Killing Eve S1 and thoughts on serial killer shows

(Oh hi, I’m back. I’ve regretted not keeping up with my book reviews, but… well, sometimes good intentions don’t go anywhere.)

Spoilers for season one of Killing Eve below.

This show has been on my to-watch list since I first heard about it, and I just realized I had access to it on Hulu.

But oh man, I had forgotten that I can’t watch serial killer shows anymore.

I probably never really could, but I appreciated parts of The Fall and Hannibal, especially when I could hide behind my friend’s back for the grisly bits. But I also started having recurring bad dreams about being stalked by Hannibal Lecter or watching him mutilate people, knowing with utter certainty I was not going to escape no matter how I tried to hide. Not good.

I’ve always had an overactive imagination that’s been completely incompatible with horror movies. I accidentally saw The Ring in my teens and was barely able to get to sleep for several nights after, convinced I’d have a heart attack if ever the TV went to static.

But one of my favorite shows ever is True Detective (season one), and the difference is this: no murder scenes. Just top-notch writing and cinematography, and they never made us watch the murderer at work.

That unfortunately was not the case with Killing Eve, and I found it really distressing. Well, first there was a fascinating opening scene with Villanelle in that ice cream shop, and it was a brilliant character study that demonstrated her cruelty without murdering anyone.

But a few episodes later, I saw Bill’s death coming and I was so mad about it. They lovingly developed him into a genuinely funny, nice, interesting guy, one of the best male characters I’ve seen in ages, even gave him a baby and look, he doesn’t even shirk from childcare duties! And now we’re going to make him a total moron for a few hours as, despite all his career experience, he gets way too close to a suspected serial killer. What was he even hoping to accomplish by following her into that nightclub???

Those scenes (like the one where she uses the child to lure his grandfather to his death, dragging it out, even showing the boy discovering his body) get to me, and in order to get through it I try to emotionally distance myself by analyzing the storytelling.

That’s when I concluded that serial killer shows are fundamentally manipulative. Okay, all storytelling is manipulative to some degree, because it’s designed to draw you in and make you care about the characters and gives you a surprise one way or another, make you angry or make you cry or make you happy. But serial killer shows always rely on the same formula of getting you emotionally invested in characters they will then brutally kill off, sometimes making you watch, so that you share the protagonist’s anguish and eagerness for revenge/justice. And I fucking hate it.

The premise of such shows really does boil down to introducing you to an array of characters, some of them quite charming, and then you wait to see which ones will be murdered, and if you’ll have to watch it happen or maybe their bodies will be discovered right after the protagonist has a nice birthday party or something. It’s a surprise party and the surprise is ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD.

Watching that kind of show makes me sad, stressed, and anxious, and I have entirely enough of those feelings in the rest of my life! Especially as a politics addict. I’m already working on moderating my news intake to non-toxic levels for my mental health, and I think part of that is really prioritizing my fiction time on stories that are light, fun, non-stressful — that I fundamentally enjoy. (Hello, Schitt’s Creek and Brooklyn 99 and the Great British Bake Off.)

Also, I’m so squicked by serial killers that I am completely turned off by any romance involving them. Frankly, the more Sandra Oh’s character got emotionally involved with Villanelle, the less I liked her. And I was really fed up by the ending. She couldn’t even commit to killing her, god damn it.

In short, this was not the lesbian drama for me. And I can appreciate fucked-up relationships! My new favorite movie is The Favourite! But serial killers, no, I’m noping out.

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