'Killing Eve' Writer Dissects the Scene That "Surprised" Audiences, Turned Action "On Its Head"

Killing Eve S01E03 Still - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of BBC America

"I liked the idea of starting a show that traditionally promises violence and drama in a quiet, still, mundane setting," says Phoebe Waller-Bridge of the series' pivotal episode. "I think stillness is more unnerving than explosion or action."

1. "I liked the idea of starting a show that traditionally promises violence and drama in a quiet, still, mundane setting," says Waller-Bridge. "I think stillness is more unnerving than explosion or action." 

2. "Villanelle [Jodie Comer] has a childlike quality, and treating herself to an ice cream after a kill shows she's into the same pleasures, as long as they're elaborate. This is a woman who indulges." 

3. "Villanelle trying to connect with this child is at once creepy and endearing. There is vulnerability in smiling at someone. It's an emotional risk. Our little girl — a fantastic actress! — can sense something false in Villanelle that adults, who are used to facilitating the pretend smiles that we come across through our days, don't." 

4. "When Villanelle is rejected, we can see the displeasure. But she doesn't give up. Here we see how she mimics people. How she is noting the details of genuine interaction, that she is forever trying to manipulate people. And when she fails, it irritates the hell out of her." 

5. "Delicate indications of violence were appealing to me up top as it builds to an episode finale that is so brutally bloody!" 

6. "This idea made me laugh because, for me, it makes Villanelle a heroine and a villain in one fell swoop. It's so deeply irreverent and cruel, but also harmless and petulant. I can't say I haven't wanted to tip a kid's ice cream into their lap before. She is so aspirational and outrageous all at once. She just doesn't care what you think." 

7. "We're so used to 'Screaming, Traumatized Woman' appearing at the beginning of a crime show. I wanted to turn it on its head and surprise the audience here. It takes a little while to catch up with what is going on, which I always love, and I like that as the action unfolds, it undercuts the drama we're expecting after this horrifying opening shriek." 

8. "This happened to me, and I was horrified at my reaction to it. In your half-sleep, you literally feel like you are paralyzed, so it's traumatizing. Then when it all comes back, you just feel a bit ridiculous. I think it's the worst thing that has happened to Eve [Sandra Oh] in a long time. We see how low the stakes are in her world. It also reveals that she is not screaming because she is a victim. It's because she lost control for a second." 

9. "This line illuminates Eve's life a little. She's fun! She's not your usual cold, badass, crime-fighting secret agent but a woman with a job, a husband, friends, a fuck-off hangover and, most importantly, a sense of humor — basically someone you'd be up for hanging out with for eight episodes." 

This story first appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.