illanelle has found God. Of all the plot twists Killing Eve, now in its fourth and final series, could have thrown at us, this is one we didn’t see coming – that everyone’s favourite deadpan, dead-inside and dressed to kill psychopath (played by Jodie Comer) would suddenly find solace in the divine. And yet here she is, singing a choral arrangement of Primal Scream’s Movin’ on Up, wearing a chorister’s robe and ruff.
“Nelle,” as she is now calling herself, is preparing to be baptised by following the word of the Lord to the letter, serving up two fish and five loaves for the vicar and his daughter who have welcomed her into their home. Yet as the vicar points out, she seems to be more concerned with being seen to be dunked in the font than actually cleansing herself spiritually. “If you are baptised in a forest and no one sees you baptised…” she counters, with a smirky eyebrow raise that hints that the old Villanelle is very much alive and kicking underneath the tie-dyed ‘What would Jesus do?’ t-shirt.
She has invited just one guest to her big baptismal bash, and no prizes for guessing who, because the cat and mouse power dynamic between Villanelle and former MI6 operative Eve (Sandra Oh) – and its constant reversals – remains the engine that drives this series. Eve, however, is convinced that she has become a “different person” since this odd couple’s last rendez-vous on Tower Bridge. She has started working in private security and has a new boyfriend, Yusuf (Robert Gilbert), who is ex-Forces and puts her in a headlock whenever they’re about to have a moment.
And yet… If Eve has moved on with her life, as she claims to Villanelle when they are inevitably reunited – on either side of a fish tank in a nice nod to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet – and to her former boss Carolyn (a reliably brilliant Fiona Shaw), who is briefly back in London after having been sidelined with a tedious job as the Majorcan cultural attaché, then why does she still have a secret cupboard filled with maps and photos? All of which seem to relate to her crusade against The Twelve, the shadowy group of power players that has become Killing Eve’s de facto ‘big bad’ without us… really knowing anything about it at all?
Carolyn’s news that someone is bumping off the remaining members of that very organisation is enough to make Eve stop pretending she’s a new woman and get back to doing what she does best – in this case, awkwardly staking out potential leads, like a young mortician (Anjana Vasan) who might be linked to Villanelle’s old boss, Hélène, played by Call My Agent!’s Camille Cottin – there’s a great moment when Eve spots her, based solely on a tip-off that she “looks very French.” And Villanelle’s Damascene conversion doesn’t exactly look built to last either (our first clue? A cat named Lucifer that meets a very grisly end). Perhaps reinvention, as psychiatrist Martin (Adeel Akhtar) puts it, really is just a “form of avoidance.”
It’s now tradition that a new series of Killing Eve means the baton is handed over to a new female showrunner; this time it is Laura Neal, who has previously worked on Sex Education and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. After a slightly baggy and ponderous third season, Neal – who wrote some of its stronger, later episodes – seems to have re-captured much of the spark of the early series, with sharp dialogue and a knack for placing the show’s characters in comically incongruous situations: we see Villanelle in a broken down coach outside Hemel Hempstead, and Hélène joining a crowd of tourists at the Tower of London.
She’s adept at fusing the banal and the horrific too, as evidenced by one watch-through-your-fingers scene involving a ceramic hob in the second episode. Still, it’s Comer and Oh’s performances that have kept us watching this far, and they remain the biggest reason to tune in, making Villanelle and Eve’s will they, won’t they dance captivating even when we’ve seen the steps before.
Series four of Killing Eve is on BBC iPlayer from February 28.