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What Killing Eve’s Carolyn tells us about political anxiety in 2019

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Sarah Shaffi
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Killing Eve is not just entertainment, it also speaks to our current political situation, says Fiona Shaw.

With its story of a government agent chasing a quirky assassin, its gorgeous clothing and its showcasing of female talent in front of and behind the screen, Killing Eve is a bit of an escape.

Here at Stylist, we’re eagerly counting down the days until we can watch season two and find out what happened to Villanelle — played by Jodie Comer, who we named Entertainer of the Year at our 2019 Remarkable Women Awards.

But Killing Eve may not be quite the escape from real life that we think it is, according to one of its stars.

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In the programme, Fiona Shaw plays Carolyn Martens, the duplicitous MI6 boss who Sandra Oh’s Eve reports into.

In an interview with The AV Club, Shaw said she thinks Killing Eve, and particularly her character, plays into fears we currently have about the political situations in the UK and in America.

Maybe, said Shaw, the show “plays into some subconscious fears that are in all of us as we live in these terrible times”. 

The actress said Carolyn fits in well with what’s happening in the UK with regards to Brexit.

“So I feel Carolyn is a very good character for being part of what we in England are certainly experiencing, which is a world of the government falling apart, unable to hold a false notion of what democracy might be,” she said. “A kind of shallow, shabby, binary notion of democracy: ‘Yes, no, yes, no’ is not a democracy.”

But while the UK government is unable to decide on how to go about leaving the EU, Carolyn is much more decisive, said Shaw.

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“Carolyn has a much more sophisticated relationship to thinking, and we need more people who have more sophisticated relationships to thinking,” she told The AV Club. “Things don’t go ‘yes, no, yes, no’.

“We are not children and the world is not childlike, and it’s bad behaviour. So I think in that way it’s subconsciously does meet a few anxieties — and perhaps also in America.”

It’s a mark of how good Killing Eve is that it can be both pure escapist entertainment and a commentary on real-life political wrangling.

Here’s to seeing how it all develops in season two.

Killing Eve airs on BBC America now in the US and on BBC in the UK later this year. 

Image: BBC

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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