in the way that she once dreamt it would. And also just her survival. The reality is she knows that she's escaped from — and defied, really — an enormously powerful underground organization. She's incredibly smart. She's aware of the fact that that's going to have an impact. And her need to survive and desire for the finer things is definitely what led to that particular match. But I think it's probably best as well for the bride that it doesn't survive, because I think someone would have died probably a week or two after that wedding — and I don’t think it would have been Villanelle.
How might Villanelle react when she finds out Eve is not dead?
Villanelle is all about control and feeling like she's in control. It was so conflicting for her that moment at the end of season 2. She punished Eve for not wanting to be with her, but she didn't necessarily want Eve dead even though she was committing that act. I just think it was a real act of conflict for Villanelle. Discovering that Eve is alive is equally conflicting for her and just immediately brings up a huge amount of emotion. But when you think someone's out of your life forever and then you discover they're not, there's something in that that's also incredibly exciting and exhilarating.
Whether or not it was a kill shot was almost immaterial; she was rejected and acted out like she does. Of course, if she truly wanted her dead, she could've fired several bullets into her. But as Sally pointed out, we do have to entertain the idea that Villanelle is a terrible shot, when you consider Frank or Konstantin. Her gun game needs a little work.
Yeah! We discussed that a lot in the writers’ room, mapping out Eve’s story of how she survived. And that's why we really felt like Eve has been saved. It was sort of act of God or a miracle that she was discovered by tourists; she would have bled out and died had she not been found. Just to even it out on both levels that Villanelle wasn't too terrible, but at the same time, it was enough of a shock that Eve was able to survive. But yes, she doesn't have a good history of getting her aim right.
In this episode, we met Dasha, who’s a really fun new badass wrench in the proceedings and who knows Konstantin. She’s motivated to get Villanelle back in business so she can get back to Russia. Is Dasha as full of surprises as Konstantin? And what kind of foil will she be for Villanelle moving forward? There's an intriguing history and rivalry there.
There are a lot of surprises coming from Dasha. She’s full of them. And yeah, she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants and what she needs. I was really excited by that dynamic, and by having Villanelle work with someone who has known her and brought her up and trained her. And Villanelle has very begrudging respect for this woman. I really wanted to see her with a handler who she couldn't quite manipulate to the same degree that maybe she has her previous handlers — even though she has an amazing relationship with Konstantin; she was always able to manipulate him to a degree. So that relationship is a lot of fun and we had great fun writing it. And of course, Harriet and Jodie are so great together.
Speaking of Konstantin, he received a “time to go fishing” order on the menu. Any hints about where he might find the most fish?
Well, you know, he has had his fingers in many pies. I think the fish are starting to catch up with him. I can’t tell you exactly where that's going to be or where it's going lead, but it's definitely not a pie he wants.
Good to see Niko, though he’s in rough shape at a psychiatric facility of some sort. He has a lot of anger toward Eve for what she and her work put him through. How damaged is he — and is his relationship with Eve?
Yeah, I think he's just been through so much — and in such a short period of time actually. He realizes he's got to take care of himself and that means he has to really do that on his own at this moment. There’s no two ways about it; he’s just got to recover. And there's something conflicting in the relationship with Eve that is holding that back somehow. So yeah, he's definitely not in a great way. I mean, he's as damaged as you would expect, considering he woke up to find someone wrapped in Saran Wrap in a storage [locker].
What can you tease about episode 2, which brings the introduction of Carolyn's daughter?
Obviously, there's the impact of Kenny's death in the first episode and how everyone reacts to that. And that brings Carolyn's daughter back into the fold, which is a whole challenge in itself for Carolyn, who isn't grieving necessarily the way her daughter would like. There's a lot of fun still to be had in episode 2, and it's where the infamous clowning around can be seen.
What’s one word that you want to leave viewers with as they prepare to watch episode 2?