If there is any decorum left in the world, the Game of Thrones showrunners will have just sent a gift hamper to Killing Eve. Because, just three years after Game of Thrones caught heat for delivering what was widely thought to be the worst series finale of all timeKilling Eve may well have just toppled it.
If you missed it, you missed one of the most abrupt endings to any series since Quantum Leap concluded with a brief caption explaining that the lead character never returned home (while also missing his name). The story, or what was left of it, was all cleaned up. Eve Polastri and Villanelle, having finally succumbed to the will-they-won’t-they tension, had defeated the bad guys and enjoyed a passionate kiss. And then, out of nowhere, Villanelle was shot and fell into the Thames and died, leaving Eve to scream in anguish as the words THE END filled the screen.
And, boy, are people angry about it. They’re angry about the deviation from Luke Jennings’ source material, which ended with Eve and Villanelle living together in happiness. They’re angry about the show’s reliance on the Bury Your Gays trope, in which gay characters are seen as more expendable than their heterosexual counterparts. Perhaps more than anything else, they’re angry about the shoddy storytelling and precipitous drop in quality. From every conceivable angle, it couldn’t have gone worse.
However, the Killing Eve finale might just be saved by one thing. The fact that I just had to describe the ending to you is a good sign that Killing Eve had become an irrelevance long before it ended. Which is a shame, because it started so well. The scripts (courtesy of Phoebe Waller-Bridge) were taut and sparkling with the sort of complex female longing that doesn’t often make it to screen. It revived Sandra Oh as a going concern in Hollywood. it made jodie eat into a star overnight. For a while, Killing Eve was all anyone could talk about.
But slowly that all fell away. Waller-Bridge left after the first season, to better concentrate on world domination. The second (still very good) season was run by Emerald Fennell, who left to go and win an Oscar. But this churn meant that the audience had to recalibrate to a third point of view in as many seasons, which is an exhausting thing to do, and this year’s fourth season brought on yet another. Every behind-the-scenes change gave the audience a new opportunity to dance, and most of them did.
It all contributed to the sense that killing eve was just a stepping stone, a thing people did on the way to bigger and better things. Oh has moved on to Pixar movies and hosting the Golden Globe awards, while Comer is already happily carving out a career as a leading lady of note.
Now, I have to be honest here. I didn’t enjoy the final season of Killing Eve at there. Its focus was all over the place, as if it had forgotten why anyone liked it in the first place. But, that said, I kind of loved the ending. The way it clattered to a halt on such an unrepentant eff you – one character dead, another screaming and not even a hint of a denouement to help viewers process their shock – was one of the most boldly absurd things I’ve seen in a long time. I actually laughed out loud at the audacious bluntness of it all.
But there’s a reason for my reaction: like plenty of others, I haven’t really cared about Killing Eve for years now, which meant I could watch the finale with a kind of detached amusement. Those who clung on to the program through thick and thin won’t have my level of detachment. You have to be massively invested to forgive a degradation in quality this obvious, and so the only people standing at the end were Killing Eve diehards. To them, the finale was an almost unforgivable betrayal. What a waste of everyone’s potential.