Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Killing Eve | Lefsetz Letter

They gave me a free subscription to Hulu so I could watch Beau Willimon’s “The First.”

The female lead was miscast and Sean Penn was so macho it was a turn-off. Penn needs to prove that a little guy can have cojones too, and you just have to laugh, he seems to take himself so SERIOUSLY!

But “Killing Eve” does not.

That’s the confounding thing, the tone, you’re not sure whether it’s serious or comical and then you decide just to run with it.

It was on BBC America and my e-mail implored me to watch it but to be truthful the commercials ruined it and after two episodes, we gave up.

But then I found out it was on Hulu, and I wanted to finish it before my three month subscription ran out.

Now “Killing Eve” is not as good as “House of Cards,” which Beau Willimon ran so well. “House of Cards” was the breakthrough streaming show just like “The Sopranos” was the breakthrough cable show. Oh sure, HBO had “Dream On” and “Larry Sanders” before, but neither of them pushed the format to the point where television eclipsed movies. I still remember Meadow manipulating her parents, telling them to punish her by taking away her gas card. It’s these little insights that bond you. Kids today manipulate their parents, they’re best friends with their parents, nobody in the boomer era EVER said their parents were their best friends, but today…

And “House of Cards” was full of wisdom.

And stunningly, “Killing Eve” is too.

First of all, it’s a small coterie of people who control the world. Forget whether Russia was meddling with the election, the fact that Trump knew these people and interacted with them begs the question…WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

But what if there are no sides. What if the same cabal runs the entire world. Especially those you’ve never heard the name of.

That’s one big point in “Killing Eve,” the TWELVE.

The other is the line uttered by Irina deep into the series, when she delineates the power of information, the world runs on it, and those who have it and can analyze it triumph in the end.

It works on every level, macro and micro. And you can use this information to manipulate or to take a stand but one thing’s for sure, you use it to discover where the game is going. He who knows this continues to play, he (OR SHE!) who doesn’t, is ultimately left behind.

That’s what ages you, when the game overwhelms you, when it’s just too much. When someone starts complaining about streaming and smartphones and social media, know that they’re on their way out, the game has overwhelmed them, they’re never gonna pass GO! and get two hundred dollars ever again.

And “Killing Eve” is a female-dominated show. It’s not about giving women male roles, but creating female roles and letting women shine.

Like Sandra Oh.

I know, she was on that medical drama. But I’ve never seen an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” That’s entertainment, I’m looking for life, the essence. And that was depicted in Oh’s starring role in her feature debut, 1994’s “Double Happiness.” Back when I used to read the reviews and go to the theatre, when being a fan of foreign and indie film was a pursuit, before Sundance led the studios into the territory and it all collapsed.

And sure, she’s got that wonderful hair, but first and foremost, Sandra Oh can act! Can do things with her face the models cannot. She illustrates acting is a profession.

As for Jodie Comer, she was hard to figure out. Was she too cute, or not quite beautiful enough. Was it her awkward, unbelievable smile? But when Sandra talks with Anna and you find out Jodie’s history, it all comes together.

And speaking of Anna, Susan Lynch embodies Russia in this role. She’s not classically beautiful, she’s got some miles on her face, she’s not stick thin, she’s a working woman, who is passionate and fulfilled by her work, but it doesn’t eclipse the absence of her husband.

And the episodes in Russia make the series. Maybe it’s just our preconception of the country, but the imperfection, the shabbiness, it rings true. And when I was there eight years ago, I was stunned that there was a window open in the Hermitage, right by a Picasso, whereas climate control is key in western museums, and our guide was playing the game of payoffs to get her daughter into a good school, and this is what makes art, when it’s more than story.

And when it takes you away.

Like I said, you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry, whether to be engrossed or skeptical, but eventually you go with the flow. It’s almost like a James Bond movie starring women, but with a Bond not as bogus as Roger Moore or as one dimensional as Daniel Craig.

And what is life anyway?

As Villanelle says, it’s about a great flat, a fun job and having someone to lie in bed and watch movies with. That’s it. Sure, accomplishments are fun, fame can pay dividends, but neither necessarily make you more happy.

And Villanelle wants to be happy. She can never quite get there, but she wants it so bad.

And so do we. We’re searching for it all the time.

A fun job. What a concept. Not a status job, or a well-remunerated job, but one that makes you smile and laugh. Is being an assassin fun?

To Villanelle it is.

So I’m not saying to put “Killing Eve” on your must-list.

And now that I’ve got Hulu I haven’t bothered to watch “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Funny, the bigger the buzz, the more I don’t want to catch up on it. If everybody’s watching it, like “Game of Thrones,” I don’t need to. I’ll catch up a couple of years after the series is completed, when it’s all not dribbled out episode by episode, when no one’s talking about it at the water cooler and viewing it will seem like going down into a rabbit hole alone, having a private experience.

But limits are being tested on television all day long. Sure, it’s overwhelming, sure there are too many shows, but it’s like having too many websites, no one complained about that during the advent of the internet.

Enjoy it. It won’t last forever. Just like blockbusters killed the movie business. Imagine if there was no “Jaws,” no “Star Wars,” imagine if film continued to be about real life, story…

Then you’d have television.

Then you’d have “Killing Eve.”


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