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.
Putting its titular MI5 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in the same space as each other midway through its first season, “Killing Eve” all but guaranteed an even bigger face-off by finale. In many ways, it was like Chekov’s gun. Seeds of chemistry were planted, but the bigger threat loomed for weeks as the first short season moved through the story fast, creating a two-way cat-and-mouse chase as Eve caught onto Villanelle but Villanelle also caught onto Eve.
“Every moment in this show exists so that these two women can end up alone in a room together,” “Killing Eve” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge tells Variety. “Really it would have been a betrayal to the audience if they didn’t come together in the end.”
Waller-Bridge shares that she wanted that initial meeting to occur early in the season so that the next one would be “forcibly more complex.” But, she adds, she purposely designed it to be “more like a tricky second date” than a “big, exploding set-piece.” After all, as the women chased each other, their emotions toward each other became confusing and complicated.
Because of this, Waller-Bridge says that while she was building Eve to get to a moment of violence, “it took me a while to work out that Villanelle would be on the receiving end of it.” Eve herself took a moment to work towards that as well. But ultimately Waller-Bridge felt Eve had to take action and stab Villanelle because “it prompted an impulsive, gleeful ‘Noooooooo!’ reaction” from herself and her team when she thought of it.
“Usually turns into a ‘Yeesssssss!’ when finding the right story. I love it when those moments land. They seem so obvious once you get there, but they can take a while to blossom,” she admits.
Still, Waller-Bridge adds she “wasn’t entirely sure” what should happen next. So she sat down to work through the scene with star Oh.
“That moment of ‘saving her’ came out of a wine-fueled, after-dinner spontaneous workshop of the scene with Sandra,” Waller-Bridge reveals. “Sandra and I were acting it out across my kitchen table… We mimed her stabbing me and then pulling the knife out… Then we both froze for a second, just feeling out what might happen next, then we suddenly both covered the imaginary wound at the same time and looked at each other utterly mortified — just like we believed Eve would once she took a second to realize what she had done.”
In fact, Waller-Bridge says that a lot of the first season was inspired by her stars.
“Sandra vibrates with intelligence. This meant that we could afford to leave Eve’s lightbulb moments to live in the subtly of Sandra’s performance. There’s a line she has, which is simply ‘I don’t like him’ about Konstantin. We don’t need to explain why. Sandra can convey so much with very little. We can believe in Eve’s intuition because Sandra imbues the character with such unselfconscious intelligence. It gave me more confidence to be sparse with her lines. She can also flip between comedy and drama brilliantly. That’s hugely fun to write for!” she says.
As for Comer, Waller-Bridge says she “just got bolder and wilder with Villanelle as the shooting went on. She filled that character to the brim. Having full faith that you can write something completely insane and your actress will ground it and make it feel real, is a very liberating feeling.”
Waller-Bridge compares the moment after Eve stabs Villanelle to “the moment after someone sleeps with someone they know they shouldn’t have.”
“They lose your mind in the headiness, they just go for it, then after they’ve actually put it in and taken it out again, so to speak, there’s the sobering moment of ‘Oh God what have I done!?’” she says.
But as dark and serious as Eve’s actions were at the end — punctuated by the fact that Villanelle escaped and may be more focused on the fact that Eve stabbed her, rather than that Eve tried to help her after she stabbed her — “Killing Eve” delivered a lot of humor this season, too.
Waller-Bridge believes such lightheartedness is vital in any show because it’s “tied up with pathos and is as usefully disarming as it is entertaining.” In the case of “Killing Eve,” she also thinks it helped her audience root for Villanelle — “because she makes them laugh.”
“It forgives a thousand murders!” she says.
But more importantly, Waller-Bridge was focused on creating witty characters because that would both ground some of the humor but also help celebrate their quirks. “You don’t often see a cross section of female characters interacting with each other at the top of a chain,” she says. “These little twists can refresh an old trope in a matter of seconds.”
Reflecting more generally on the season as a whole, Waller-Bridge says it was imperative to move the story fast because “the audience deserves to go on a ride.”
“So much TV is drawn out. I wanted things to actually happen in this show. I think audiences can feel when they’re being served a filler episode. We were determined not to fall into that trap,” she says. “Mainly it’s about keeping the element of surprise. It’s already surprising that it’s women chasing women…but on top of that, the story had to keep evolving in unexpected ways.”
And the first finale ending is just the start of that evolution, as “Killing Eve” has already been renewed for a second season. With Villanelle no longer in Eve’s line of sight, the possibilities for where the show — and the women’s relationship — can go are vast.
“She has crossed a line with Villanelle and with herself,” Waller-Bridge says of Eve. “I think both are threats to Eve going forward. There is no question that she will be haunted in some way by both from this moment on.”