|Killing Eve character|
Sandra Oh portrays Eve Polastri
|First appearance||"Nice Face" (8 April, 2018)|
|Created by||Luke Jennings (Codename Villanelle novel); |
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve television series)
|Portrayed by||Sandra Oh|
|Occupation||Intelligence officer, agent|
|Affiliation||British intelligence (MI5, later MI6)|
Eve Polastri is a fictional agent working for British intelligence.
British author Luke Jennings originally created Polastri's character in an e-book novella series whose segments were published from 2014 through 2016, the series being compiled into the 2018 novel Codename Villanelle. In the novel's BBC America television series adaptation Killing Eve that premiered on 8 April, 2018, the character is portrayed by Canadian actor Sandra Oh.
Eve Polastri is a lead character in Luke Jennings' four-segment novella series (2014–2016), whose compilation forms his 2018 novel Codename Villanelle. The 2018 television series Killing Eve, created by British writer-actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is based on Jennings' novellas. In the television series, Polastri was born in the U.K., allowing her to hold a British government job, but raised in the U.S., explaining her Canadian accent.
In Killing Eve
Eve Polastri is an MI5 security operative whose job as "an intelligence agency grunt" once involved more paper pushing than intrigue, her intellectual curiosity going unrewarded and underemployed by her superiors. After being called into a meeting about a recent assassination, Polastri speculates that the killer is a woman and, after a series of plot twists, is tasked with finding the killer. The deskbound MI5 agent suddenly becomes an MI6 foreign intelligence operative.
Polastri becomes involved in a cat-and-mouse game with the psychopathic hired assassin Villanelle (portrayed by Jodie Comer), the two women becoming mutually obsessed and sharing what has been called a "crackling chemistry... between bitter enemies and would-be lovers". Agent Polastri tracks assassin Villanelle across Europe, not as hero and villain but as "two broken women whose flaws bind them together in a twisted pas de deux."
Polastri has been described as a competent professional going through "a bizarre, uncontrollable awakening" and as an "awkward, smart, not entirely self-aware woman with an impressive mass of curly hair". Though Polastri initially presents as if she were a comedic supporting character, her "steeliness" and other strengths manifest, even in situations in which Villanelle has the upper hand. Her "instincts and resolve have to make up for her inexperience and her tendency to scream like a terrified child in the face of danger". Polastri "remains bound to the notion of being right and doing right", and is much more down to earth and approachable than conventional crime-solver characters. Series creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge said that Polastri is an "Everywoman" to whom people can relate, wanting an easy life but craving an extraordinary one.
Actor Sandra Oh remarked that Polastri lacks super-spy skills and James Bond gadgets, but has good instincts and general sense, a head on her shoulders and determination. Though Oh said that honesty is Polastri's superpower, the character has been described as being "cursed with zero poker-face game, a hilarious liability for a spy". While characterized as "a highly capable hot mess, the kind of unlikely hero who's always just on the edge of moral ruination", Polastri's determination is said to make up for her lack of guile. Polastri is "Clarice Starling or Sherlock Holmes, but she’s also Lucy Ricardo or Selina Meyer".
Writer-showrunner Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained that Polastri has a "sense of self-consciousness and guilt" that cripples her—a perfect counterpoint to Villanelle, who, as Ashley Boucher noted in TheWrap, only does things that might bring joy. Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker that the way Polastri "slips in and out of the register of self-humiliation is one of the show’s great delights".
Though having a nice job and a loving partner, Polastri has been described as bored and impatient. Her obsession with Villanelle is "rooted in the potential of an alternate lifestyle" and "opens up an entry point into a new life" and Polastri is "flirting not only with another person but also with a version of herself that she sees reflected through Villanelle".
Actor Sandra Oh remarked that Polastri’s "darkness is not apparent at the very beginning (but) as her relationship (with Villanelle) continues to grow, ... she really discovers what’s inside of herself. ... So (if) your question is, would it be more fun to play the psychopath?, well, who says I’m not?"
Social, thematic and creative context
Judy Berman noted in The New York Times that while men in Killing Eve play traditionally female roles, Polastri and Villanelle's characters differ from those in conventional spy thrillers, which almost never cast women as both cat and mouse, both hero and villain. In this context, series showrunner Phoebe Waller-Bridge added that these particular women "don’t even have to see each other to feel each other’s presence", their connection being more complex than romantic relationships: "It’s sexual, it’s intellectual, it’s aspirational."
Observing that both Villanelle and Eve's worlds "betrayed and deceived them at every turn", Melanie McFarland in Salon delved into the women's complex relationship and wrote that their story "explores the kind of trickiness involved in navigating the world as a woman"; despite the growing connection, the "sisterhood" is "devoid of guarantees". Series creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge remarked that she "loved experimenting with how women can [expletive] each other up".
Willa Paskin wrote in Slate that Killing Eve is a story about "the literal dangers of underestimating women", including both Villanelle and Polastri: "of not seeing the woman who can kill you, underestimating the woman who can stop her."
Matt Zoller Seitz noted in Vulture that Oh's Korean heritage was "refreshingly incidental" to her part, and, like Eve's Canadian accent, is not central to the story but makes the show "feel as if it’s been warped in from some future date where colorblind casting is expected".
In June 2018, Sandra Oh was selected as the best actress on television by Vulture (a New York magazine-branded pop culture website). Vulture commentator Matt Zoller Seitz wrote that Oh's "is the performance of the year so far, in any medium. ... this is quietly revolutionary acting on a quietly revolutionary series". Seitz added that Polastri shows the most character growth of all the characters, and anchors the story to make the comedy-thriller "genre fusion" appear established and credible.
For her performance, Oh was nominated in summer 2018 for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, becoming the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for a lead actress Emmy.
In January 2019, Oh won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. The New York Times included Oh's and Comer's performances in its "Best Performances of 2018", noting "these two women are inventive about how to be funny in a thriller" and "make run-of-the mill embarrassment seem more lethal than any bullet". TV Guide named Oh's and Comer's performances as the #2 Best TV Performances of 2018.
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- "Villanelle Series (4 books)". Goodreads. 2018. Archived from the original on May 29, 2018.
- Scherer, Jenna (May 14, 2018). "Killing Eve: The Cracked Female Spy-Thriller Buddy Comedy of the Year". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 14, 2018.
- Paskin, Willa (April 10, 2018). "Killing Eve Makes Murder Dangerously Fun". Slate. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
- McFarland, Melanie (May 26, 2018). "Feminist thriller Killing Eve has proven a perfect show for the #MeToo era". Salon. Archived from the original on May 26, 2018.
- Berman, Judy (May 25, 2018). "Killing Eve: The Showrunner and Stars on the Love Story Behind the Sleeper Hit". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 25, 2018. Print edition title: "Two Broken Women, Bound by Their Flaws".
- Tolentino, Jia (May 27, 2018). "The Pleasurable Patterns of the Killing Eve Season Finale". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on May 29, 2018.
- Seitz, Matt Zoller (June 27, 2018). "The Best Actress on TV Is Killing Eve's Sandra Oh". Vulture. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018.
- Boucher, Ashley (May 30, 2018). "Killing Eve Showrunner on Why She Gender-Swapped So Many of the Book's Male Characters". TheWrap. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
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- Jung, E. Alex (August 21, 2018). "The Protagonist After decades in supporting parts, Emmy nominee Sandra Oh plays the hero in Killing Eve". Vulture.com. Archived from the original on August 22, 2018.
- Romano, Nick (December 6, 2018). "Golden Globe nominations 2019: See the full list". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 6, 2018.
- Morris, Wesley (December 7, 2018). "The Best Performances of 2018". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 7, 2018.
- TV Guide Editors (December 3, 2018). "These Are the 25 Best Performances on TV in 2018". TV Guide. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018.