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'Killing Eve'  Season 2 review: Still shocking and still funny, often in the same instance

Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in the BBC

Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in the BBC America series "Killing Eve." Photo Credit: BBC America/Aimee Spinks

SERIES "Killing Eve"

WHEN|WHERE Season 2 premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on BBC America and AMC.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT By the close of the first season, M15 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) had been fired by Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) from her off-the-books secret group formed to catch just one brutal assassin. But Eve had also finally cornered that assassin, Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in her Paris apartment. "God, I'm tired," Eve said while laying down on Villanelle's bed. When Villanelle lay next to her, Eve turned to stab her. Cut to … the new season. Carolyn still needs Eve, who needs to sort out in her own head exactly what happened back in Paris. Was it madness? Or was it love? Or does she just need a new set of expensive windows in her London flat? Meanwhile, Villanelle has escaped once again. She also has to sort through feelings — unexpected ones for someone like her.

MY SAY There was never any doubt that BBC America would order a second season of this sensation and so little doubt that the second was ordered before the first even aired. "Eve" — sight still unseen — was considered that hot a property, and for good reason, or reasons: Oh, Comer, Shaw and the rest of a superb cast, some of whom would find their characters in a pool of blood before all was said and done.

But the second posed certain difficult challenges that the first had set up, specifically that closing erotic scene, sealed by blood  and a twist of the knife. Eve changed in that instance, and so did Villanelle. The hunter became the assassin, the obsession turned to madness, as all obsessions must.

 And then … Eve looked up to see that Villanelle had disappeared. This second season picks up exactly thirty seconds after her vanishing act, but "Killing Eve" has clearly morphed into something new over that half-minute span. Not to worry — it's a good new, but new nonetheless.

Here's a hint of what that is. Villanelle remains Villanelle, or as Eve briskly condenses her, "she's flamboyant, attention-seeking, instinctive, spoiled, easily bored …" But this season there's a touch of vulnerability too. For Villanelle, the world's been a stage — her stage, her victims — but this season, it's more confined, cramped. She will have a new handler, a shorter leash. Eve too remains Eve, but also vulnerable, and forced to either confront or reject the wellspring of her obsession — a deep sexual, romantic and forbidden longing for just one person.

 If Eve and Villanelle were always destined for one another, then "Killing Eve" had to figure a way to break them apart. That's the counterspin of the second season, or at least the first two episodes. Eve is quickly brought back into Carolyn's orbit, and her secret M15 unit, because another stealthy assassin — also most likely female — is dispatching victims. Stumbling around Paris, then England, with a knife wound, Villanelle is hardly in any position to do what she does best. Roles, meanwhile, have been flipped: She must find Eve now. The hunted has become the hunter.

 There's an equally important change off-screen. The first season was distinguished by the acid wit of dazzlingly talented head writer and showrunner, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She's been replaced by a new head writer, Emerald Fennell — who also happens to be a prominent English actress, and about to become more prominent when she plays Camilla Parker Bowles in the third season of "The Crown." (Waller-Bridge remains exec producer.)

 But either by osmosis or sheer virtuoso talent, Fennell manages to bring all the wit and weird, brutal whimsy that Waller-Bridge brought to this in so much abundance. "Killing Eve" is still shocking and still funny — often in the same instance.

BOTTOM LINE New spin for a new season, but the black heart of "Killing Eve" remains intact.

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