Sorry, baby. Killing Eve is over. And it ended in the worst possible way. Be warned: major spoilers ahead.
The final episode starts off well. Villanelle and Eve become a couple. They kiss. They go on a roadtrip. They pee in front of each other. They team up to hijack a pleasure cruise and take down Villanelle’s former employers, a league of assassins responsible for countless murders. Afterwards, they stop to share a cinematic kiss as the boat approaches London Bridge. And then it all goes tits up.
Villanelle is shot. She ushers Eve to safety, and together they leap into the River Thames. Another bullet tears through Villanelle. And her corpse is pulled away by the current. Eve surfaces, distraught and alone. The End.
Except this isn’t how Killing Eve was supposed to end. As anyone who has read the source material knows, Luke Jennings concludes his thriller trilogy with Eve and Villanelle together. They are happy, safe with new identities, and sharing an apartment in St. Petersburg. Villanelle studies linguistics at university. Eve has a career as a translator, which funds their holidays around Europe.
In the original books, Villanelle and Eve get their Happily Ever After. Which makes it doubly disappointing that the show robs them of this beautiful life together. Laura Neal, who wrote the final season of Killing Eve, claims that Villanelle’s death “felt right.” But for many lesbian and bisexual viewers, it picked the scab off an old wound.
The problem is, this twist isn’t a one off. Killing Eve is just the latest in a long line of TV shows to kill off sapphic characters the moment they find happiness with another woman. Think of Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, gunned down after she and Willow reconciled; The L Word’s Dana Fairbanks, who succumbs to cancer shortly after she and Alice admit their true feelings; Commander Lexa of The 100, who becomes Clarke’s ally and lover only to be shot to death.
There are countless examples of the Bury Your Gays trope. So, it’s significant that Villanelle – who had more lives than a shelter’s worth of cats – is killed off only when she and Eve got together. Even within the world of Killing Eve alone, the writers seem incapable of imagining any kind of happy ending for gay or bi characters. Bill – Eve’s friend and mentor, a new father – is murdered on a dancefloor during the first season. And back in season two, before she grew a conscience, Villanelle kills off the hapless twink who is apprenticed to her. Fernanda, a chaotic and charming bisexual, dies for no real reason at Pam’s hands.
Then there’s Carolyn’s father, a “super gay spy” who has been alluded to throughout the series. To begin with he existed as a punchline, yet another source of wry one-liners for Carolyn. But in the final season’s flashbacks we learn that “a penchant for the penis” was his downfall. Carolyn’s father fell hard for another man. He was photographed kissing his lover. This blackmail spells the end of his career, and threatens to tear Mr. Martens’ reputation to shreds – the late ‘70s wasn’t a great time to be gay. And so, to escape the shame, he ends his life.
Killing Eve built a loyal fanbase by blending intrigue with same-sex desire. But their treatment of LGB characters has been consistently dreadful. And it is damning that Villanelle’s death in the Thames is framed as a moment of renewal for Eve. Neal, who wrote the finale, says “It felt right that Eve has this rebirth and is allowed to go on and forge a new life for herself.” As if a previously straight character needs spiritual cleansing because she entered a relationship with another woman.
Neal even denies Eve’s grief for her girlfriend. When Villanelle dies, Eve begins to scream as soon as she surfaces. “For me,” says the writer, “it felt really important that that scream be a scream of survival. There’s a triumph in that scream. It’s like, ‘I survived. I’ve got new life. I’m going to go on, and I’m going to live, and I’m going to live well,’ rather than a scream of loss or grief or anger. And I think it’s all of those things as well. But I hope the defining feeling that people have when they’re watching her scream like that is that it’s a kind of release of everything that’s come before and a welcoming in of the next stage of her life.”
But “release” from a loving relationship is not a happy ending. And that loss is terrible, not something to “welcome.” Every narrative choice matters. Through positive representation, we imagine new possibilities for ourselves and the world around us. But Killing Eve has always buried its gays. And this litany of dead LGB characters sends a terrible message to viewers: that our joy is fleeting, and we will be punished for it.
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