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‘Killing Eve’: An Incredible Portrayal of Queerness

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

Queer portrayal is becoming much more mainstream, with the majority of TV shows on the air featuring at least one token queer character or gay power couple. However, Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, brings a new dimension to the portrayal of queer female love, one that is refreshing in all of its raw, ambiguous, rough, and tender glory. The show centers around a British intelligence agent named Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) who is hunting down an assassin, Villanelle (Jodie Comer).  Villanelle is killing prominent businessmen, politicians, and intelligence agents all over Europe.

Villanelle, a beautiful, stylish, ruthless sociopath, who is terrifying in her brutal capacity for violence, fulfills her tasks as an assassin while also keeping tabs on Eve, about whom she takes a particular interest in from the beginning. Unlike Eve, Villanelle is very open about her sexuality, and is shown with several partners of both genders across the first season. While sinister in her seduction of men, Villanelle is tender and almost loving toward the women she sleeps with, which is exactly the manner in which she pursues Eve. She also makes one of her female hookups pretend to be Eve, which, well, speaks for itself. From sending Eve clothes and perfume to smiling while watching Eve hunt her down, Villanelle’s attraction to Eve is apparent from the start. It is possible that Villanelle’s love for Eve is the purest thing about her, especially because her fascination seems utterly genuine—her love transcends her sociopathic tendencies.

Villanelle’s love of Eve also deconstructs strongly held notions of how to be a woman, and in particular, how to be an “attractive” woman. Eve is middle-aged, stuck in a marriage that makes her unhappy, an obsessive workaholic disinterested in fashion, makeup, and skin tight clothing, yet catches Villanelle’s eye. Eve is seen as sultry and loveable, despite what society might characterize as her “defects.” The essence of Eve, her work ethic, cleverness, and blunt independence are celebrated by Villanelle, even though they are exactly what would make Eve hated as a woman in patriarchal society.

In Eve, what begins as an obsession with a nameless assassin becomes an intoxicating enchantment with the cruel and intriguing Villanelle. One gets the sense that on the one hand, Eve wants to stop Villanelle, but on the other hand, she cares about her: cares to know her, to understand her, even to protect her. Indeed, one of the most telling lines of the show, by Eve to Villanelle, speaks for itself: “I think about you all the time. I think about what you’re wearing, and what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with. I think about the friends you have, I think about what you eat before you go to work, and what shampoo you have, and what happened in your family. I think about your eyes and your mouth, and what you feel when you kill someone, I think about what you have for breakfast. I just want to know everything” (IMDb). And let’s not even talk about  Eve’s homoerotic description of Villanelle’s face to a police sketch artist.

The oft-used lesbian troupe that other TV shows, particularly thrillers, bring to the screen is absent in Killing Eve. The hypersexualized, airbrushed, no-strings-attached girl-on-girl action used to draw in male viewers is gone. Instead, it is replaced by a twisted story of two highly imperfect women, who in the chase to annihilate each other, develop a raw, inarticulable attraction to each other. This attraction is also unique for TV: so often, shows like this feature lesbian sex scenes but dismiss the possibility of real love or lasting connection between the characters. In this way, Killing Eve brilliantly approaches queer representation.

Killing Eve is already revolutionary when it comes to its portrayal of female characters and especially queer attraction, but it also has the capacity to go a step further. The show may very well  do this in its second season, which premieres at some point this spring. The mere fact that the protagonists of this show are two unlikeable female characters with razor-sharp chemistry is incredible, but if the next season goes the way everyone seems to want it to (with Eve acting on her attraction to Villanelle) the result will be  spectacular. An imperfect, stubborn, obsessive middle-aged woman, one who doesn’t need to use her sexuality to get things done, who acknowledges her queerness, and acts on it? That is the sort of character that, until now, I’ve never seen on TV. And that’s pretty damn exciting.

Ava Ferry

Columbia Barnard '22

A Los Angeles transplant living in New York City, Ava is a freshman at Barnard College of Columbia University (the best college in the world), and she has no idea what she's studying. In her free time, you can find her watching Netflix, wandering around the city with her headphones in, reading Vogue, scream-laughing, and offending old conservatives with her uncouth language.