For four years, hit television thriller ‘Killing Eve’ has captivated audiences with the cat-and-mouse dynamic between bored MI5 agent Eve Polastri and skilled assassin Villanelle. Following their mutual fascination and obsession as their relationship develops, the series has - until now - been hailed for its complex representation of queerness and the toxicity of all-consuming bonds.
Like most fans of the show I was excited when its fourth and final season was announced, despite my misgivings. Season three’s ambiguous ‘will they, won’t they’ ending had already received criticism for queer-baiting, and I was apprehensive about where characters I loved would finish their storylines. Regardless, I had been happy with the season’s conclusion, preferring uncertainty over something cruel, exact, and final. Whether purposeful or not, uncertainty was a central feature of ‘Killing Eve’. Each new season arrived with a change of writers, whose individual interpretations of the show’s story and characters often resulted in a lack of continuity between seasons that made the disunity of the writer’s visions evident.
So when season four aired in February 2022, I was almost certain that the showrunners would not understand what season one had been building up to. That they would forsake the joyful ending that the excruciating relationship between Eve and Villanelle deserved, in favour of a ‘Bury Your Gays’ ending instead. For anyone unfamiliar – ‘Bury Your Gays’ is a literary concept that has existed since the 19th century, highlighting the prevalence of queer characters dying in media and being ‘punished’ for their love.
Come the series finale and… I have never been so devastated for a prediction of mine to be correct. After reuniting with Eve and finding happiness in the very same episode, Villanelle dies. A cruel kind of irony, to have love and death in such close proximity. Even aside from my own emotions about the finale, it’s worth noting that the novels the show is based on do have a happy ending. Neither of the main characters die and they aren’t punished for their love, instead permitted to finally exist together after so much pain and anger.
It’s a shame the show was not able to end in the same manner.
The continued shift in writers has likely resulted in this poor, unsatisfying ending. An ending that betrays the title, ‘Killing Eve’, and Eve’s queer narrative. From the very beginning, the show’s title was symbolic, indicating towards Eve’s spiritual death as she began her relationship with Villanelle, with each damaging decision she made implying a rebirth of sorts. In fact, because of this bond she shares with Villanelle, Eve is able to be selfish – and in doing so, regains agency and experiences catharsis as she breaks away from the repressed woman she used to be. Every decision she makes is rooted in desire and the explicit queer relationship between the two women is what allows this desire to bloom.
Not only does the death of Villanelle infuriate many long-time viewers of the show, it also betrays Eve’s narrative of liberation and self-discovery through her bond with Villanelle. The lack of understanding that the writer for season four, Laura Neal, exhibits for this idea at the heart of the show is evident in her interpretation of Eve’s reaction to Villanelle’s death. For the audience, it is abundantly clear that Eve’s screams are full of anguish and grief, for the loss of the person she loved, who was the catalyst for her freedom and desire. Instead, Neal states, “it felt really important that that scream be a scream of survival… It’s like “I survived. I’ve got a new life,” showcasing her complete misunderstanding and subversion of what Killing Eve was originally built off. It’s no wonder she believed Villanelle’s death would be a cathartic ending.
Overall, I’m just disappointed. That a queer show in 2022 would end so devastatingly is shocking. That the finale leans heavily on the idea that Eve and Villanelle should be condemned for their love, that they don’t deserve a joyful ending. It’s a tired trope that should be retired by now. It pains me to see a show that I previously admired for breaking conventions end up in the exact same boat as other media I’ve criticised. I that hope future showrunners are able to take this as a lesson: It’s okay for queer people to have happy endings.
In fact, they deserve to have happy endings.