Undiluted, unpatronising and made by women – ‘Killing Eve’ is a revelation

Not only is it one of the best TV shows of the year, it thrillingly subverts conventions of the traditional female character. And it’s funny, too

If you’re a woman, it’s hard to get what you want, like respect, equal rights, agency over your own body and not being murdered. And most things that are made for women, even things we’re supposed to enjoy, involve a certain level of suffering: dieting, bras, exfoliation, difficult trouser trends, pink razors, ladies’ nights, fanny waxing, facial peels, high heels, highlights, websites that tell you you are doing everything wrong… (I would go on, but this is only a 500-word review).

So when, as a woman, you’re served something different, it’s a genuine revelation. Not a pinkified, Diet Coke-fied, tediously feminised, pour-me-a-Cosmo version of what women want. Not Mel Gibson in a dress finding out what women want. ACTUALLY WHAT YOU WANT. And it turns out that, for me anyway, one of those things is Killing Eve (BBC One).

Killing Eve has everything. It’s a stylish, funny thriller set in various cool European cities (tick!). It’s about an out-of- control Russian assassin (tick!). It stars the amazing Sandra Oh and the equally amazing Jodie Comer AND Martin from The Bridge! (all the ticks!). Best of all, it’s written and exec-produced with flair, mischief and daring by the magnificent Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who in my opinion should be writing everything on TV, including the idents for Channel 4 and the horse racing.

Experienced assassins discuss stuffing their bras with chicken fillets, and try not to let their psychopathy get in the way of a first date with a cute guy

Men reading this may say, ‘But I like that sort of thing too!’ I mean, duh, who doesn’t like assassins and stuff? But for women, Killing Eve feels like something else. Female characters that are rounded and exciting and breathe fire do not come along very often. Seeing women in dramas doing things that aren’t predictable is particularly energising. Sandra Oh wakes up screaming not because she’s an investigator with a traumatic past, but because she’s hungover and her arms have gone dead. Shakespearian actress Fiona Shaw is an M16 agent who spills her secrets by the dairy section in the corner shop. Experienced assassins discuss stuffing their bras with chicken fillets, and try not to let their psychopathy get in the way of a first date with a cute guy.

Killing Eve feels like very entertaining payback for decades of dead girls wrapped in polythene in the woods. All those scenes of men grabbing passive women and dragging them to various places to do despicable things to them; women being silenced, victimised, pitied and abused, it doesn’t have to be like that all the time, does it? This ties the whole genre to a swivel chair, shines a bare lightbulb on all the clichés, and gooses it, too. It feels so refreshing to see a drama that’s undiluted, unpatronising and made by women. Sounds cheesy, but it almost feels like it was made for me. Unlike a lot of other things. Like Bodyform, thongs, crop tops, eyelash extensions, spray tans, tit implants, contraceptives… (continued on page 457).

Killing Eve is available on iPlayer

Image: BBC