By: Laura Denby
Season three of the BBC’s darkly comic thriller Killing Eve is drawing to a close, with only one episode left to air. It's been as eventful a season as ever, but with one notable difference - a spate of survivals seem to have overshadowed the show's murderous trademark.
Killing Eve has always thrived on shocking us with calculated yet brutal killings, mostly dealt out by Jodie Comer – captivating as ever as Villanelle. From her vicious stabbing of Eve's friend and mentor Bill (David Haig) in a Berlin nightclub onwards, part of what has made the show so unique was its unflinching ability to move on casually from one hit to the next, fixating on the actions of the assassin rather than the victim.
The brutal dispatching of Kenny (Sean Delaney), thrown from a roof in the season three premiere after getting a little too close to assassins' guild The Twelve, was – no pun intended – a killer opener. But ever since, Killing Eve's regular characters have felt untouchable, with anyone we suspect to be next on the writers' hit-list implausibly cheating death.
As the series opened, we had already expected Eve’s full recovery after she was shot by Villanelle - after all, what would a show be without its title character? But the opener’s passing mention of Hugo (Edward Bluemel) suing MI6 for "injuries incurred" after his own shooting immediately deflated the intrigue about his disappearance at the end of the previous run.
In the season's third episode, Villanelle had the perfect opportunity to kill Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) but she also dodged a bullet. The unravelling yet cryptic Carolyn has remained a key part of the story as she tries to solve Kenny’s murder and hunts for Villanelle, and we love Fiona Shaw in the role, but there's no question that her death would have had long-lasting ripple effects for the show and potentially opened up interesting new plot avenues.
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Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), meanwhile, has now survived two brushes with death. He was shot by Villanelle in the season one finale, only to turn up alive and well once the story resumed. In the latest instalment he described all the people who wanted to kill him - from his ex-wife, to Carolyn’s daughter Geraldine (Gemma Whelan) and the Twelve - before suffering a heart attack... and reappearing in hospital, alive and well, soon after.
She may have abandoned him, but it was clear that Villanelle would have been distressed by Konstantin’s demise. They were about to start a new life together, so taking him away for good seems like a missed opportunity to turn her life upside down again.
In the hospital bed next to him was Dasha (Harriet Walter), who managed to look rather alert considering she had been beaten with a golf club by Villanelle, then had her ribs crushed by Eve. Yet still she lives too, presumably to go back to Russia just as her goal was all along.
Speaking of Dasha, she couldn’t even manage to slay the long-suffering Niko (Owen McDonnell), Eve’s now estranged husband. Having headed to Poland, Niko still couldn’t escape the danger that had been brought into his life. He was stabbed through the neck with a pitchfork, in a failed attempt by Dasha to frame Villanelle and turn Eve against her.
It seemed obvious that this was the end for Niko. Following the cliffhanger, executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle even implied that Niko had a limited shelf life, explaining that he "had it coming for a very long time".
Sure, fans were stunned when he instead escaped with his life, but killing the character off would surely have opened up more intriguing story possibilities. While Eve has been a terrible spouse, she clearly loves Niko; so his murder could have made her all the more unstable and unpredictable.
We certainly didn’t see it coming last season when, encouraged by Villanelle, she swung an axe at the hit-woman's one-time handler Raymond (Adrian Scarborough), but bolder moments of finality like this have certainly been lacking lately, and with a fourth season already confirmed we have to wonder if Killing Eve will rediscover the fearlessness that made its earliest episodes stand out.
We’re not suggesting that Killing Eve should exclusively be a killing spree. But it needs to go back to basics and remember what made it so fascinating in the first place – right now, what was once one of TV's most unpredictable dramas is making it way too easy to guess what's coming next.
Killing Eve debuts new episodes on BBC iPlayer every Monday from 6am, and airs on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One – check out what else is on with our TV Guide