Picking up almost immediately where its much-ballyhooed first season concluded, “Killing Eve” deftly continues the cat-and-mouse game that made this BBC America series one of 2018’s most pleasant surprises – an espionage caper loaded with dry wit, dark comedy and two splendid central performances.
That would be Sandra Oh, who picked up a Golden Globe for season one, as the MI6 analyst Eve Polastri; and Jodie Comer as Villanelle, the shadowy assassin who Eve rather abruptly stabbed at the end of season one.
Still, it’s going to take a lot more than that to stop Villanelle, whose flight – in her wounded state dominates the early episodes – while Eve tries to sort out just exactly who she can trust, in a world that’s more dangerous than the office-bound life to which she had been accustomed.
Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is having quite a moment as an actress (she stars in her other series, “Fleabag”) and creative force, “Killing Eve” features some genuinely shocking moments, thanks largely to Villanelle’s mercurial nature. Because you’re never quite sure what she’ll do – and how far she’ll go – the show has a genuine sense of menace, mixed with the disarming humor that comes from Villanelle rolling her eyes and throwing tantrums like a pouty teenager.
Eve describes her quarry as being “flamboyant and attention-seeking,” not usually qualities one sees in this line of work. Yet that’s precisely what gives “Killing Eve” its freshness, and connected well enough with viewers that the show has been promoted to air both on BBC America and its bigger sister network AMC. The latter could certainly use a hit, and might have found one, improbably, with this hitwoman, for however long Waller-Bridge and company can tease out a dynamic that’s delicious, yes, but difficult to sustain.
Then again, given that the business of TV is about attention seeking, the network might have found the right women for the job.
The same can’t be said for “A Discovery of Witches,” which will make its network debut (after a streaming run) right after “Eve,” and simply feels too derivative and generic to be especially interesting.
Basically, it’s yet another foray into the supernatural with vampires, witches and a mysterious book that holds the key to, well, something, assuming viewers care enough to stick around to find out what.
Adapted from Deborah Harkness’ novel, the casting is the show’s best asset, with Matthew Goode (“Downton Abbey,” “The Good Wife”) as Matthew Clairmont, the vampire who comes into contact with Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a witch who is only vaguely aware of her powers, and even less clued in on her importance in the larger mythology.
There are just too many similarly themed series, frankly – on the CW and Netflix alone – to justify committing to another so-so one.
That’s not to say the show won’t have its loyalists, but it simply plays like a more grown-up version of “Twilight.” And while Clairmont keeps saying that he “craves” Diana, “A Discovery of Witches” appears at best to be an acquired taste.
“Killing Eve” Season 2 and “A Discovery of Witches” premiere April 7 at 8 and 9 p.m. on AMC and BBC America.