Spycraft After Ideology

Killing Eve created by Phoebe Waller Bridge

What’s a spy to do? Back in the day, there were only two teams playing the game: the capitalist democracy of the U.S. and its allies, and the communist super-state of the U.S.S.R. and its proxies around the globe. You played for one or the other, and if things got too hairy, you could always defect and cash in your intelligence. But now? The old game is gone, the players are working for whoever can hire them. Killing Eve, a Golden Globe-winning BBC program, portrays the kind of borderless, unallied work that today’s spies and assassins have to navigate to make a living. Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is a young woman, originally from Russia, assassinating various government officials and business executives, carrying out orders from her handlers. Why is she killing these people? What nation or conglomerate is authorizing these hits? She doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. Ideology holds no interest for her; she’s a psychopath who simply enjoys asserting her will over others. Eve (Sandra Oh) is an intelligence officer with MI6 trying to track down Villanelle. She’s a loyal worker, but she’s motivated more by her own curiosity than a sense of patriotic goodwill. These two characters, hunter and hunted, circle each other over the course of the series, drawing close before making a hasty retreat. Their respective positions put them at odds with each other. But each comes to see that the other is the only one in the world who truly understands her. When Villanelle breaks into Eve’s apartment in the dead of night, it’s not to kill her or download valuable information from her laptop. It’s to have dinner with her, to talk, to see if she senses their connection like she does. Without an overarching ideology to guide their actions, it seems that all that’s left for spies to do is fall in love.  

  • Adam’s work has appeared in many venues, including the Paris Review Daily, Electric Literature and Real Life. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and two daughters.

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