Sandra Oh just made Emmy history as the first Asian woman nominated for Best Lead Actress. We look back at her best scenes in Killing Eve.
It was clear to anyone who watched Killing Eve that, before the show, Sandra Oh’s talent had been tragically under-utilized. Her performance as Eve Polastri kept us laughing, crying, and rooting for one of the best characters this year’s television brought us. It made us wonder: why didn’t we get to see her as a main character before?
But thanks to Killing Eve, Oh’s talent is finally being recognized. Here are some of the best scenes of the show that made us realize just how great she is.
Spoilers for Killing Eve below.
Meeting with MI6
This scene serves to wonderfully showcase everything that makes Eve the person she is: she’s trying to sneakily eat a croissant that someone else got her because she was too hungover to get breakfast, she’s instantly impressed by the effectiveness of the murder they’re investigating, and she has a knee-jerk intuition when it comes to recognizing that the killer must have been a woman.
Oh manages to pull off this incredible mix of exposition and comedy with some truly hilarious expressions that shift perfectly from shameless-sneaky-eating to Sherlock-Holmes-like detection.
Lunch with Carolyn
Carolyn manages to get Eve fired up enough that she throws all semblance of protocol out the window. After all, she’s just lost her job and seen her last mission come to a truly terrible ending. She’s frustrated, but she’s also unapologetic about how interesting she finds Villanelle, which results in a tirade that impresses both Carolyn and the rest of us.
“And, you know, frankly, I don’t give a shit anymore. She is outsmarting the smartest of us, and for that, she deserves to do or kill whoever the hell she wants. I mean, if she’s not killing me, then, frankly, it’s not my job to care anymore.”
This scene is crucial because it shows just how intelligently Eve has been following all of Villanelle’s moves before she even has to, and also how morally grey her interest can be. Sandra Oh delivers this tirade with such fiery fervor that it becomes one of the show’s best lines.
Trying on the dress
Possibly the most emotionally complex scene of the entire show, Eve trying on the clothes Villanelle sent her is one that showcases how unique Killing Eve is. This scene harnesses all the feminine energy of the show to provide an incredibly insightful moment. The result is not only terrifying — Villanelle seems to know Eve’s exact measurements –, or sensual — the act of putting on clothes someone else gives you, and knowing that they want you to look a certain way… perhaps for them? — but an incredible combination of both that could only have resulted from a show written by a woman and starring women.
This scene would have been impossible to pull off if it weren’t for Oh’s stunning ability to convey emotion through her eyes. In her eyes, throughout the scene, we see this complex combination of feelings play out to perfection — giving the scene the exact degree of sensuousness and creepiness that was intended.
Dinner with Villanelle
Probably the most mesmerizing scene of the entire show, Villanelle and Eve’s first proper meeting — over dinner, fighting to get the upper hand — is a fascinating work of cinematography. It’s so well done, in fact, that the episode’s director has since tweeted extensively about the creative decisions that went into every shot, and the show’s creator has alluded to the moment, saying, “Every moment in this show exists so that these two women can end up alone in a room together.”
But none of it would have been as impactful if it weren’t for Oh’s great performance, which could have easily been diminished by Jodie Comer’s gripping character (Villanelle, after all, is definitely the most glamorous character between the two of them). But that didn’t happen.
Despite being soaked through with water, feeling distinctly threatened, and being on the receiving end of Villanelle’s dangerous gaze, Eve manages to regain control of the situation through Oh’s excellent acting: a single tear falling from her emotive eyes, and then a fiercely uttered “Bullshit” that cuts through Villanelle’s whole act, and puts the viewer on steady feet again.
In the car with Konstantin
Although she’s an amazing dramatic actress, Oh shines with particular distinction when she’s in a humorous situation. The ride with Konstantin to visit Anna is one of the funniest scenes in the show, because it’s such a dire situation that’s interrupted with dark humor, and because we already know both characters so well.
Eve: “Why does she want to kill you?”
Konstantin: “If I told you I would really have to kill you, you know!” [laughs]
Eve: [laughs] “Okay.”
Eve: “I said okay.”
It’s great to see both characters fake-laughing at each other, but even better to see Eve assert herself, unafraid, against someone who clearly wields so much power. Both Oh’s laughter and her sober expression when she says “I said okay” work wonderfully, and send a chill down your spine.
In Villanelle’s apartment
Of course, the show’s crowning moment is and always will be the final encounter between Eve and Villanelle, where both come clean about their feelings… in one way or another. It’s the scene in which we see Eve at her most raw and uninhibited, yet also the moment when she’s at her most mysterious. We have no idea what she’s about to do next, even if we think we do.
From the moment she starts throwing bottles around the apartment and taking Villanelle’s closet apart with frustration, Oh’s performance is emotional and achingly understandable. And when she sits across from Villanelle and confesses the depths of her obsession (the evidence of which we’ve seen throughout the show), we also understand exactly what she’s talking about. Even when she pulls out the knife, her actions make sense.
Which is why Oh’s performance is so talented: she manages to stay understandable and relatable throughout a plethora of emotions, which culminate in the stabbing, and Eve’s own panic when she realizes what she’s done. The fact that we can understand her train of thought throughout, and be shocked but not feel that it’s out of character, is a testament to truly amazing acting.