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Sandra Oh

Maybe Watch ‘Killing Eve’ Without Your Man Friend

There’s a secret world of women-stuff most heterosexual men have no idea about. But Killing Eve incorporates (and takes seriously) secret nods only women understand, mixing them with the James Bond-esque type of globe-trotting intrigue you might be accustomed to sharing with a dude. But like watching sex scenes with your parents, let me recommend avoiding the awkward and watching Killing Eve’s third season (out Sunday!) without your (straight) male isolation partner.

I mean, aren’t some things better left between us ladies? Take the plotline in Killing Eve’s first season where Villanelle steals Eve’s suitcase and sends it back with beautiful, sumptuous clothes that compliment Eve’s body and express her personality better than anything she owns. It manages to be the ultimate flex, compliment, and shade all at once. Villanelle is showing off her wealth and good taste, she’s demonstrating to Eve not just that she really sees and understands her but that Eve’s selling herself short. It’s a complicated message and it sets the stage for the intimate and nuanced connection that women crave and fantasize about. I don’t know any hetero relationships where such a thing would be even vaguely possible (for the woman, men get this sort of care all the time). Do you really want to have to explain why those clothes are so seductive? So dangerous? So hot?

And it’s not just the clothes (or the makeup — the razor in the lipstick was another beautifully nuanced symbol). It’s also in the way Killing Eve explores and uses food. In season two, Villanelle goes undercover as Billie to spy on tech billionaire Aaron who might be killing those in the way of his data empire (spoiler: he is!). Along the way, he develops a fascination with Villanelle but maintains his distance, treating her to several elegant meals. The catch? He sits with her and watches her eat pappardelle and more, but never so much as gets a plate himself. It’s a clear sign that he’s an evil neurotic and it says just as much about Villanelle as it does about him. What kind of woman would eat those meals by herself? Flaunt all the conventions around gender and food? And with such gusto? A psychopath!

Food may often be used as a metaphor for sex (remember those Carl’s Jr. ads?) but Killing Eve pushes the envelope by focusing on the female side of desire. Villanelle isn’t just hungry, she wants a certain kind of dining experience and she gets it without the traditional and overplayed phallic symbol. And while Villanelle’s obvious allure may seem like something you’d rather not to discuss with your man-sexy-times-person, it’s really Eve’s choices that make the whole thing unbearable awkward. She has what’s supposed to make us heterosexual women happy — a loving husband (who cooks no less) and a nice home. But all that domesticity is boring as hell when the allure of a beautiful, dangerous love object is clearly within reach. Eve tries to have both, shielding Nico from the bloody details (the stabbing) but trying to bring some of the excitement home (remember when they have sex while Eve is thinking of Villanelle and Eve thinks it’s great but Nico hates it? Yikes!). So are you ready to have a frank conversation about how marriage is a trap for most women? How most of us don’t find our fulfillment in doing the dishes and boosting a man’s ego? Yes or no?

And the list goes on from there. It’s the food, the fashion, the sex, even the violence reads differently with women as the aggressors and only sometimes the victims. We women are conditioned to see ourselves as potential victims, learning all sorts of ways to avoid male aggression. But on Killing Eve we see both feminine power unrestrained (Villanelle) and female invisibility (The Ghost) resulting in violence and the experience is… freeing? Watching Killing Eve is both scary and tantalizing at the same time. Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of Fleabag fame) and led by a different woman writer each season, the show mines women’s experiences, methods of communication, and worldviews to create something new and sexy and seductive. So maybe let your male partner watch it. But be prepared to have him understand you better in ways that might not be totally comfortable.

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Killing Eve Presents the Terror of Male Entitlement

Everyone has a weakness, even our favorite female assassin. From the moment we met her, Villanelle has been nearly bulletproof. Able to anticipate and manipulate any situation, she’s maintained her confidence and dominance, until this week’s episode. For the first time since Killing Eve began, we see Villanelle like never before — scared and vulnerable.

After stealing a new, more age-appropriate wardrobe from a laundromat, a wounded Villanelle finds herself perusing the aisles of a supermarket contemplating her next move. As she enters the frozen food section, she appears desperate and frustrated until she sees a nondescript man by himself. From the moment she innocently smiles and he hesitantly smiles back, it’s clear he’s her next target. In classic Villanelle fashion, she constructs a story of a damsel in distress, searching for a rescuer, and the man, Julian, quickly comes to her aid offering her a ride and a place to stay.

What happens next is unexpected. A female assassin whose finally met her match in the human embodiment of toxic masculinity and fragility. The moment Villanelle enters his house, she is faced with a frighteningly extensive collection of dolls. And this doll collection perfectly foreshadows Julian’s relationship with women.

Dolls in and of themselves embody the worst (and most petrifying) stereotypes of women. They are meant to be aspirational versions of young girls that you can dress up and manipulate for your own enjoyment. With delicate porcelain faces and tiny adult clothes, dolls are collected with the intent to only be admired. Obviously, if you view real women like this, you have a problem.

With Villanelle, Julian seems to believe he’s found a doll of his own. Although he insists he wants to take care of her, he continuously ignores her. As she begs for ibuprofen, Julian dismisses her, saying she’s being ridiculous and that she merely has a cold, returning only with flu medicine. The more she voices her concerns and needs, the more frustrated and dismissive he gets. Villanelle is not a wallflower, but unfortunately, with Julian she learns her only way to remain safe is to play the harmless, victim female role. He implements a similar system on his mother who lives in the house with dementia, locking them both in their rooms “for their own good.”

What’s truly terrifying about this episode is that instead of a dangerous Russian prison, this episode more accurately reflects the obstacles, both mundane and horrific that many women face everyday.

Meanwhile, Eve has returned to work with some new team members, Jess and Hugo. Hugo is a cocky and entitled-Eton grad who constantly questions Eve and her work — whether it’s helping her with a slideshow or interrupting her mid-sentence. While obviously not the same situation as Villanelle, Eve is experiencing the hurdles that many women face in the workplace from (annoying/patronizing male colleges). In the end, it’s satisfying watching Eve prevail as she correctly identifies that this new victim wasn’t’ killed by Eve but a new female assassin.

Killing Eve continues to use the narrative of a spy thriller to undermine gender stereotypes and expand the genre. This episode is specifically poignant as we see an example of the horrors that many real women fall victim to: men’s need for control and dominance. In the end, Villanelle escapes Julian, making me smile for all womankind as she stabs him. Eve similarly triumphs and as an extra bonus to us lady viewers, we receive a new great skin care routine courtesy of our favorite boss Carolyn Marten. (Google’s pigs’ placenta mask)

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Why I Can’t (And Won’t) Stop Talking about Killing Eve

I admit it: I am a Killing Eve evangelist. I tell anyone who will listen — unsuspecting muni riders, friends, and dogs alike — this is the show we NEED in these times. At this point, getting every person I know to watch is my unsolicited quest. Who doesn’t want to see Sandra Oh (Eve) portray a MI5 spy chasing a female assassin Jodie Comer (Villanelle)? I mean seriously. Who? I’d like to take this time to apologize to the airpod-wearing tech worker who definitely just wanted to peruse their Instagram feed on her commute home — sorry for making you listen to my impassioned monologue on how this BBC show might be the greatest piece of resistance art in the Trumpian era.

Killing Eve is a deliciously violent, modern, and comedic twist on a will-they-won’t-they tale of killer and detective. At its core are two women, a bored MI5 agent, Eve, and a self aware assassin, Villanelle. Their ever-evolving relationship breaks the mold of women-centered drama, managing to exclude the three M’s: marriage, motherhood, and makeovers. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film’s 2018 Boxed in Study “female characters were more likely than male characters to play personal life-oriented roles such as wife and mother” — so definitely not a spy and an assassin.

While Eve is married, her relationship doesn’t drive her and in fact, takes a to her true passion — her job of overcoming Villanelle and the conspiracy she kills for. And while the thought of a female driven spy/assassin show might ring some alarm bells, Killing Eve rejects the traditional roles action films and television have left women. This is not Charlie’s Angels or another Bond film: neither character is defined by their sex appeal and neither of them are the sidekick to a problematic male figure. The only fatal attraction seems to be between the women themselves and their strange infatuation with each other.

In season one, the creators of Killing Eve took their time with each character giving Eve and Villanelle the time to develop complex narratives and motivations while separate from each other. Slowly the show reveals the threads that connect Eve and Villanelle, whether it’s their shared ability to dissociate (comically so) or a sudden exhilaration when they discover they are in the same room. Season one is dominated by Eve’s quest to find Villanelle as she chases her using her latest victims as bread crumbs.

Their obsessions culminates when Eve finally catches Villanelle in her apartment. The two share an electric moment, both overwhelmed by their infatuation with one another. The dialogue could be mistaken for a high school rom com as the two confess their love for one another. Suddenly, right as the audience (and Villanelle) think they are going to kiss, Eve stabs Villanelle. Confused and shocked by what she has just done, Eve first attempts to try to save Villanelle before an equally shocked Villanelle starts trying to shot her and both women escape.

This is where season two picks up (exactly thirty seconds later as the title cards hilariously tell us) as Eve struggles to come to grips what she has just done and what it might mean. Eve narrowly escapes Villanelle’s apartment building, struggling to even recognize her surrounding as she admits to murder in front of a newly engaged couple. Oh is hilariously entertaining as she settles into her new found place as a-maybe murderer. She goes to a candy store, overfilling a bag with a glutinous amount of jelly beans and gumdrops, and quite frankly I’m not surprised. If there is anything we learn as children, it’s that candy always tastes good. Even after an attempted murder. This scene gives us a quick visual cue that Eve might be more similar to Villanelle than she thinks. In the iconic first scene of Killing Eve season one, Villanelle spills ice cream on a young girl. While buying candy, Eve stops a young boy from taking on of her gumdrops. Is it a throwback to childhood pettiness or do they simply both dislike children.This complexity reinforces one of the themes of the show where the lines between purely good or bad are blurred. While Eve heads to the train station, Villanelle stumbles through the city eventually throwing herself in front of a cab to get a ride to the hospital. Forgetting she still has the knife she stabbed Villanelle with in her pocket, Eve quickly exits the security line, deciding to throw away the knife in the most “bloody” ironic place: a sanitary napkin trash can.

Killing Eve is so enthralling and new because it dramatizes traditional women roles, subverting them with darkness and humor. See the scene where Eve is preparing dinner when her husband reveals she forgot to even take the chicken out of the fridge. It’s watching Eve’s older boss Carolyn Martens sitting with a child who hilariously turns out to be a stranger. It’s watching Villanelle escape the hospital in a wheelchair after telling a well-meaning security guard that she’s just been diagnosed with a terrible illness and simply needs some time alone. Watching security guard fall fall into the societal narrative that women are harmless and must be protected, feels like righteous revenge. Women are the drivers of this show and none of them are purely good or bad. Each is meticulously crafted, disrupting the assumptions and stereotypes we’ve been taught. Who knew a spy story would be the perfect vehicle to bend gender stereotypes? But it is.?

This is the brilliance of Killing Eve, the ability to be equally terrifying, hilarious, and poignant at the same time. It’s feels good to have Villanelle and Eve back in our lives for a second season. And if there’s one thing I know, women aren’t predictable and neither is Killing Eve.

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