Review: Why Killing Eve has lost none of its sharp wit and ability to shock

Aidan Smith rounds up the week’s TV – Killing Eve, Devs, and On the NHS Frontline
Jodie Comer as Villanelle. Picture: BBCJodie Comer as Villanelle. Picture: BBC
Jodie Comer as Villanelle. Picture: BBC


I was searching for a metaphor for Killing Eve (BBC1) to demonstrate how clever I am when Kenny reached for a packet of Haribos.

Aha, that’s it – brightly-­coloured, sharp and sour, and before you know it you’ve scoffed the lot, just like what happens when this show’s available for streaming.

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Seconds later Kenny picked up a Rubik’s Cube, one of those brightly-coloured, infuriatingly complex puzzles, and I was thinking, this metaphor lark is easy – but guess what happened next?

Kenny was glimpsed flying past his window, high up in the tower block. I didn’t expect that, but in Killing Eve you don’t. You have to be on your guard permanently because likeable characters can be rubbed out faster than a Piers Morgan interruption. For the first episode of season three, I was out of practice.

Kenny is, or was, the son of Carolyn, the MI6 head with the best wardrobe and the best lines, but a weakness for cheese puffs and a total inability to snare Villanelle, the sardonic psychopath on a pan-European killing spree.

The opener flitted from Moscow to Barcelona to New Malden, London to Girona to Skinflats, near Grangemouth. OK, not Skinflats, but you wouldn’t put it past this black comedy’s daring. It thinks it’s great and it usually is. When Villanelle spotted a fellow train passenger reading Nordic Noir, she snorted. Kids’ stuff compared to Killing Eve was what she meant.

Some reckon the show has gone off the boil now it’s no longer scripted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but I’m still enjoying it and that’s without Villanelle and Eve even being in the same town right now, never mind prowling round each other like the tango-with-knives dream-team that a same-sex Strictly Come Dancing would, well, die for.

Carolyn is played by Fiona Shaw. I used to see her looking severe in photographs accompanying reviews of ultra-serious stage productions and wonder “what does she do for laughs – Ibsen?” But she’s having the most fantastic fun here and has now been joined by fellow Shakespearean actress Harriet Walter as Villanelle’s old mentor. Reunited at a wedding, teacher and pupil launched into a cat-fight every bit as thrilling as Dynasty’s big shoulder-padded showdown, Alexis versus Krystle.

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I struggle with sci-fi, but persevere. William Gibson’s newest dystopian saga Agency sits among the books by the bed, imagining that Donald Trump never happened, but 80 per cent of the world’s population have been killed. So I was looking for comfort blankets in Devs (BBC2), things reminding me of the safe, banal present. Well, safe until a few weeks ago, anyway. Thus, the narrow wooden bridge a computer whizz called Sergei walked across to his new job resembled the one in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

And the building housing the secretive development division of his tech firm – the Devs – had walls fashioned from gold, so I was imagining this is what Kim Kardashian’s scullery looks like.

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Based in a forest near San Francisco, the plant is presided over by a 50ft doll. The boss is a beardy weirdy closest in appearance to Erlich in Silicon Valley, but with none of the latter’s sarky lines.

Sergei secured his promotion to super-nerd by being able to see ten seconds into the future, but the company were nervous because he’s Russian. Unfortunately ten seconds was just about all he managed in Devs. He logged onto his computer and right away a vein in his forehead throbbed. “Is this theoretical?” he asked a colleague. It wasn’t. “Then it literally changes everything.” He ran, but was caught and killed.

What a relief. Devs, written by Alex “The Beach” Garland, lost me many times before then. I moan constantly about the number of murder mysteries on TV, but am glad this has turned into one. Devs is dark as hell and I’m hooked.

Finally, it’s OK everybody, Ross Kemp’s here. I’m always relieved when I see the black T-shirt of the bullet-headed bruiser from Barking, Essex and for his latest mission my favourite, fearless investigative journalist was going On the NHS Frontline (ITV).

Normally, Ross loves war zones, getting into camouflage, addressing everyone he meets as “Sir”, learning the names of the guns and, when the assignment is over, re-packing his kitbag with his fist.

There was none of the macho stuff here, and Kemp was almost apologetic about being inside the Covid-19 wards of Milton Keynes University Hospital. And quickly overawed. And soon fighting back the tears.

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One of the doctors, who had been floored by the virus before returning to 12-hour shifts, said his staff were on a “war footing”, but Ross didn’t milk this. The senior nurse said “don’t call us heroes”. Ross tried, but she was having none of it. There was no opportunity for melodrama and his usual baldly going. Our man simply stood back and admired.

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