Warning: This piece contains spoilers from the Killing Eve Season 4 finale.
As an author, it’s a pleasure to have your work adapted for television, as my Killing Eve novels were. You’re never going to like everything the writing team does, that’s for sure. You are too close to the characters. You’ve lived with them in your head for far too long. But it’s a delight to see your story taken in unexpected directions, covered in a great soundtrack (thanks David Holmes and Unloved) and fantastically dressed (that unforgettable pink tulle dress by Molly Goddard).
And the actors. Who cares about plot details when you watch Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh do their thing, with sexual tension crackling and sparks flying? It’s an amazing privilege to see your characters come to life so convincingly. But the end of the series surprised me.
In the closing moments of the final episode, just hours after sharing their first real kiss, Villanelle is brutally shot and killed, leaving Eve to scream. We have been following their romance for three and a half years. The heavy looks, the tears, the lovingly fetishized wounds, the endlessly deferred consumption. When Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I first discussed the character of Villanelle five years ago, we agreed that she was defined by what Phoebe called her “fame”: her subversiveness, her savage power, her insistence on beautiful things. It’s the Villanelle I wrote, Phoebe turned into a screen character, and Jodie ran so gloriously.
But the end of season four was a bow to convention. A punishment of Villanelle and Eve for the bloody and erotic mayhem they caused. A truly subversive story would have challenged the trope that sees same-sex lovers in TV shows only allow the most fleeting relationships before one of them is killed (Lexa’s death in The 100, immediately after having slept with his female love for the first time, is another example). How much more darkly satisfying, and true to the original spirit of Killing Eve, for the couple to walk into the sunset together? Spoiler alert, but that’s how it seemed to me while writing the books.
Viewers sometimes see TV series ultra-fans as weird and grumpy, but for many young people living difficult and isolated lives, a show like Killing Eve can be a lifesaver. I recently heard from a young gay woman living in Russia. “Villanelle means the world to me,” she wrote. “She’s my heartwarming character, someone in whom I’ve found representation, understanding, freedom, strength and bravery. And I know no TV writer can take that away because she is ours – all of us – and thanks to your books and our love, it will live on forever.
I had learned in advance the outcome of the final episode, and I suspected, correctly, that the fans would be upset. But to those fans, I would say this: Villanelle lives. And on the page, if not on the screen, she will be back.