"It's just a little bit more introspective than before, but that's quite fun as well," says exec producer Sally Woodward Gentle.

By Dan Snierson
May 31, 2020 at 10:01 PM EDT
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Credit: Laura Radford/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle
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Warning: This story contains plot details from Sunday's season 3 finale of Killing Eve.

In the end, it came down to — as it always does — Eve and Villanelle, sharing the loaded final moments of the season. This time, though, there was no stabbing of the other (season 1), and no shooting of the other (season 2). The season 3 finale of BBC America's spy thriller Killing Eve ended on a much less violent and much more intimate note, with Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) — that way-off-the-books agent and the volatile assassin that she's been tracking, the one who swears that she wants out of that killer life — standing back-to-back on a London bridge, attempting to follow Villanelle's suggestion to walk away from each other for good without looking back. But Eve just couldn't quite resist, stopping and turning to look back at Villanelle, who then followed suit with a sly smile.

This softer sendoff scene followed a he-said-he-said showdown that placed the Big Four in the same room: Eve, Villanelle, MI6 higher-up Carolyn (Fiona Shaw), and Villanelle's handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia). Also joining them: Carolyn's superior, Paul (Steve Pemberton). Turns out, Carolyn's hunch was correct — thanks for the deadly confirmation, Mo (Raj Bajaj) — that Paul was indeed working for the Twelve, despite his insistence to the contrary, as he pointed a finger at Konstantin. With Carolyn's gun leveled at his head — and faced with evidence that he was indeed there with Carolyn's son, Kenny (Sean Delaney) on the night that he plunged to his death — Konstantin insisted that he was only trying to warn Kenny of the dangers of his investigation into the Twelve, and Kenny backed away from him, falling off the building. As Konstantin begged for his life, futitely imploring Villanelle to intervene, Carolyn suddenly changed targets and inserted the bullet into Paul's forehead. The episode's body count also claimed a different Villanelle handler, Dasha (Harriet Walter): After being attacked by Villanelle and then Eve — and taunted by Konstantin — Dasha never made it home to mother Russia, or even out of her hospital bed.

Come not-so-quietly, little sheep, as we put on clothes that allow full range of movement, heat up canteen lasagna, and interrogate Killing Eve executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle about the events and consequences of "Are You Leading or Am I?"

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This was the quietest of the Killing Eve finales. After the writers left viewers cliffhanging first on a stabbing and then a shooting, what appealed to them about ending this season on a more personal, intimate note?

SALLY WOODWARD GENTLE: Well, I just think they couldn't get shot again. Or stabbed. Of course, they are on a bridge and there's all sorts of drama that they could have happened there. I think that what was really appealing was for both of them to have an honest conversation, which we rarely see — particularly with the revelation in the earlier scene that they were both complicit in somebody else's death. They both did it together, and in a way that's a good jumping-off point for a discussion about where they are. [Laughs] And also, for Eve to say, "You've got to release me. I can't stop thinking about you." And for Villanelle to say, "Well, it's really easy. You just walk away." They walk away and Eve turns around with Villanelle, and I think what you see in her is she knows that Eve is going to turn around. She knows that Eve is going to be looking back at her. Is that point-scoring, or is it actually something much more fundamental than that? And that's quite an interesting way to look at it. It's just a little bit more introspective than before, but that's quite fun as well, not to do the same thing every time.

You're already answering my next question. Villanelle is so incredibly selfish and self-consumed. One way to look at it is that this is the ultimate sacrifice for her to suggest that they walk away from each other. Or was it actually more manipulative and she knew that she probably couldn't help herself but look back? Sounds like it's a little more of the latter.

I think it's a little bit more [of that]. She walked away. She wouldn't help but be tempted because her ego is so massive as well. She needed to have confirmation. And she knew. She was, like, 99.9 percent sure she'd turn around and Eve would be looking at her.

Those final moments had an "I can't quit you" vibe, and maybe a resignation that they'll always need the other person to feel alive. Did this finale solidify the idea that these two are forever entwined in the world's weirdest, most unconventional, screwed-up, codependent love story?

Wouldn't that be great? [Laughs] Yeah, that would be lovely. That would be brilliant. But I think that they are. They are entwined and what they've done for each other — because Villanelle has had relationships before, which was significant, with Anna [Susan Lynch], in particular. And I think that when she first met Eve, she probably thought she was another Anna, she was in that mold, she was sort of the person that she's attracted to. She's also attracted by the attention that one person put on her. But as time has gone on, they've both acknowledged that the other sees themselves in a way that nobody else has seen them. And that is really intoxicating and hard to walk away from. Like you said, it's sort of the most f—ed-up, self-destructive, glorious, edifying, ego-fulfilling relationship ever. I think it is really hard to walk away from something [when] somebody sees you in a very unique way that makes you feel like you're a little sunflower in the sunlight. That's really hard to step away from that.

Villanelle had quite a journey this season, in her search for family and meaning in her life, and having agency over it. Is this psychopath capable of real change? How much growth is even possible here? But these have been some of the most hopeful moments to date.

This has been the most emotional journey for Villanelle. At the end of season 2, Konstantin dropped that rather manipulative, if slightly cruel, note that "You think your family are dead — well, they're not." Villanelle didn't like the lack of control she felt about that. But she was also intrigued about who she was and where she comes from. The notion of family was huge in season 3, and [for her] to go back to Russia and to feel something, to feel some warmth from her relationship with Bor'ka [Temi Blaev], to actually really enjoying the environment that she was in. And then her mother says to her, "Listen, you've always been like this. You're always rotten to the core."… But that is going to leave something in Villanelle: "Well, can she change? Is her fate really always going to be one thing?" She's clever. She's really clever. She's going to ask those questions, and she will see how different she could become. And whether she can become different, I do not know.

How did the writers feel about Eve and Villanelle possibly winding up together? It's obviously fantasy, and a farfetched one, but is the writers' room split on that matter?

There always has been, really, from season 2 onwards: "What does that relationship look like?" And if they were to sit down and have another proper couples counseling, somebody might come out of that going, "Really? You really think this is going to last?" Maybe we'll do that. I'd love to see a couples counseling between Eve and Villanelle.

They're self-aware to know that it could never work, even if they can't escape from indulging in that fantasy. When they're dancing, Eve says, "We'd consume each other before we got old" and Villanelle says, "That sounds kind of nice."

Exactly.

How much of Konstantin's claims about Kenny should we believe? It seemed pretty flimsy — or at least that there was much more to the story that he wasn't spilling.

I don't think we should ever believe Konstantin. He's going to say anything to get out of a sticky situation. And he's clearly absolutely terrified for his life. He believes that Carolyn will pull that trigger, and he calls on Villanelle. And that is, for me, heartbreaking. I think it's actually a brilliant performance. But in two seconds he's walking out of there like he's got away with it — and not only that, he's taking the Russian dolls wrapped up in the plastic bag. I don't think you should ever trust Konstantin with anything. Ever.

When Carolyn has the gun pointed at Konstantin and he's pleading for his life, and then she shoots Paul instead, is she so blinded by her feelings for him that she winds up sparing his life, even though she knows what he's doing?

I think that was ultimately it. And she couldn't bear to kill him and just had to kill someone. The depth of grief that she felt for her son — somebody had to pay for that, and I think it was a very emotionally driven response.

He told Dasha, twice, that she wasn't leaving this hospital room alive. Is there a chance he did something to hasten her demise, whether it involved that final hand touch, or something earlier that we didn't see?

Of course we talked about that. Is Konstantin actually responsible for her death? I think he just knows that she's toast, and I don't think he was responsible for it. Although we did constantly play with whether he just pulls the plug out.

Is that the end of the investigation into Kenny's death? That was a big mystery building all season and it's dispatched of somewhat quickly at the end with Konstantin and his flimsy explanation.

I don't know. I'll just leave it at that. [Laughs]

Carolyn seems demoralized and defeated at the end of the episode, telling Eve that they will never get to the bottom of the Twelve conspiracy, which is its own set of Russian dolls. Can we give her a few days and she'll bounce back and find new resolve, or is there a much bigger change in Carolyn here?

I think there is a bigger change in Carolyn. Our backstory for Carolyn is there in the show, which she is born into a diplomatic family. She's worked that system, she knows how it operates. There's always somebody that will come and clean up the mess. But shooting Paul is the biggie. We have seen that she's far, far more broken by the death of Kenny. She's not an android. She cares and feels deeply, and Kenny was her child and she said he was always mine. Geraldine was her father's, but Kenny was hers. And ultimately she brought that boy into that world, and she feels massively responsible for his death. So I don't think she's as bouncy as Villanelle is. I do think Fiona Shaw is brilliant. She's absolutely exceptional in this season.

When Carolyn told Eve that she had to quit "cold turkey," on how many levels does she mean that?

Carolyn has seen Eve's obsession with Villanelle, so it's got to be about the Twelve and it's got to be about Villanelle as well. So I think you can take it on lots of different levels.

Niko told Eve to piss off forever from his hospital bed. Might that character return next season, or was that the last we've seen of him?

Who the devil knows? He's not dead. [Laughs] As far as we know.

Can you talk about the decision to not kill him from the pitchforking? The moment would've been even more powerful, as well as the moment where Dasha taunts Eve about what she did to Niko.

We did debate those both ways. Ultimately we really wanted Niko to have the power to walk away and to say "piss off" rather than him being dispatched by a third party. And I think that's really important for Eve's psyche as well. She gets wounded twice, really. She wounded by somebody trying to kill her husband, and then she's wounded by the fact that her husband has told her to piss off. Which arguably he should have done a lot earlier. [Laughs]

Speaking of that moment where Eve was about to kill Dasha: If Eve didn't hear the police sirens, would she have finished the job — or did that jolt of reality also remind her that she didn't want to be like Villanelle?

That's a really interesting question. In doing what she did, I suspect she knew the consequence of it. If somebody is really that ill and you put all of your weight on their chest — and you've done this quite a long time with a look that could kill — you've got to understand that there could be mortal circumstances. I think she'd probably stood there a little bit longer if the police siren hadn't come along, but she knew how dangerous what she was doing was.

Hélène (Camille Cottin) is going to be none too pleased that her rising assassin Rhian (Alexandra Roach) was killed by Villanelle. How concerned should Villanelle be?

I think she should be pretty concerned. Hélène is the highest that we've ever met in the Twelve, and the fact that Villanelle went against her and killed her pet protégé, the Twelve support for her just might wane a little bit. And Hélène has already said, "Don't think for a minute you can kill me because I'll get to you first."

You finished filming season 3 before the coronavirus shut down all production. What is the status of season 4? Are the writers starting to work on it — and are you hopeful you could be on the air sometime in 2021?

Oh, yeah! We haven't taken our foot off the pedal. The writers are in the room now. We should have three episodes written really shortly. We're working to the schedule that we had before, and we will amend it as appropriate when we get closer to the date when we would start filming. We're not going to do anything without people being entirely safe, and we don't really want to compromise the vision for the show, either. So I can absolutely see a way that we could on air in 2021.

What is a question should viewers be thinking about as they await season 4?

Oh, gosh!… What do you do when you have to acknowledge to yourself that there's a darkness that you can't push down anymore? And that's very much an Eve thing.

And what's the tiniest tease about season 4 you can leave us with?

"Change is possible."

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