Killing Eve season 4 ended with a bang – literally – but the fan reaction to the series finale clearly wasn’t what the creative team had hoped for.
Showrunner Laura Neal opted to conclude the spy-assassin romantic drama with the execution of one of the series’ two leads, Jodie Comer’s Villanelle. That probably would have been controversial enough, given how beloved Villanelle is as a character. But the specifics of her death – gunned down by an unseen sniper in the final two minutes of the episode, just after finally finding happiness with her love Eve – led (rightfully) to an especially intense level of backlash among viewers.
In fact, the uproar over Villanelle’s sudden, shocking demise left Killing Eve fans drawing comparisons to the finale of Game of Thrones, in that it became pretty universally hated by audiences. (Currently, the Killing Eve finale is rated even lower than the GOT finale on IMDb, sitting at a 2.8 out of 10 at the time of writing. Game of Thrones has a 4.0.)
But truth be told, Killing Eve went wrong in season 4 before it betrayed its characters and its fans in the final minutes of the series. As one of the show’s disappointed fans, here’s why I feel the final season fell apart.
Killing Eve Season 4: The Botched Beginning
For many fans – myself included – Killing Eve season 4 immediately got off on the wrong foot. The season 3 finale of the show left Eve and Villanelle in such a new, distinctive place in their emotional journeys and character arcs.
Eve finally admitted her own agency in unraveling her life, realizing she couldn’t just keep blaming Villanelle for all her mistakes. (“I think my monster encourages your monster.” / “I think I wanted it to.”) She also appeared to admit – at least somewhat – the extent of her feelings for Villanelle, and the idea that their lives would always be inexplicably linked. (“When I try and think of my future, I just see your face over and over again.”)
Villanelle, meanwhile, met Eve at the bridge after beginning her own path of self-discovery. She was ready to be more than just a killer. And she was ready to prove to Eve her love could be selfless. When she instructs Eve to walk away from her, it’s in direct contrast to the Villanelle from the end of season 2, who would rather kill Eve than let her leave.
When the duo walk away, but share a significant look back, we as the audience know: This split isn’t forever. We know – as do Eve and Villanelle – that their lives will remain tied together in some way.
Then, season 4 kicked off with a time jump that seemed to completely disregard Eve and Villanelle’s narrative progress. When we reconnect with Eve in 401 “Just Dunk Me,” she’s inexplicably back to being angry and resentful towards Villanelle. Which was just incredibly jarring, given where we saw her last. What happened to make Bridge Eve turn into this Eve?
I won’t lie, dear reader. I fully had my clown makeup on when the series started. I was surprised at first that the series didn’t pick up with a clear indication of what happened after the season 3 finale, but then I convinced myself this was done to feed into a more dramatic mid-season reveal. I told several people I fully believed episodes 4 and 5 would have flashback scenes that revealed what happened between Eve and Villanelle in the interim between the season 3 finale and the season 4 premiere.
Those flashback scenes never came. And a full season later, audiences never got an answer for how Bridge Eve became Angry Season 4 Eve.
Following the show’s conclusion, showrunner Neal said in an interview with Decider, “In terms of the time jump between end of Season 3 and start of Season 4, for me it just felt exciting to hit the ground running. I liked the idea of not knowing what had happened in the interim and finding these two characters in different emotional places and having to play catch up as an audience member.”
…which, okay. I totally understand the idea that narratively, it can be a good move to withhold information at first to keep your audience intrigued. But if you don’t provide those answers eventually, your audience isn’t playing catch up. They’re playing a random guessing game (and never even receiving the answers). How is that good storytelling?
The baffling choice leads me to what I think the core problem of season 4 was: that Neal & Co believed that Killing Eve could only work as a certain kind of story. The kind where Eve and Villanelle are at odds. The kind that fundamentally believes the narrative only works if these women are kept apart. So, Neal did keep them apart – even when it didn’t make sense to do so anymore.
And it’s true that keeping Eve and Villanelle separated has driven most of Killing Eve and kept it compelling. That push-and-pull, will-they-won’t-they, cat-and-mouse element is fundamentally ingrained in the DNA of the series. But I always think back to what original showrunner Phoebe Waller-Bridge said about Killing Eve after its first season: “Every moment in this show exists so that these two women can end up alone in a room together.”
For me, this is simultaneously the fundamental truth at the core of Killing Eve, and the fundamental misunderstanding of Neal’s. Because Waller-Bridge’s statement shouldn’t be taken as just a guide for how to map out an episode or a season of Killing Eve. It should be a map for the series. We had three seasons of buildup to get these two women alone in a room together. The final season should have shown us what happens in that room.
How we could have had it all
All that is to say, Eve and Villanelle should have started season 4 together. It just makes the most sense, from a narrative and a character perspective, following the events of the season 3 finale. Plus, I actually believe changing things at the top of the season would have made the same events that happen later down the line even more impactful. (But I’ll get to that in a minute.)
The first two or three episodes of season 4 should have seen Eve and Villanelle together, but struggling to navigate their new and unfamiliar dynamic while balancing their own personal issues. (You could still have Eve obsessing over the Twelve, and Villanelle on a quest to become good, because these two goals would ultimately clash and create conflict for the pair.)
It would have been the perfect opportunity to see that Eve and Villanelle want to be together, but haven’t figured out what that really looks like for them yet. We could see them fall back on some of their old toxic behaviors (lying, riling each other up, using cutting words to cover up emotional vulnerabilities) – reminiscent of Eve’s confession during the tea dance. (“We’d consume each other before we got old.”)
These behaviors, combined with the differences in their personal goals, would ultimately drive them apart by episode 3. This would set up the tension for the middle of the season, bringing back the “will-they-won’t-they,” giving audiences the drama of the separation. It would also still allow for Villanelle’s rejection of Eve, and Eve having to become the one to romantically pursue Villanelle for a change (by far one of the best things season 4 did, in my opinion). We would see Eve and Villanelle reconcile by episode 6, and set off on their mission to take down the Twelve together.
With at least two full episodes left in the season, we could have all the tender, domestic Villaneve moments from the finale at a better pace, as well as enough time to actually wrap up the Twelve plotlines in a more satisfying way.
Also, as much as I loved seeing Eve and Villanelle dive into a soft and loving dynamic in the actual series finale, I think these moments would have been much more impactful if we had seen them together but not acting like this earlier in the season. Showing Villaneve together in both darkness and light just seems like the most natural and accurate way to present their relationship. Plus, I like the idea that they would choose to make their relationship kind and loving in the end, despite how they’ve treated each other in the past. TL;DR we could have had it all in season 4, and instead we got this.
The Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Twelve Plotline
For me, the main reason Killing Eve never managed to recapture the glory of its first season is that every other season tries to sell the audience on a plot that isn’t just Eve and Villanelle. For Emerald Fennell, it was psychopath-techie-rich boy Aaron Peele. For Suzanne Heathcote and Laura Neal, it was the Twelve themselves.
And yes, I understand that Killing Eve is technically a spy series. But sometimes you have to wonder if the show itself ever really figured out what that meant.
In particular, seasons 3 and 4 of the series really leaned into the Twelve plot. As Eve, Carolyn, – and to an extent, Villanelle – set their sights on taking down the organization, the show’s central questions shifted: Who are the Twelve? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? And can they be stopped?
So, it’s just kind of unsatisfying that we never got a real answer to any of those questions in this final season.
I mean, what did we really learn about the Twelve in season 4? That they like chaos, and that they got their name because there were twelve of them in the beginning? Not only is that not enough information to sustain or wrap up a compelling spy story, it’s kind of embarrassing to think anyone could consider this a prestige-drama level of plot development. Two seasons of building up your Big Bads, only to have Villanelle kill them all practically off-screen in under 30 seconds? I’m honestly baffled as to how anyone could consider that a satisfying resolution. Even fans who are only watching for Villaneve and couldn’t care less about the Twelve plotline have to admit how deeply this narrative failed.
And while we’re talking “things that baffled me about the Twelve,” I need to bring up Eve’s confusing and inconsistent drive to hunt them down. By the time we get to season 4, what is Eve doing chasing them down anymore? Why does she even care?
I mean, I know she’s single-minded and obsessive, but come on. It just feels like that particular avenue of obsession doesn’t have any teeth for her anymore. I’m left thinking back to something Eve said in the show’s first season. After she loses her job at MI5 in the pilot, she meets Carolyn for breakfast in episode 2. Eve says, “She is outsmarting the smartest of us and for that she deserves to kill whoever the hell she wants. I mean, if she’s not killing me, then frankly it’s not my job to care anymore.”
Eve’s doggedness has never been about a sense of morality, but about how she feels personally connected to the death and destruction brought on by the Twelve. But after Eve gets her personal revenge on Villanelle, on Dasha, on Konstantin – what’s keeping her following the breadcrumb trail? (When she tells Carolyn in episode 6 “it’s not about Kenny” … okay Eve, then who is it for? I don’t understand!)
Still, Eve chasing the Twelve is a plot contrivance I’d be fine to allow suspension of disbelief for, if the season had just played out differently. (I did enjoy the parts of season 4 which framed Eve’s obsession with the Twelve as simply an outlet, a redirection to avoid confronting her feelings for Villanelle.) But again, the final season ultimately refused to provide any real answers about the Twelve, making Eve’s fixation on them feel even more hollow.
And that, of course, brings us to the end of it all.
The End Crafted By A Showrunner Who Fundamentally Misunderstood These Characters
When I first watched the Killing Eve series finale, the abrupt slaying of Villanelle left me in a state of denial. Surely, that can’t be it, I thought. They’ve put “The End” so harshly across the screen because they’re going to add a cheeky post-credits scene to show Villanelle lived, right? This is all part of some greater plot point, right??
That denial soon morphed into disbelief and then anger. Does this creative team really believe an ending has to be tragic to be good? Did they really think we would appreciate seeing one of our leads killed off in the last two minutes of the series simply as a “gotcha”? Are we really doing Bury Your Gays in the year 2022?
Then I started reading Neal’s post-finale interviews and realized, Oh. She never understood Eve and Villanelle, and she fully has no idea what she’s done here. The Killing Eve finale wasn’t just a blow because it reduced Villanelle to an unnecessary shock-value demise, but because the final season’s showrunner never grasped the true path for these characters.
Despite four seasons of episodes establishing the similarities between Eve and Villanelle (including the characters themselves directly pointing out those similarities), Neal apparently never saw them as the same. “Eve isn’t a Villanelle. Villanelle isn’t an Eve. They are not destined to become the same person,” Neal told Collider following the series finale.
And sorry, have we not been watching the same show? Isn’t the idea that Villanelle and Eve are just two sides of the same coin the exact central premise of Killing Eve? Did Neal’s own season not see Villanelle earnestly deliver the line, “In our bones, we understand each other?”
Neal further goes on to add that the finale scene in which we see Eve dancing while Villanelle kills the Twelve was about Eve “seeking life” while Villanelle “seeks destruction”. “Eve has rediscovered life in that moment, and she’s amongst human beings, people like her, and she’s remembering what the normal world has to offer,” the showrunner said to Decider.
But Eve isn’t like “normal” people – that’s what her entire character arc has been about! She wasn’t truly normal back in season 1 before she even met Villanelle. If all Eve wanted was a normal day of fun with normal people, she would have looked as joyful as she did dancing when Yusuf took her to do karaoke literally two days earlier! The point of seeing her cut loose on the dance floor should be to show how in accepting her feelings for Villanelle, she’s finally accepted herself, so now she can experience real joy again.
Not only did Neal apparently not understand Eve and Villanelle’s similarities, she never believed they could find happiness through one another… despite literally writing a finale episode that said otherwise.
“When they’re in the van together, they’re kind of like, “this is what a sort of mundane future would like for us, can we do the domestic? Can we be like Maggie and Donnie?” And the answer I think is, “No, we can’t,”” Neal said.
That’s incredibly frustrating, not because it’s unreasonable to assume Villanelle and Eve couldn’t be mundane and domestic 24/7, but because the episode in question literally spends 30 minutes showing us they can. We got very nearly an entire episode of pure domestic bliss, where we saw these two women genuinely, purely happy for the first time ever. Until the sniper at the end, nothing is really screaming “No, we can’t” in the finale.
All these unprecedented character takes align for Neal to land the final killing blow – when she refers to Eve emerging from the Thames having just seen Villanelle killed in front of her as “triumphant.”
“I hope that when ‘The End’ comes up [viewers] think that Eve is going to go on and have this amazing life,” Neal told Elle. “She can have the life that she chooses to live now.”
EVE LITERALLY WAS CHOOSING THE LIFE SHE WANTED TO LIVE WHEN SHE CHOSE VILLANELLE THOUGH?????
Again, I don’t know how the actual content in Neal’s season as showrunner can feel so out of alignment with her views. Isn’t Eve’s season 4 arc about her accepting her own darkness and her feelings for Villanelle? Isn’t the resolution of that arc in seeing Eve go to Gunn’s island to find Villanelle, tell her she wants to be with her, and ask her for help in taking down the Twelve, the last obstacle preventing them from riding off into the sunset to begin their lives anew?
If that’s not the point of Eve’s arc – to grow into a place of acceptance for her true self, and step into a new life as that person – what is the point? In Neal’s version of the ending, Eve just ends up back where she started – pretending to be “normal” again – only, what? Having suffered a bunch of trauma along the way? How is that cathartic for viewers or narratively satisfying for her character?
I said in my review of the series finale that Villanelle’s abrupt death played as a massive disservice to both her character and to fans, but it’s even more than that. It’s a disservice to Eve’s story too, and to everything Killing Eve spent four seasons developing.
Okay, Now Here’s Some Things I Really Enjoyed About Killing Eve’s Final Season
Killing Eve and Laura Neal really hurt me in the end, but I generally don’t like being this negative. And despite its faults, there were also things I truly enjoyed about the final season. So, here’s a look back at some of the best things we got out of Killing Eve season 4.
- Eve riding a Ducati and shooting Konstantin in the hand.
- Jodie Comer as Drag!VillaJesus (Not the plot of this, which was pointless. But the general look and the humor, at least.)
- Eve’s improved self-defense skills.
- Martin as the #1 Villaneve shipper and emotional MVP of the season.
- Villanelle’s “rainbow in beige boots” speech, and the way it parallels Eve’s confession at the end of season 1.
- The scorpion and the frog metaphor for Eve and Villanelle’s relationship.
- Carolyn and Villanelle playing Truth or Dare. (Since I’m pretending the last two minutes of the finale didn’t happen I’m still allowed to enjoy this.)
- Benita, my beloved.
- Pam, as a character. (She didn’t contribute enough to the overall plot, but I did like her anyways.)
- The parallels in Eve’s dynamic with Helene to her relationship with Villanelle, specifically in the way they’re used to show that Eve views the two women completely differently.
- The entire scene at the end of episode 5 where Helene has Villanelle shot and Eve loses her shit over it.
- Eve gently stroking Villanelle’s hair (which we know from many past examples is a specific form of comfort Villanelle craves).
- Flipping the dynamic to see Eve become the one romantically pursuing Villanelle, while Villanelle rejects her.
- The hilarious, chaotic, insanely charged Helene murder scene (one of my all-time top Killing Eve moments).
- Bringing back Bill and Elena in a karaoke-fueled flashback/emotional breakdown.
- Every soft, tender, loving, domestic moment between Eve and Villanelle in the series finale.
- The incredible acting throughout by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, which never disappoints.
I’m going to do my best to live in these moments, alongside the highlights from the previous three seasons of Killing Eve. When something you love comes to an end – tragically or otherwise – all you can do is remember the good times… And trust the hardworking folks over at Archive Of Our Own to help you carry on.