BBC America’s new drama Killing Eve, which debuted on Sunday night, is already one of the most critically acclaimed new shows of the year, alongside HBO’s Barry and Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World. And, like both those shows, it’s tricky to categorize. Killing Eve at its core is a cat-and-mouse spy story between an MI6 investigator named Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and a glamorous assassin known as Villanelle (Jodie Comer). But it’s also variously a dark psychological drama about sociopathy, a feminist procedural, and a British workplace comedy that traffics in colloquialisms like dickswab, monkeydick, and heroin Polish. Villanelle as a character would fit seamlessly into a forward-thinking espionage thriller; Eve often comes across like a variation of Melissa McCarthy’s character in the Paul Feig comedy Spy.
Killing Eve’s sense of humor comes straight from its creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose 2016 BBC/Amazon comedy Fleabag is inarguably one of the best new series of the decade. Adapted from Waller-Bridge’s one-woman stage show, Fleabag is equal parts comedy and tragedy—an uproarious, filthy satire about a young British woman’s chaotic existence and sexual misadventures that gradually lets her violent self-loathing peek through. It’s hysterical, until it’s not. Killing Eve, which like Fleabag is mostly set in London, has the same irreverent sense of humor and the same intense exploration of the psychology of its lead characters. Here, those qualities don’t always come together with the conventions of the spy story in perfect harmony. But they do make something new, gratifying, and—in its finest moments—thrilling.