When “Killing Eve” premiered a year ago, it felt like both a peculiarity and a given. Obviously a show like this — an intense, stylish drama dealing in espionage and assassins and grisly crimes — could spring from the brilliant mind of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose “Fleabag” is one of the most inventive, challenging shows of the 21st century.
Strange as it was, something about it worked. The show has found itself an adoring cabal of fans, a perfect coalition of Sandra Oh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) believers ready for her career resurgence, Jodie Comer (“Doctor Foster”) devotees awaiting her time in the spotlight and, of course, lovers of exquisite womenswear. So with the premiere of Season 2 of “Killing Eve,” which now airs both on AMC and BBC America, everyone will be very pleased to know that Oh is back, Comer is back and the womenswear is back (it’s still quite exquisite).
In the first season, we met Eve (Oh), an MI5 agent re-assigned to a secret passion project to hunt down a mysterious assassin. That assassin would be the glamorous Villanelle (Comer), who is, frankly, quite flattered that someone has decided to pay so much attention to her. But whatever thrill she derives from being the subject of this investigation doesn’t distract from what Villanelle does best: killing people in rather gruesome, alarming ways. When we last left Eve and Villanelle, they had caught each other at last in Villanelle’s Parisian apartment and both confessed to their deep infatuation with the other. An uneasy armistice of sorts is achieved — until Eve stabs Villanelle in the stomach and the elusive assassin flees again. What a quirky, gory way to end a quirky, gory season.
The second season begins not more than a minute afterward. Villanelle, nursing an ugly wound, tosses herself in front of a cab to get to the hospital. A dazed Eve makes her way back to London (along the way she has to ditch the bloody knife before she goes through airport security) where different problems await her: Her marriage to the sweet, disgruntled Niko (Owen McDonnell, “Single-Handed”) is on the verge of collapse and she is newly unemployed.
Oh gets to do her best work when Eve is spiraling, and there’s a remarkable, gripping scene in the season premiere in which a rattled Eve is doing nothing more than sit in a bathtub, picking at her still bloody fingernails. She doesn’t get much time to wallow though. Soon enough, her boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw, “Harry Potter”) has rehired her (this is TV, everyone is promptly rehired after being fired) and they’re back to investigating the brewing mystery of Villanelle’s employer. The stab wound hasn’t kept Villanelle down either; she’s quickly back to scheming and manipulating (and a little bit of killing too).
The scheming and manipulating, of course, is at the heart of “Killing Eve.” At surface-level, the show is a kind of mindless, stylish caper. But really, it’s so much more: a meditation on the female psyche, a study in power and vulnerability, an open question about what a woman can or should do to get ahead. And hey, if we get some coats and blouses along the way, what’s the harm in that?