Since its premiere in 2018, Killing Eve has been a beacon for queer TV viewers all over the globe. The deeply developed queer lead characters of Villanelle and Eve have captivated audiences for its four-season run and was a perfect example of how to create queer villains in particular.
Though, with its fourth and final season over, queer fans once again feel betrayed.
In the finale, Villanelle is shot and killed within the last two minutes of the episode. Now, anyone that has watched the show most likely saw this coming. Villanelle is an international assassin, of course, she was living on borrowed time for the duration of the show. Though, the manner and timing of her death make it much more sinister.
Within the parameters of the Bury Your Gays trope, sapphic characters are often killed off immediately after joyous events, declarations of love, or even marriage. In the Killing Eve finale, fans finally got the “Villaneve,” content they’d always wanted, seeing scenes of Villanelle and Eve kissing and happily enjoying each other for the first time after years of their cat and mouse chase. Though, that budding romance was cut short before it could even truly begin through Villanelle’s untimely demise.
In striking similarity to so many other lesbian character deaths we’ve seen on-screen over the years, Villanelle is shot and killed immediately after finally finding the love she’s always wanted with Eve. Like Lexa and Tara Maclay before her, Villanelle joins the now even longer list of sapphic characters to be shot and killed immediately after finally entering a relationship and getting the happiness they wanted.
Despite the implications, killing Villanelle wasn’t inherently wrong. The simple act of killing a queer character on screen isn’t a sin, and showrunners shouldn’t fear doing so in their shows. A queer character’s death only becomes problematic when more factors come into play.
If the series had allowed Villanelle and Eve to be together for more time this final season than the same episode in which she was killed, then her death wouldn’t have carried the same weight. By allowing Eve and Villanelle just moments of happiness before her death, she becomes a victim of the Bury Your Gays trope, while Eve is robbed of her happy ending as well.
As mentioned earlier, Villanelle was living on borrowed time as an international assassin, but by mirroring the previous deaths of iconic characters and playing into tired and overused tropes, the series undercuts any logical reason for her death and instead opens old wounds for its LGBTQ viewers.
To add even more salt to the wound, the book series the show is based on, Codename Villanelle and its two sequels, ends with Eve and Villanelle happy and together as a couple. Though the show has never been very true to the source material, such a stark deviation feels deliberate, in a blatant disrespect for its LGBTQ characters and viewers.
In addition to Villanelle’s tragic demise, Killing Eve’s track record this season for its queer characters wasn’t super great in the first place.
May, Villanelle’s lover in the church, was killed by Villanelle in episode 2. It was revealed during episode 5 that Carolyn’s father was blackmailed for being gay by Konstantin, so he committed suicide in the ’70s. Helene, Eve’s lover for a time, was killed by Villanelle in episode 6. Fernanda, Helene’s ex, was killed by Pam in episode 6. Villanelle was killed in episode 8, while her lover Eve was forced to watch.
In comparison, Pam and Carolyn, two of the series’ few straight characters, survived the finale and didn’t have their stories end tragically.
This is what queer people mean when they bring up critiques of the Bury Your Gays trope: Queer characters shouldn’t be the only ones that suffer on your show. The message that came from Killing Eve’s final season painted queer people as deserving of gruesome deaths while their straight counterparts walked away relatively unscathed.
It’s been a little over seven years since Lexa’s death on The 100. Her death rocked the TV industry and the LGBTQ community and changed so much about representation as we know it. I thought we were finally in a better place in terms of representation, and largely we are, but this Killing Eve finale felt straight out of 2016.
How long until LGBTQ fans no longer have to worry about whether or not they will have to see themselves die on screen? How long until TV writers stop using queer characters’ deaths as a way to tell those queer viewers that our lives are expendable and our stories don’t deserve happy endings?
When will we finally learn from the mistakes made by so many TV shows in the past?
I, unfortunately, don’t have the answer to that, but I hope eventually I’ll stop having to write pieces like this. That one day, eventually, queer audiences will be able to sit down and enjoy a queer show, without the weight of negative expectations heavy on their shoulders.
Killing Eve is available to stream in its entirety on AMC+.