Why Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn is the Best Thing about “Killing Eve”
The veteran spy is an enigma that viewers can’t help but want to solve.
I’m about to make a controversial claim.
In my considered opinion, neither Sandra Oh nor Jodie Comer should be considered the best things about the hit series Killing Eve. No, that honour should go to none other than Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn, Eve’s boss (and sometime nemesis) at MI6.
This isn’t to say that Oh and Comer aren’t great, because they definitely are. There’s an electrifying chemistry between the two of them that lights up the screen any time that they appear together (and hell, any time that they don’t). However, as I made my way through each of the three seasons of the series that have aired so far, it was Carolyn that I found myself drawn to again and again. Something about her just seemed absolutely captivating, even though the for the most part we learn less about her than we do either Eve or Villanelle.
Part of her allure, certainly, is the appeal of Fiona Shaw herself. Like most people my age, my first real introduction to her on the screen was as the embittered yet ultimately somewhat sympathetic Aunt Petunia to the titular Harry Potter. Then, of course, she was one of the main antagonists of HBO’s popular (but increasingly irritating) vampire series True Blood, where she played the witch Marnie. Shaw was, in fact, almost the only thing about her season that was appealing, since by that point the series had already begun to go quite thoroughly off the rails.
Then came Killing Eve.
For most of the first two seasons, Carolyn mostly lurked in the background. There were some parts of her past that slowly bubbled to the surface. We learn pretty quickly that she has had a long series of lovers during her service as a spy, including with the morally ambiguous (if not outright villainous) Konstantin. She seems to know just about everyone there is to know in the various ministries of Europe and we, along with Eve, are never quite sure if she’s really as devoted to the well-being of the UK as she appears to be.
Yet toward the end of the second season, as Eve gradually closed in on Villanelle, Carolyn came to play a greater role. She’s always…