Book-to-TV Adaptations: Killing Eve

In my first Book to TV Adaptations post, I discussed American Gods. We’re now five (almost six) episodes into season 2. Are you caught up? What do you think of the season so far?

I’m pretty happy with it. Thankfully, it hasn’t suffered as much of a visual downgrade as I thought it would, and the story feels tighter. Also, as was predicted, the show has been renewed for a third season. Something I’m excited about since we’ll be heading to Lake Side, which is one of my favorite parts of the book.

Let’s move on. The next show on my list is Killing Eve. The anticipated second season premiered on April 7th. I had hoped to have this post up by then; unfortunately, my sometimes temperamental back objected to that idea. So, we’re now two (almost three) episodes into the new season, and so far it’s looking good!

Villanelle, Eve Polastri, Codename: Villanelle, Villanelle: No Tomorrow, Killing Eve, Luke Jennings, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, BBC America, HBO Nordic, Assassins, MI5, MI6, Murder, Thriller, Book Adaptations,

THE BOOK

The Villanelle books are written by Brittish author Luke Jennings.

To date, the series is made up of two books. The first one, Codename Villanelle, is a short-story collection containing four chronologically set novellas. The second book, Villanelle: No Tomorrow came out late last year, you can read my review of it HERE. The author is currently working on a third book.

I would not recommend reading these books out-of-order or skipping the first one. Not even if you’ve watched the first season of the tv-series; you’ll have no idea what is going on if you do.

Both books are relatively short at around two-hundred and fifty pages. I talk more about editions and audiobook narrations in my review of the second book.

The Villanelle series center around the idea that there is a secret organization known as the Twelve. This powerful group manipulates events, big and small, to their advantage. Their influence is everywhere, and they are ruthless.

However, the Twelve is not a crime syndicate; they certainly operate in that sphere and have no apparent morality, ethics, or regard for democracy. But, they’ll as easily target organized crime as they will a political institution if they get in the way of their agenda.

In the first book, they’re a very tin foil hat type of nefarious conspiracy. In the second, the mythology deepens, and you start to get a taste of their agenda and backstory, what they grew out of. The overshadowing presence of this group is much more apparent in the books than in the tv-series.

One of the tools available to this group is assassins that they recruit and train. One of them, Villanelle—a flamboyant psychopath and an extremely effective killer—is one of two main characters in the series.

The second one is Eve Polastri. When her story begins, she is an undervalued, bored, desk jockey at the Brittish MI5. She is able to recognize a pattern in several high-profile killings and puts forth the idea that they’ve been done by a woman. Eve is put in charge of a small secret task force with the intent of catching Villanelle.

And so the chase begins.

What eventually evolves is a mutual obsession between these two women.

Apart from an engaging story, interesting locations, beautiful visuals, and great female characters, these books have a thrilling, sensual, and sometimes even erotic undertone.

They are easy to read, the language uncomplicated, but they have a distinct style; they’re elegant. Imagine someone like Gillian Andersson or Cate Blanchett reading you a story and maybe you can imagine the feel of the language and tone.

I think both books are fantastic. The second book ends with a great plot twist and cliffhanger that left me so impatient for the next installment.

Villanelle, Eve Polastri, Codename: Villanelle, Villanelle: No Tomorrow, Killing Eve, Luke Jennings, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, BBC America, HBO Nordic, Assassins, MI5, MI6, Murder, Thriller, Book Adaptations,

THE SHOW

Available on: BBC America, AMC, HBO Nordic (1 day later)

The firsts season of Killing Eve premiered on BBC America on April 2018, and the second in April 2019.

It was developed for TV by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, known for the show, Fleabag (have you seen it? I hear it’s good.) At the time of the premier, Killing Eve had already been renewed for a second season. A third season was confirmed two days after the premiere of season two.

Both seasons consist of eight episodes with a run time of between forty(ish) minutes up to an hour.

The series stars Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer who’s both won several prestigious awards for their portrayal of Eve and Villanelle.

It also stars the fantastic Fiona Shaw as Carolyn Martens, the woman who recruits Eve. Carolyn is an original character and does not appear in the books, but she is an incredible addition. You can see the inspiration for her in certain side characters from the novels. With the cliff hanger at the end of the second novel, I’m very excited about the future of her character.

As for the other side-characters, they’re great, but most have been revamped. As with Carolyn, you can see the framework of some of them in the books, but ages, genders, and appearances in the series have been changed. The only one except for Eve and Villanelle that stays relatively true to the books is Eve’s husband, Niko.

Season one is, for the most part, based on the first four short stories. But, after reading the second book, you can tell that Luke Jennings must have had discussions with the writes. He’s clearly revealed the plot of the second book as certain events and characters from the sequel occurs or are present in the firsts season.

Season two does not follow the events of the second book. This is necessary as the dramatic cliffhanger at the end of the first season does not happen in the novels. So, as season two deals with the aftermath of that event, it has to be a separate story-arch.

Although, some elements from both the first and second book has been incorporated into the story.

Villanelle, Eve Polastri, Codename: Villanelle, Villanelle: No Tomorrow, Killing Eve, Luke Jennings, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, BBC America, HBO Nordic, Assassins, MI5, MI6, Murder, Thriller, Book Adaptations,

Are there any differences between the book and show? 

Yes. Very much so. Apart from the character changes and additions, there are some significant differences. Most of the major events from the books are included in the show, but the timeframe and sequence of events have been cast around. Much is the same, but the show does its own thing.

While the tv-series focuses almost exclusively on Eve and Villanelle, the books are much heavier on the intrigue, the Twelve, and Villanelles backstory. The books are also much more of a “slow burn” than the tv-series. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’ve seen the show and decide to pick up the books, don’t expect a face to face confrontation between these two women anytime soon.

Which is best, books or tv-series? 

Both are excellent. Honestly, it’s tough to make a comparison because the books and tv-series are so different in pacing, tone, and style. The books have a cool elegance that builds the obsession between these women slowly.

The tv-series exudes adrenaline from the first episode and the chemistry between Eve and Villanelle immediately packs a punch.

What speaks in favor of the tv-series is the fact that if you, like me, are a fast reader, you’ll get more hours of entertainment out of the tv-series than the books.

What speaks in favor of the books is the focus on backstory and the slow burn that lends plenty of time to build these characters personalities and motivations. The characterization, especially Villanelles, is sharper and less reliant on superficial personality traits than the show is.

Both are witty and visually stunning. Qualitywise, I think season one is on par with the books.

However, the second season is not as strong. Having read the second book and it’s amazing twists and turns, I was disappointed with where tv-series took the story and the characters. It wasn’t bad, but not as strong nor as interesting as the novel.

Villanelle, Eve Polastri, Codename: Villanelle, Villanelle: No Tomorrow, Killing Eve, Luke Jennings, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, BBC America, HBO Nordic, Assassins, MI5, MI6, Murder, Thriller, Book Adaptations,

If you love one, will you like the other?

I think so. I hope so. The books are lovely, they deserve as many readers as they can get.

Despite a weaker second season, the tv-series is one of the best available right now. I’m sure a few years down the line  Killing Eve will be one of those defining shows that inspired a new style of storytelling and made other networks scramble to try and recreate the magic.

Wither you read the books or watched the tv-series first, you need to approach the other with the understanding that in terms of tone, style, and pacing, they are entirely different.

If you can do that I believe you’ll be able to enjoy and appreciate them both. 

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