Queer spies are back in ‘Killing Eve’

Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in "Killing Eve." Nick Wall / BBC America

“Killing Eve” is back and queerer and deadlier than ever. Season 3 of the BBC/AMC BAFTA and Peabody Award-winning spy thriller debuted April 12. The new season opens with a grisly murder, a lesbian wedding and a bloody brawl.

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, you can still fall right into season 3 (and catch up on previous seasons on Hulu and AMC).

“Killing Eve” follows the intertwined lives of British intelligence investigator Eve Polastri (Emmy-winner Sandra Oh) and female assassin and gorgeous, woman-lusting sociopath Villanelle (BAFTA-winner Jodie Comer) as they do the most elaborate mating ritual in TV history.

While Eve thinks only of Villanelle obsessively, Villanelle is bedding women from Moscow to Barcelona to Paris to London with myriad stops in between. Still, the obsession is two-sided, and as Eve and Villanelle are on opposite sides of the spy game, the viewer is left to wonder who the bad guys really are.

A nuanced take on how intelligence agencies operate is one of many compelling facets of “Killing Eve,” a fast-paced, beautifully shot series wittily written by Emmy-winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The showrunner for season 3 is Suzanne Heathcote (“Fear the Walking Dead”).

The series begins with Eve as a plodding London civil servant at the British intelligence agency MI5 with a penchant for investigations above her security clearance. Then she’s fired for investigating and interrogating witnesses without said clearance.

But Eve’s firing led to what she really yearned for — a new life as a spy working for MI6. 

Eve’s new boss is the acerbic and fascinating woman of the world, Carolyn Martens (multi-award-winning Fiona Shaw). Carolyn heads the Russian division of MI6. She is as tough as they come, and she trains Eve relentlessly and rigorously. Soon it becomes apparent that Carolyn has hired Eve for reasons beyond her innate acumen for and love of investigation and spying.

It is Eve who uncovers the female assassin, Villanelle. And it is Eve who tracks her down. In season 1, Eve nearly kills Villanelle; in season 2, Villanelle nearly kills Eve. 

Now the duo is biding time until they inevitably meet again over a pile of dead bodies. Eve has post-traumatic stress disorder and is working in the kitchen of a restaurant and hanging out with Carolyn’s spy son, who is trying to help her get her life back on track by letting her cry.

Villanelle has just been married to a gorgeous, wealthy woman when her old trainer from Moscow, Dasha (the sublime Dame Harriet Walter), turns up at the reception. Mayhem ensues.

Without giving anything away, the new season hinges on a series of interconnected plot points and key questions. Does Villanelle know that Eve survived being shot? We are led to believe that the wedding is a celebration of Villanelle being freed from her obsession with Eve.

Yet a series of killings suggests otherwise. Or perhaps Eve — and the viewer — is just being paranoid. Or maybe there is another assassin in the mix because Eve and Carolyn had kicked over a hornet’s nest of assassins toward the end of season 2 that set a different series of complications in motion.

The plot has darkened considerably in season 3, with characters revealed as more broken than we thought. The opening episode is simply shocking. 

The dynamics between Eve and Villanelle, Villanelle and her handlers, Carolyn and Eve in “Killing Eve” has always posed a central question: Is murder different when women do it? The answer has been a resounding yes, but within that yes has been embedded a moral dilemma: Are women who kill more sociopathic than men who do? That throwaway line of female romance “I would kill for you” takes on a whole new meaning in “Killing Eve.”

Season 3 seems primed to answer that query in ways that are as unsettling as they are fascinating. Overlaid is another question: Can Eve and Villanelle ever truly be coupled? Or would that change them both to such a degree that we wouldn’t recognize either woman?

There are 10 episodes in season 3, and for now, the game continues —Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.