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Killing Eve Writer Emerald Fennell Says We're Going to "Ride Out the Horror" in Season 2

Whitney Friedlander
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Killing Eve Writer Emerald Fennell Says We're Going to "Ride Out the Horror" in Season 2

Eve and Villanelle are both in trouble, but they are going to do whatever it takes to survive, Fennell tells InStyle ahead of the Season 2 premiere.

Emerald Fennell sat patiently waiting for our interview to start in a posh hotel restaurant, the Southern California sun making her long blonde hair gleam, and the periwinkle in her Brøgger dress pop. A closer look revealed the Dorothy Gale-red foils on her sharp nails and the Olympia Le-Tan clutch with the logo from the Alfred Hitchcock movie Pyscho by her side. Such details suggest that this lady appreciates the art of subtle danger.

Judging solely on clothing choices, it’s easy to conclude that Fennell, 33, may be the perfect candidate to take over from her friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge to serve as the head writer for the second season of the slay-or-be-slain hit series Killing Eve. Then there’s the résumé that backs her up: Fennell is an actress and novelist best known to TV audiences for appearing in the PBS period drama Call the Midwife; YA readers might recognize her name from her young adult fantasy series Shiverton Hall. It's clear Fennell understands the macabre humor and tense obsession that worked for the first season of the series about Sandra Oh’s eponymous MI5 agent and her infatuation with Jodie Comer’s exotic and globe-trotting hired assassin known as Villanelle.

“What I’m most interested in is how women win in a world where the deck is stacked against them,” Fennell says. “I think Eve and Villanelle were lucky in [Season] 1. It’s what happens when that power is diminished and you have to make something new …”

The second season does see two very changed (anti)heroines. It picks up almost immediately after last season’s finale that saw Eve plunge a knife into Villanelle’s gut after they cuddled up in bed – a move that floored audiences and tickled and intrigued Fennell, because, she says, “if you look at [this story as a] romance or love affair, that was the moment where something has bonded them forever.”

Fennell says she wanted to have the new season begin so quickly after the first because she wanted to “ride out the horror.” She says that “for me, the worst thing, surely, about stabbing someone is getting out with blood on your hands … I’ve never seen Jason Bourne or James Bond or any of those characters doing the kind of stuff that would actually freak you out. [There’s] this real feeling of an ordinary woman who has done something unbelievably stupid and dangerous and then needs to deal with it.”

Eve’s first move after she shakily leaves Villanelle’s Parisian flat? Head to a candy store where she stares glassy-eyed and robotically scoops random pieces of confectionary into a bag as a child stares at her in awe.

The scene came from a personal place. Fennell explains that “whenever I was riding a terrible hangover back in the day, the first port of call was I had to get my hands on some candy as soon as possible,” adding with an interesting choice of words that “If I had to kill a man, I would get it.” In this case, she says Eve is experiencing “the worst hangover of all time: it’s the morning and you wake and you realized you’ve cheated on your husband and your car’s smashed up and, yeah, there’s blood on the bonnet. And you’re trying to work out how you’re going to get home, both psychologically and physically.”

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It’s also a nod to the first time we saw Villanelle, in the series premiere, riding high on confidence and adrenaline after a kill, with a dab of blood on her watch. She enjoys some gelato, and then enjoys knocking a little girl's dish into her lap. Pure cruelty.

This season, she’s no longer as cocky. As Eve wonders what’s to become of her, a book-smart agent who specializes in serial killers but who now has experienced the taste of blood, we also see a Villanelle suddenly grappling with her own mortality – a new sensation for someone who has both escaped a Russian prison and taken a good deal of enjoyment out of watching her victims die. While the first season arguably toyed with the societal misconceptions of female relationships, the second more closely examines these power struggles.

“I think the feminist statement maybe in [Season] 2 is if you are a woman and you are vulnerable, how do you exact power?” Fennell says. “They are both starting in very diminished circumstances and it’s how you get yourself back to where you need to be and how you survive. I think it’s about how women survive, and what you lose and gain, when you have to survive something.”

The way we underestimate or pigeon-hole women is also impacting another aspect of Fennell’s work. She’ll be playing Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, on the Crown in the third season of Netflix’s regal drama. This season will focus on her character's relationship with Prince Charles, which started 10 years before he’d meet his eventual first wife, Diana Spencer.

Fennell says she didn’t know much about her character before she was cast, but stresses that the show will serve as yet another reminder that “all women are underestimated.” Now, she adds, “we’re having a chance in television to look at women’s lives and show that they can be rich and interesting and different.”

Killing Eve returns to BBC America and AMC on April 7 at 8 p.m. The Crown Season 3 release date is TBA later in 2019.