Killing Adam: Feminism in ‘Killing Eve’

Picture of By Lara Gunturkun

By Lara Gunturkun

The most common portrayal of females in media include mothers and love interests. However, a female can be studious, workaholic and commit crimes. A female should be able to take pleasure in life without being called a slut. A female can be anything that they want to be, just like males. The BBC series ‘Killing Eve’ combines the perfectly-imperfect-qualities of people, and tells a cat-mouse chase between two women. This humorous and action-packed story takes a feminist stance by portraying females of all ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations as main characters with great determination to succeed at what they do. 


‘Killing Eve’, a television series created by Phoebe-Waller Bridge, tells a story about how all females are the main character of their own lives and have powerful influence over males. The story mainly focuses on two characters: Eve, a bored wife working as an MI5 Security Officer, and Villanelle, a psychopathic assassin who’s fascinated by women working for the evil organization ‘The Twelve’. Due to Eve’s obsession over finding Villanelle, Carolyn, another female protagonist, recruits Eve into her special division as an MI6 agent. Later in the series it is also revealed that the head of ‘The Twelve’, who is handling the female assassins, is a woman as well. 

Overall, there is a lack of male characters, and they are mostly dominated and manipulated by female characters. This is an interesting turn in television as usually there is at least one male character who’s the centre of attention. Especially when a female is the protagonist of a story, generally there is a male hateable nemesis, or a male romantic love interest. ‘Killing Eve’ replaces all these characters with female protagonists who have loveable qualities, but also includes female antagonists who have questionable motives. Thus, successfully displaying a world that does not need males neither to achieve peace nor to create chaos. 

The following sections include spoilers from ‘Killing Eve’.


killing eve
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri: BBC

Eve Polastri is a South-Korean/British individual from the United States. After getting married to Niko Polastri, she permanently moved to London, United Kingdom. As she has a degree in criminal psychology and is intrigued by finding murder patterns, she is not satisfied with her desk job. However, her husband, Niko, feels comfortable with having a homebody life. After Eve starts to get more active as an MI6 agent, Niko wants to leave Eve but also tries to work the relationship out. However, Eve catches feelings for the assassin, Villanelle. She tries her best to track her down while sacrificing her personal life. 

This storyline switches the gender roles in the classical narrative of a workaholic male, where the female waits for him at home and despises what the male has become. Regarding traditional entertainment tropes, it is more common that the male character is the one that cheats on their partner, or at least has another love interest. In ‘Killing Eve’, it is Eve who cheats on Niko – cheating is not encouraged in any way but it is reality as both sexes cheat – and neglects her personal relationships. 


killing eve
Jodie Comer as Villanelle: BBC

Oksana Astankova (Villanelle) is a Russian orphan raised by ‘The Twelve’ to become an assassin. She is well-known among the assassins under ‘The Twelve’, who are all women, for being psychopathic and extravagant while murdering her male victims. Throughout the series, she gets several male handlers besides Konstantin Vasiliev but ends up killing all of them. However, she hesitates while killing women and makes them suffer less. Her sexuality is never openly discussed but she is interested in women and particularly obsessed with Eve. During season 2, a rich man, Aaron Peel, offers to give Villanelle everything she wants; but she ends up murdering him anyways for being disrespectful. Villanelle’s desire for gender equality continues in season 4, as she murders several husbands for abusing their wives as per their request. 

Villanelle breaks away from the emotional and harmless stereo typification of females. She also shows that females are not as materialistic as described in popular media. Not all females will do everything for a diamond ring or Louis Vuitton shoes, but rather have the economic freedom to satisfy their desires. All we want is respect and confidence in our abilities. 


killing eve
Fiona Shaw as Carolyn Martens: BBC

Carolyn Martens is a British individual who is the Head of the Russia Desk at MI6. She is a mother of two kids, but since she is overly obsessed with her work, she neglects her children. She does not let her personal relationships get in the way of reaching her goals. Carolyn loves the power she holds over people, and is especially good at manipulating weak minded males. For example, she takes advantage of Konstantin when he is separated from his family, and lets him stay at her house in exchange for information about ‘The Twelve’. In season 4, it is revealed that Carolyn was one of the founding members of ‘The Twelve’, displaying her cold-hearted rationality.

Again, ‘Killing Eve’ achieves to portray a non-family oriented, less emotional and a powerful woman. These adjectives usually belong to male characters in popular media which are used to portray them as driven, while for females they can have negative connotations. However, Carolyn embodies these characteristics to prove that she is more than a mother and an older lady. Showing that there are many types of females that can be described in various ways.


killing eve
Camille Cottin as Helene: BBC

Hélène is French and she is one of the highest-ranking members of ‘The Twelve’. She is also a mother to a daughter, and just like Carolyn, she prioritizes her work life over her personal relationships. She has no-strings-attached type of relationships with many females while traveling the world. Since she despises how weak females are seen and treated horribly, her goal is to give females the power to defend themselves and act the way they desire to. She is also overlooked by her male colleagues, like Carolyn said “anyone would think a vagina was an invisibility cloak”; but she assassinates most of them, leaving the rest frightened for their lives.

‘Killing Eve’ addresses how females are described in real life, but also shows the solidarity between females. They capture how intimidating females can be if they break away from society’s beliefs.

 Females are not meant to be mothers or wives; it is their choice to be one.

Just like for males, it is alright for females to prioritize their work over their personal life. If males can have multiple one-night stands, females can also sleep with numerous partners. 

The Feminist Narrative

‘Killing Eve’ offers a new perspective on how female relationships work and displays a progressive definition of ‘what females can do’. It explains how females can have the same roles as males, which creates a feminist narrative that everyone must watch. If you have been feeling down and in need of a boost of motivation, Villanelle and Eve’s rocky relationship will definitely make you feel empowered. Have fun ruling the world, girls. 

A ‘Killing Eve’ playlist for inspiration by Lara Güntürkün (me)


Cover: BBC/Killing Eve

Edited by Patricia Beschea

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