SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “God, I’m Tired,” the first season finale of “Killing Eve” that aired Sunday, May 27.
In just eight episodes, BBC America’s “Killing Eve” established itself as a whipsmart, terrifying, hilarious force to be reckoned with. It was exciting to see creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge breathe life into the spy thriller genre, if unsurprising given the brilliance of her series “Fleabag.” It was spellbinding to watch Sandra Oh as restless agent Eve in her first major TV starring role since “Grey’s Anatomy,” if unsurprising given how good Oh has long proven herself to be.
For all of “Killing Eve”’s twists and wicked turns, the biggest surprise to come out of the show was Jodie Comer. The British actress slipped so effortlessly into the skin of spellbinding assassin Villlanelle that she made it almost impossible to hate her –which, given just how many people she kills in cold blood, is a feat. Watching Comer adjust to Villanelle’s every whim has been one of the year’s best TV treats; the season finale features a reaction shot I immediately rewound three times just to see if I could catch every fleeting thought that seemed to shoot across her face.
As Villanelle and Eve got ever closer to finding each other, their obsession with each other — equal parts intellectual and sexual — grew until it consumed them both. And in the season finale’s truly horrific last scene, Villanelle finally lets her guard down when Eve admits that she can’t stop thinking about her – but just as Villanelle thinks they’re about to consummate their relationship, Eve stabs her right in the gut. (And no: that’s not a metaphor.)
Ahead of the gamechanging finale, Variety spoke with Comer about finding the humanity in Villanelle, working with Oh, and what she’s hoping for from season 2.
Did you have an idea of how this season was going to end?
No! To be honest, you can never guess what Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] is going to write next, which is what made getting the scripts so exciting.
What’s been the most satisfying part of playing a character like Villanelle?
She’s so multifaceted. She’s a pretty complex person, but she’s also very free. She doesn’t have many rules, she kind of just does what she wants to do and is very comfortable in her own skin. I had to try and figure out how somebody can have so little remorse for what they do. But it’s just been so much fun. It’s hard not to have fun with her. She is “the villain,” but she’s kind of lovable in her own strange way.
You often play her as childish, even though she can also have this seductress vibe. Is that something you talked about developing with Phoebe?
It was something that Phoebe spoke about, and it comes out an awful lot when she’s around Konstantin [Villanelle’s handler, played by Kim Bodnia], who’s kind of the most normal relationship she has in her life. But I think she’s also so used to getting her own way. [When she acts out] it’s like when you tell a child “no” and they throw their toys out the pram. Villanelle has a tendency to do that, because she has and wants control over everything in her life. So when that doesn’t happen, we see that child in her.
Was it a surprise that, in the finale, Villanelle actually does shoot Konstantin and leave him for dead?
Their relationship changes so much throughout the series. She realizes that he’s actually keeping an awful lot from her, and their loyalties do get put to the test. I’m going to miss Kim, who’s just the greatest guy ever. But I also don’t know where season 2 goes, so it depends on what happens next. Who knows what actually happened. But I think their relationship is so special. You can see that they care for each other. Even if Villanelle seems incapable of doing that, you can tell that it pains her a little bit when she says she has to kill him. It’s maybe the first time we’ve actually seen her like that.
You’ve played so many different sides of this character. Are there any you’d like to explore more in season 2, or parts of her history you’re still curious about?
In the first part of the series, she’s got her life all together, which obviously changes by the end. I’m quite interested to see how that affected her, or if it does. Is it something she can forget about easily again? Will she just try and pick up her life? I’m definitely most intrigued about the relationships. Like what happened with Konstantin and Eve in season 1, how is it going to affect her going forward? I’m also just really excited to see all the disguises that she has! I hope there’s more dressing up and deceiving people, which I’m sure there will be. That was just such a fun thing to do. Some days you feel like you’re playing different people, which you don’t usually get to do when you’re playing one character.
Did you have any favorite personas or disguises?
I loved the murder in Berlin. That was pretty fun. Also the one in Italy, that was our first to film when we were in Tuscany, and I was like, “oh my god, I’m going to have to speak Italian,” so I remember being completely terrified. Ooh, and also when they go to do a kill in the countryside, and she introduces Nadia and says her name is “Fanny.” That’s not so much a disguise, but it was fun.
My personal favorite was her wearing a Konstantin beard, to be honest.
Oh, the beard! I forgot about the beard! Okay, scrap all that, it was definitely the beard. I just found myself always stroking my chin, and people were like, “you are getting way too attached to that.” So, I can see why men grow beards.
Is there anything that really helps you get into character?
For Villanelle, from the start I always thought she’d have a distinctive smell, like a perfume. You’d always smell her before you see her. Like when someone was in a Lyft or an elevator and you can smell the perfume, but they’ve already left. So I bought a perfume, and it was really strong. Quite masculine, actually. Sandra used to always say she could always smell it around. She said she sometimes finds it distracting if I’ve been on set and I wasn’t meant to be there, and she’d smell and it and be like, “Oh hi, Villanelle!”
The season finale’s last scene between Villanelle and Eve is so shocking in so many ways. Since so much of the show depends on that dynamic, but you’re also rarely onscreen at the same time as Oh, what’s it like when you come together for a scene like that?
It’s lovely. I mean, there is such a tension when we do scenes together because our characters speak so much with each other but we spend very little time with each other on set. So when we do get together, it does feel like there’s an energy that we’ve built up to for those moments. And Sandra’s brilliant. When we did the dinner table scene in episode 5, it was quite physical and had a lot of props and food, and she made sure we got all the props so we could run it through. It seems obvious, but usually you don’t really have that luxury, you just have to pretend. Her generosity is huge, and we have a lot of fun.
Our relationship, Villanelle and Eve’s, is also still something we’re figuring out. It’s kind of fun to not have all the answers, you know? Because as they encounter each other more and more, their feelings — whatever they are — intensify. Part of what I’m really looking forward to in season 2 is where that goes, what that relationship is.
That devastating switch when Villanelle thinks they’re about to have sex to getting stabbed, is there any coming back from that? What was she thinking in that moment?
It’s a really interesting moment, because Villanelle let her guard down. That’s such a big moment in the series, because I don’t think she ever allows herself to get in a situation like that — but she does with Eve. So, god, I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know! I can’t see her letting that go without a little bit of revenge. I don’t think she lets things slide easy, Villanelle. And getting stabbed? That’s a pretty big deal.