Killing Eve’s psychopathic Russian assassin Villanelle has killed dozens of people since the show began, including her own mother, with some of the most inventive murders ever seen on TV.
But when we meet her at the start of the fourth and final series of the smash hit dark comedy, she’s trying to do something entirely different – be virtuous.
Fans may consider her beyond redemption, but over three series we’ve seen her take a deep journey into her own psyche – while bumping off her targets – as she tried to work out whether she could ever feel the way normal humans do.
At the same time she was being driven by her obsessive love for her nemesis, intelligence agent Eve Polastri.
In the series three finale she decided to take up the MI6 job offer she got long ago but said she didn’t want to kill any more, and the closing seconds saw Villanelle and Eve having a tender conversation on a bridge before going their separate ways.
And so to the sensational beginning of series four… and scenes so shocking you would barely have believed them possible.
Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), pictured ahead of series four of Killing Eve
Villanelle has joined a church and is living with the vicar and his daughter.
She’s preparing to be baptised and has learned parts of the Bible by heart. She’s even nice to the cat when it hisses at her.
But she’s desperate for a sign – either from Eve or, failing that, from God. It soon comes to her in the most surprising of ways.
‘She wants to be good in some way, whatever that means,’ says Jodie Comer, 28, who’s won both a BAFTA and an Emmy for her portrayal of this fascinating anti-heroine.
‘Whether she’s capable of it is one question, and who she’s doing it for is another. But I don’t think Villanelle really wants to be a good person.
People love Villanelle because it feels naughty
‘She’s obsessed by the thought of it, and she’s had so many people tell her she can’t be it, so she’s determined to prove them wrong.
‘If she sets her mind on something, she’s going to do it.
‘Hopefully the viewers can have fun with her trying to achieve that.’
Killing Eve has defied convention since it first aired in 2018. It was a niche show with a lead actress most people had never heard of, written by rising talent Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the four series have each been written by a different woman, this last one is by Laura Neal, who’s behind Netflix hit Sex Education).
Killing Eve’s psychopathic Russian assassin Villanelle (pictured) has killed dozens of people since the show began, including her own mother, with some of the most inventive murders ever seen on TV
But by the end of its first series, it had become one of the biggest TV hits in the world.
Amid a whirl of glamorous locations and designer outfits, and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, it followed Villanelle, a ruthless killer working for global crime syndicate The Twelve, and Eve Polastri, the agent assigned to track her.
Though Eve’s mission has been to stop Villanelle, the two women find themselves strangely drawn to each other.
It showed that murder dramas didn’t have to be conventional, with hard-bitten cops chasing men who prey on mostly female victims.
This is a show about women by women and it’s given us one of the most memorable female characters in TV history.
Quirky, funny and sexy, with an appreciation for beauty and fashion, Villanelle turns her hits into works of art.
‘People love her because they know they shouldn’t,’ says Jodie. ‘There’s a sense of danger in knowing you shouldn’t like this person but do.
Killing Eve may be focused on the hunter and the hunted, but many scenes have been stolen by Fiona Shaw as deadpan spy boss Carolyn Martens, pictured, who has a lover in every town, including Villanelle’s duplicitous former handler Konstantin
‘That’s attractive, it feels naughty. She acts on impulse and does what she wants, which is fun to watch. You can live vicariously through her.
‘I think Killing Eve has also contributed to a celebration of kookiness, spontaneity and the absurd. What I loved when I first read the script was that I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.’
Eve, played by Sandra Oh, has had just as thrilling a journey.
The pair have circled each other throughout, each wanting to kill the other but simultaneously attracted, too. In this final series, having seen her husband turn against her and some of her best friends killed, Eve has stopped caring about much apart from revenge on The Twelve.
While Villanelle is trying to change her ways, Eve has embraced her inner villain – and is really enjoying it. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever played a character who’s changed so much in such a short period of time,’ says Sandra, 50.
‘Eve’s not scared any more, she’s changed’
‘In the first episode of the new series we see that she’s come to a place of decisiveness.
‘What she’s been searching for hasn’t changed much, but her attitude towards it has.
‘She’s not scared any more; she’s moving towards it. She has The Twelve bearing down on her, she has to find a way through to her objective, even though they’re trying to kill her.’
Killing Eve may be focused on the hunter and the hunted, but many scenes have been stolen by Fiona Shaw as deadpan spy boss Carolyn Martens, who has a lover in every town, including Villanelle’s duplicitous former handler Konstantin.
Killing Eve will be available weekly from 28 February on BBC iPlayer and will air on BBC1 from 5 March
During the last series, we saw Carolyn’s icy facade shatter when her son Kenny was killed.
Like Eve, she’s determined to get her revenge on The Twelve, despite the world-weary side of her believing she can never win.
‘She’s been kicked out of MI6, but she’s pursuing The Twelve because she wants to know who killed her son,’ says Fiona, 63.
‘She becomes much more passionate. She was so cold and protected, and in these episodes she’s without her power, her glamour, her team. She’s just alone.’
The show’s locations have been as memorable as the grisly deaths, but filming this series proved tricky as the pandemic meant many places were impossible to fly to. So they created Cuba in Margate.
‘It was a huge task for our art department to re-create these tropical places when we were filming just a few hours from London,’ says Jodie. ‘The detail they went into was incredible.’
For all the cast, filming the final series of a show in which they have become a sort of dysfunctional family was bittersweet, but they know they’re going out on a high.
‘Villanelle means the world to me,’ says Jodie. ‘I got to explore so much through her; she gave me a fearlessness and a resilience. I found my voice on this show, because the producers always encouraged me to speak up.
‘I asked for a clapperboard at the end. It’s sad to think we’re not coming back, and I hope people will feel we’ve given them a satisfying ending. I’m a big believer in leaving something while it’s good.’
Killing Eve will be available weekly from 28 February on BBC iPlayer and will air on BBC1 from 5 March.