‘Killing Eve’ Head Writer on How Season 3 Is Darker, More Character-Based — But Still Filled With Fun Kills

Jodie Comer as Villanelle, Kim Bodnia
Paola Kudacki/BBC America

As “Killing Eve” enters Season 3, new head writer Suzanne Heathcote admits it’s getting tougher to sprinkle the show’s signature light-hearted moments into an increasingly darker storyline.

“The temptation can be just to put a fun moment in just for the sake of it being a fun moment, as opposed to it being about the character’s journey,” Heathcote says of the show, which returns April 12 on BBC America and AMC. “Often the actors will have suggestions as well, and they know the characters so well that they’ll come up with stuff that can be funny or interesting in that moment. It’s about finding the dark humor of it.”

Last season ended with a literal bang, as expert assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) shot — and presumably killed — the object of her infatuation, MI6 operative Eve (Sandra Oh).

Despite the show’s title, Eve is still alive as the new story gets underway — but it’s months later, and both characters are lying low and handling their trauma in their own way. Villanelle, who thinks Eve is dead, has somehow wormed her way into a new relationship — and even marriage. Eve, on the other hand, has isolated herself from almost everyone and is working as a prep cook in the back of a restaurant.

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Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve” Laura Radford/BBCA

“I wanted to know what happened to her emotionally in the time between her being shot and us seeing her,” Heathcote says. “I felt strongly that we really needed to see consequences. Not just for Eve, but for all the characters, including Carolyn. A huge amount has happened in the past two seasons, and those two seasons happen over a relatively short period of time. So I felt we needed to take a moment and take stock and see some of the effects of what happened, before we could launch into the new area that we were going to delve into for this season.”

Heathcote is the third head writer on “Killing Eve,” following the show’s plan of switching the show’s oversight every season. Heathcote says both creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Season 2’s Emerald Fennell were “both supportive” of her stepping into the role.

“Phoebe would always say, ‘It’s yours. Make it your own,'” Heathcote says. Yet, she adds that she “could always ask her about characters or certain situations. To have the person who created the characters on call is an amazing resource.”

By the end of the season premiere, a death occurs that may be among the most shocking things to ever happen on “Killing Eve” — and it forces Eve out of that cocoon and back into the world of MI6.

“I really felt something very significant personally had to happen to really pull Eve back in to that world,” Heathcote says. “It couldn’t just be professional — it would never be enough. It had to be something bigger than that.”

Meanwhile, for Villanelle, it’s a figure from her past that brings her back into the fold: Dasha, played by Dame Harriet Walter (“Succession”), a veteran assassin and mentor who shows up with a new opportunity. After two seasons of male handlers, Heathcote says she wanted to pair Villanelle with someone who gives her more of a challenge.

“She’s kind of met her match,” Heathcote says. “There’s a begrudging respect in the fact that Dasha had been great in her day, not that Villanelle would ever admit that. But I was really keen to explore that female dynamic and have a fresh take on that handler relationship.”

Villanelle’s kills, of course, remain a hallmark of “Killing Eve,” and the show finds new, twisted ways for her to off her marks. “If anyone was to see my Google searches they’d be absolutely horrified,” Heathcote says. “But you don’t want to make it too James Bond-ian. Sometimes we came up with ideas, like a glass-bottom boat, but then we realized, it’s too glamorous, it’s too slick. The joy of the show is it has a grit to it. So it’s finding that fine balance and thinking of inventive ways to kill people at the same time.”

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Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve” Des Willie/BBCA

“Also, what we tried to do this season was [look at] how the kills and who Villanelle is killing affect her personal storyline,” she continues. “Villanelle’s not in remorse or empathy or anything like that, but how is that mirroring what’s happening to her in her life?”

“Killing Eve” was in the middle of shooting Season 3 last September when the show took a break for the cast and producers to attend the Emmy Awards — where Comer won for lead drama actress. The return to production thrust Comer into a Villanelle-centric episode, which will air as the fifth of this third season.

“We’re really taking that moment to explore that character and see her in a way we haven’t seen her before, and put her somewhere new,” Heathcote says. “It’s a side to her you would rarely see, that she wouldn’t let anyone else see. That was something about that we were excited by.”

And of course, much like previous seasons, there’s also the dance of keeping Eve and Villanelle apart — despite the fact that the show is ultimately about their dynamic. Early in the season, viewers see a scar on Eve’s back that is a physical reminder of what Villanelle did to her.

“I think it’s about how they could affect each other even when they’re not physically present with each other,” Heathcote says. “That scar on Eve’s back was, for me, something I could always think of. She’s carrying Villanelle physically in a way. Even though Villanelle might not be there, that’s present. So it’s really about that addiction to someone else. Finding ways to really keep that addiction pulsating through their individual stories, and knowing that, like any addiction, you can’t help but itch the scratch.”