CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: It’s Villanelle the softie dressed in jim-jams
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: It’s Villanelle the softie — and she’s dressed in jim-jams and a nightie
Every few years Doctor Who regenerates. Killing Eve (BBC1) has regenerated too, but no one remembered to change the cast.
Everything else about the show is different from the first series — the humour, the pacing, the costumes and most of all the behaviour of the central character, assassin Villanelle. She’s unrecognisable . . . except she’s still played by actress Jodie Comer.
It isn’t just that the woman who slaughtered her way across the screen last year in a designer wardrobe (and a pink nylon tutu with bovver boots) has spent the past two episodes in nightclothes — children’s jim-jams and a pensioner’s shiny nightdress.
It’s fallen a long way from the stratospheric standards that earned Killing Eve best drama, best actress and best supporting actress (plus another best actress nomination for co-star Sandra Oh) at last month’s Baftas [File photo]
Villanelle has lost her indomitable elan. She lets people walk all over her now.
When she was robbed in a launderette, her response was to petulantly knock over a box of soap powder. Once upon a time, she’d have stuffed the smug manageress into a washing machine and switched on the boil cycle.
Finding herself the prisoner of a middle-aged gent who tucked his cardigan into his trousers and had a house full of porcelain dolls, she spent half an hour panicking and pleading, before finally transfixing him with a knitting needle.
The old Villanelle could have murdered him in 47 creative ways before breakfast. Writing duties have been handed from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge to Emerald Fennell, who played Nurse Patsy in Call The Midwife.
Now scenes proceed at the sedate pace of a midwife’s bicycle. Gone are the blink-and-you-missed-it flashes of violence and mordant visual wit.
It’s fallen a long way from the stratospheric standards that earned Killing Eve best drama, best actress and best supporting actress (plus another best actress nomination for co-star Sandra Oh) at last month’s Baftas.
But it was far too good to become completely rotten overnight. There’s still lots to love. For a start, Comer and Oh remain mesmerising as the killer-for-hire and the reluctant British agent obsessed with catching her.
Then there’s the supporting cast, including glacial Fiona Shaw as the deranged spy chief and Nina Sosanya as her ambitious underling.
Julian Barratt, once the comedy partner of Bake Off’s Noel Fielding in The Mighty Boosh, was creepier than Norman Bates in drag, as the kidnapper who kept his mother locked in her bedroom. Quickly, somebody, write a period drama with Barratt as a serial killer.
Top Gear (BBC2) has regenerated, too, losing Matt LeBlanc and gaining former England cricketer Freddie Flintoff, plus presenter Paddy McGuinness. The banter with former racing driver Chris Harris was so fake the show ended with the trio wrestling over the studio floor
Best of all, Kim Bodnia is back as rogue Russian agent Konstantin. There’s no actor better suited to star opposite a weirdly charismatic, decidedly odd heroine . . . and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, track down a box-set of Scandi-crime serial The Bridge immediately.
Top Gear (BBC2) has regenerated, too, losing Matt LeBlanc and gaining former England cricketer Freddie Flintoff, plus presenter Paddy McGuinness.
The banter with former racing driver Chris Harris was so fake the show ended with the trio wrestling over the studio floor.
This format died when Chris Evans took over. Now it’s zombified. Surely the BBC execs hurling money at it, with the trio enjoying a lengthy junket to Ethiopia, must see that this is undead TV.
Every ad lib sounds over- written, over-rehearsed or more banal than the small talk in The Kabin on Coronation Street. ‘Sun’s out,’ said Paddy chirpily as they arrived in the blisteringly hot African town of Gondar.
When James May and Richard Hammond presented their final Top Gear, following Jeremy Clarkson’s volcanic departure, they did it with a stuffed elephant in the room.
Freddie and co should have featured a man flogging a dead horse.
Survivor of the weekend:
Sadistic Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) returned in The Handmaid’s Tale (C4), crippled but wielding her Taser to vicious effect.
We last saw her being stabbed and thrown down a staircase. Seems they make ’em tough in Gilead.
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