Was it always a game? It didn’t feel that way before season four of “Killing Eve,” which aired its final episode on Sunday, April 10. There wasn’t a sense of expendability or superfluity. Maybe that’s because there was a plot, not a series of yanks on a string — the fluff that has kept this season from being up to snuff.
“Stop what you’re doing,” a woman sings as the last “Killing Eve” title card flashes onto the screen. A drop of blood falls from the color-blocked “N,” but this episode, more than any other, plays into the sense that it could just as well be a tear. This is what makes “Killing Eve” exciting. Call it perverse, but the series mines a unique type of thrill from the interplay between love and death.
Throughout the fourth season, there’s been plenty of wasted airtime. Being told to stop what you’re doing isn’t quite arresting; at least not as arresting as the image of Eve (Sandra Oh) pushing in Gunn’s (Marie-Sophie Ferdane) eyes. Though, this is not enough to kill the assassin who, after the title card fades, emerges rather harmlessly from the woods with a machete in hand and her eyes gouged. But that’s not a particularly arresting image either — Eve has already gone down the rabbit hole, and she’ll do anything for Villanelle (Jodie Comer), but viewers know this inside and out. If there’s one thing this season has excelled at, it’s hitting that nail on the head over and over.
By the end of the episode, Villanelle lifelessly floats down the River Thames, Eve flounders in the water and Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) declares the scene “jolly good” before finally making her return to MI6. There is much talk of people “behaving exactly like you expect them to” in this episode, and that is precisely what happens. Carolyn suggests grief and remorse only get in the way of ambition; she says nobody can come back to MI6 empty-handed. Putting these two together, she decides to let Villanelle kill the Twelve, who are meeting on a boat before having her killed.
The episode ends bloody, murky and watery. Before the fourth season premiered, fans were told in interviews, to soften the blow, that this season would not end well for its leading lovers. During the middle stretch of this episode, it’s hard to find that true. Eve finally wins Villanelle over: The two of them spend the episode tracking down the Twelve’s meeting location with the help of Helene’s phone, sharing smiles and kisses in a camper van they stole. It’s something of a greatest hits for the couple, but it’s also a ride to the death. The finale is not a particularly cutting episode, either. The reunited couple road trip and listen to music — the episode hardly ever allows them any real connection.
Perhaps that’s the out the season’s writers were searching for. Their characters’ love is surface level, fleeting. Maybe viewers are supposed to believe that the couple would not last, even if Villanelle lived. There is, across the episode, an implicit understanding that someone is headed for the grave; Eve draws death in a Tarot card reading and Carolyn is clearly ready to sacrifice anyone to get back to MI6. Eventually, both parties arrive at the MI6 pub, where they indulge in something of a spy standoff.
But if that’s what this episode was going for, it doesn’t find its way there. It follows in the footsteps of a withered final season without the storytelling chops to stay afloat. More than anything, “Killing Eve” ends as a game. It plays with its audience’s expectations and positions its characters to try to out-maneuver each other. This season has, above all, sought to posit these characters as pawns in a game without a clear player.
Episode eight is titled “Hello, Losers.” It’s hard not to take that personally when this season has abdicated the show’s former interest in storytelling. Did anyone guess who would win? No? Too bad, losers.