KILLING EVE SEASON 2
The second season of Killing Eve had a lot to live up to, not least because its creator Pheobe Waller-Bridge stepped away to return to her previous series Fleabag, handing over the showrunning capabilities to Emerald Fennell, who will in turn be stepping down after this season and turning the reigns over to someone else next year. This consistent turnover in showrunners makes for potential unevenness from season to season, and this season was less surprising and amusing than last, in spite of continued good performances from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in the lead roles. After a great premiere that balanced Eve’s dark comedy and brutal violence perfectly, the show started to spin its wheels as Comer’s Villanelle slowly tried to get back to London to reunite with her beloved Eve, who had stabbed her at the end of last season and then run away. Now the two are more obsessed with each other than ever, and Eve is slowly starting to lose it as she wonders whether she’s the same as the happy go lucky murderer Villanelle. But the show somewhat clunkily made its way towards recreating the status quo of Season 1 (Eve and a new MI-6 team tracking down another assassin, Villanelle reunited with her Russian handler Konstantin), before turning on a dime to suddenly force Eve and Villanelle to work together on an MI-6 mission to target potential psychopath tech guru Aaron Peele (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). The season had good and even great moments strung throughout, which is why you can’t miss an episode, but overall it was a step down from Season 1, as you wonder just how long this cat and mouse game can continue (even the finale cliffhanger is kind of a repeat of last season’s). Aaron Peele himself was an intriguing wretch though, and a character who started to make me wonder how Villanelle would act alongside other psychopaths like herself, more so than with Eve, whose breakdown is getting kind of tiresome. Jodie Comer continues to be a wonder as the playful psycho, but she’s far too dangerous to be turned into an antihero, something I wonder if the show is attempting to move towards. Sorry, but that would be suspending disbelief a little too far.
BARRY SEASON 2
The other black comedy about an assassin that just aired its second season was Barry, and in contrast to Killing Eve, this show ascended from “really good” to “great” as it was ever more hilarious, shocking, brutal and unexpected in all aspects. The first season won two acting Emmys for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, who both returned in fine form, but this time the spotlight was stolen by standouts Anthony Carrigan as Hank, the world’s sweetest Chechen mobster, and Stephen Root’s Fuches, Barry’s former mentor, given a lot of juicy material to work with and delivering in every single scene. In a just world they would both receive Emmy nominations for their work this season. After killing Detective Moss at the end of last year, Barry resolves not to kill anyone again and recommit himself to acting, but freak incidents keep pulling him back into the mob world, even as he does have some success in pulling himself out onstage in the form of explorations into his violent past. We sort of get Barry’s origin story this season, as we see how his military background fueled his prone to rage personality, while Fuches is targeted by the continuing Moss investigation and Hank recruits Barry to train his incompetent hitmen. Even though Barry can get dark, intense and serious, every episode is still laugh out loud funny, never sacrificing comedy for drama or thinking one can’t be the other. Winkler’s role is far more dramatic this season, as Cousineau deals with Moss’ death, and even Sally (Sarah Goldberg) gets her chance to shine in an interlude with an abusive ex-boyfriend and an extended monologue about women in the industry near the season’s end that rivals Teri Garr’s in Tootsie. Bill Hader continues to challenge himself in every area from acting to writing and directing, most particularly a surreal episode about a hit gone wrong that goes to hilariously wild places from moment to moment. You never quite know what will happen on this show, and the combination of suspense, black comedy, violence and action, all packed into a tight 30 minutes makes for a season that was, for me, just about perfection. There’s nothing else like Barry on TV right now and I cannot recommend it highly enough.