Killing Eve
US TV

Review: Killing Eve 1×1 (US: BBC America; UK: BBC One/BBC Three)

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, BBC America
In the UK: Acquired by BBC One/BBC Three. Will air in 2018

These days, it’s perhaps hard to remember that the James Bond books were aspirational pieces of writing. Sure, they were about an MI6 spy – well, assassin really, given his licence to kill – but as well as being a classic example of ‘competence porn‘, their endless lists of foods, designer labels and airports were also windows on a world of luxury and international travel that a post-war generation of readers still on rations could never hope to see for themselves. Small wonder that the movies with their glossy location filming became huge hits for the pre-EasyJet generations, who now know full well that airports are not in the slightest bit glamorous.

Outside the John Le Carré world of spy realism, pretty much every male spy TV and film series has been the same aspirational idea, just redressed for a new generation or slightly different audience: the Bourne movie series is basically Bond again, but for liberal Americans, for example.

Aspirational female spies – and assassins – have been a little harder to find. Sure, there have been attempts, such as the Moneypenny books and Black Widow in comics, but possibly the best attempt so far has been Modesty Blaise, although the movie didn’t really set the world on fire, despite numerous charms.

Sandra Oh in Killing Eve

Jane Bond

One could argue about what an aspirational female spy/assassin would be, but BBC America’s new series, Killing Eve, offers one really good suggestion. Adapted from Luke Jennings’s Villanelle novels by Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it sees Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) playing a bored MI5 desk officer who begins to suspect that a series of assassinations around the world are the work of a female assassin. Even though, it’s not her job, she defies orders and investigates, resulting in tragedy – and possibly a new job thanks to MI6’s Fiona Shaw.

Rather brilliantly, even though the books are about Russian orphan-turned-assassin Villanelle – played equally brilliantly here by Jodie Comer (Doctor Foster) – Oh is the clear protagonist of the piece. That means we aren’t asked to identify as much with Villanelle and her job and can instead aspire to her rather wonderful lifestyle. She lives in Paris, speaks multiple languages fluently, and has designer bed linen and clothes.

But rather than be a simple blunt, character-less tool of the state like James Bond, or a seductive femme fatale without any desires of her own, Comer’s Villanelle has fun. She’s also fun herself. When handler Kim Bodnia (Bron/Broen) shows up at her apartment, she’s faked her own suicide – but not too well, as she doesn’t want him to believe too much, since it’s just a joke.

She’s also no mere male spy with the pronouns changed or a male fantasy. She does things that no male spy tends to do: she plays with children, for example. Can you imagine Bond doing that? She’s also more gymnast than ninja or member of the military. She shins up drainpipes like she’s in the circus, and when she’s forced to hide in a room without exits, she literally folds up her diminutive stature inside a suitcase. She listens to cool music, wears cool clothes, zooms around on motorbikes and is a delight to behold, even when she’s stabbing someone in the eye.

Small wonder that Killing Eve is all about the mutual fascination that Oh and Comer end up having for one another, Comer and her fun life being something that Oh could aspire to having.

Kim Bodnia and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve
Kim Bodnia and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

Spy humour

But Killing Eve is as much a comedy as it is a drama. Nevertheless, unlike most spy comedies, such as Austin Powers, ChuckSpy or In Like Flint, it’s not a spoof. Instead, this is a comedy of everyday life, of the office and of relationships. Oh and work colleague David Haig are annoyed to have to come into work on a Saturday – and are still hung over from Haig’s birthday party from the night before. Oh snacks her way through this important meeting and is worried that she’s not making the right impression with Shaw. Important conversations happen while buying milk at the corner shop, rather than over a shark tank.

I have to admit to really loving Killing Eve, with its mixture of spy glamour and spy mundanity. Despite being made by BBC America, there’s location filming all over Europe and it looks great. Oh’s a great lead and fits in with the British tone and humour. Comer, meanwhile, is a revelation – I don’t remember ever seeing her in anything, but here she dominates every scene when necessary, while disappearing into the background whenever the story demands it.

Even if you didn’t like Fleabag, there’s a good chance you’ll like or even love this. And it might even make you want to become a top female assassin.

Sofia Helin in season 4 of Bron/Broen (The Bridge)
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in April 2018? Including Bron/Broen (The Bridge) and Rod the Mod

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

My God, it’s full of films. Yep, the BFI’s April schedule is basically a stream of films. Fortunately, fellow TV lovers, there are two TV events. The first is the rescheduled ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ special from January, which will feature a documentary about Rod Stewart made before he was famous. Guess what – Rod Stewart’ll be there to watch it with you.

The second is a preview of the first episode of the fourth (and final) season of no less a show than Bron/Broen (The Bridge), which is making the move from BBC Four to BBC Two later this year. Guess what – Sofia Helin’ll be there to watch it with you.

Details after the jump…

Continue reading “What TV’s on at the BFI in April 2018? Including Bron/Broen (The Bridge) and Rod the Mod”

Audrey Fleurot and Marie Dompnier in season 2 of Les témoins (Witnesses)
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Les témoins (Witnesses), There’s… Johnny! and Babylon Berlin

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

With Thanksgiving largely knocking the US schedules for six last week, I’ve had the chance to play a bit of catch up. Okay, so Netflix played sneaky and released both Godless and Spike Lee’s update of She’s Gotta Have It, but fingers crossed, I’ll be able to have watched one (or even both) of those this week in time for next week’s Boxset Monday.

Elsewhere, I passed third-episode verdicts on Frankie Drake Mysteries (Canada: CBC; UK: Alias) and No Activity (US: CBS All Access) and reviewed the first episode of The Indian Detective (Canada: CTV; UK: Netflix). Tomorrow, I’m going to either review the first episode of or pass a fourth-episode verdict on Marvel’s Runaways (US: Hulu), depending upon how tolerable it is (“Six diverse teenagers who can barely stand one another must unite against a common foe… their parents” – this could be unbearable, but word-of-mouth seems good so far).

But it’s mainly the regulars I’ve had time for. After the jump, I’ll be casting my eye over the rest of the first seasons of Babylon Berlin and There’s… Johnny!. I’ll also be looking at the latest episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Mr Robot, SEAL Team and Travelers. We also steeled ourselves and finally got round to watching the series finale of Marvel’s Inhumans. Was it worth it? You’ll find out soon enough.

All that, after the jump, as well as a gander at one new(ish) show: Les témoins (Witnesses). See you in a mo, where you can tell us all what you watched, too. Go on – you know you want to.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Les témoins (Witnesses), There’s… Johnny! and Babylon Berlin”

Playwright Joe Orton
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in August 2017? Including What the Butler Saw and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

August is normally a quiet time for the BFI, as it gambles that everyone’s probably on holiday. Maybe this year it’s gambling that Brexit means we’ll not be able to afford to go on holiday, because there’s actually a surprisingly full schedule. Most of this comes from a season of works by playwright Joe Orton, but there’s also a preview of BBC One’s adaptation of Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)’s first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and a showing of ITV’s seminal The Naked Civil Servant.

Purely by coincidence, The Weekly Play this week is an adaptation of Orton’s final play, What the Butler Saw, which was broadcast as part of BBC Two’s Theatre Night in 1987. The play is a farce in two acts and revolves around Dr Prentice (Dinsdale Landen), a psychiatrist attempting to seduce his attractive prospective secretary, Geraldine Barclay (Tessa Peake-Jones). Also along for the ride are Mrs Prentice (Prunella Scales), her lover/blackmailer Tyler Butterworth, government inspector Timothy West and cross-dressing police officer Bryan Pringle.

Continue reading “What TV’s on at the BFI in August 2017? Including What the Butler Saw and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling”