What Book is “Killing Eve” Based On?

by Amy

In the realm of television, certain series emerge as enigmatic masterpieces, captivating audiences with their unique storytelling and compelling characters. One such phenomenon is “Killing Eve,” a riveting spy thriller that has garnered widespread acclaim since its debut. At the heart of its success lies a gripping narrative that leaves viewers enthralled, prompting many to wonder about its origins. What book is “Killing Eve” based on? This question serves as a gateway to understanding the intricate layers of influence that have shaped this celebrated television series.

The Genesis of “Killing Eve”: A Brief Overview

Before delving into the literary origins of “Killing Eve,” it is essential to explore the genesis of the series itself. Developed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the acclaimed British playwright and screenwriter, “Killing Eve” first premiered in 2018. The series is based on the Codename Villanelle novella series by author Luke Jennings, although it deviates significantly from its source material in several key aspects. Waller-Bridge’s unique vision and creative prowess infuse the show with a distinct tone and style, elevating it beyond traditional espionage dramas.

The Influence of Codename Villanelle: Exploring the Novella Series

At the core of “Killing Eve” lies the Codename Villanelle novella series, which serves as the primary inspiration for the television adaptation. Authored by Luke Jennings, a seasoned writer with a penchant for suspenseful storytelling, the series follows the thrilling cat-and-mouse game between two formidable women: Eve Polastri, a determined MI5 agent, and Villanelle, a charismatic and lethal assassin.

Jennings’ novels provide a rich tapestry of characters, settings, and plotlines that serve as the foundation for the television series. However, it is important to note that while “Killing Eve” draws inspiration from the novellas, it takes significant liberties in reshaping the narrative to suit the medium of television. This departure allows for greater creative freedom, enabling the show’s creators to craft a distinctive identity while retaining the essence of Jennings’ original work.

From Page to Screen: The Adaptation Process

Adapting a literary work for the screen is a delicate balancing act that requires careful consideration of various factors, including character development, pacing, and thematic resonance. In the case of “Killing Eve,” the transition from page to screen involved a nuanced approach that honored the source material while exploring new avenues for storytelling.

One of the most significant departures from the novella series is the portrayal of the central characters, particularly Eve Polastri and Villanelle. While Jennings’ novels offer compelling insights into their respective backgrounds and motivations, the television adaptation delves even deeper, fleshing out their personalities and adding layers of complexity to their dynamic relationship.

Additionally, the adaptation process afforded the opportunity to expand upon the world of “Killing Eve” and introduce new characters and storylines. This expansion enriches the narrative tapestry, providing viewers with a more immersive experience while retaining the intrigue and suspense that define the series.

The Art of Characterization: Bringing Eve and Villanelle to Life

Central to the success of “Killing Eve” are its two enigmatic protagonists: Eve Polastri and Villanelle. Portrayed with nuance and depth by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, respectively, these characters captivate audiences with their contrasting personalities and complex motivations.

Eve Polastri, portrayed by Sandra Oh, is a dedicated MI5 agent whose obsession with capturing Villanelle leads her down a perilous path of obsession and intrigue. Oh’s portrayal of Eve captures her vulnerability and tenacity, showcasing the character’s evolution from a diligent investigator to a woman consumed by her pursuit of justice.

Jodie Comer’s portrayal of Villanelle, on the other hand, is equally mesmerizing. As a charming and ruthless assassin with a penchant for luxury and violence, Villanelle embodies the juxtaposition of beauty and danger. Comer’s performance imbues the character with a magnetic presence, making her both captivating and chilling in equal measure.

Exploring Themes of Identity and Obsession

At its core, “Killing Eve” is a study of identity and obsession, exploring the complex interplay between desire, power, and morality. Through the characters of Eve and Villanelle, the series delves into the depths of human nature, challenging conventional notions of good and evil.

Eve’s obsession with Villanelle serves as a driving force behind much of the series’ narrative tension, blurring the lines between hunter and hunted. As Eve becomes increasingly entangled in Villanelle’s web, her own sense of identity becomes compromised, leading to a series of moral dilemmas that test her resolve and integrity.

Similarly, Villanelle’s obsession with Eve serves as a mirror image of Eve’s own fixation, highlighting the symbiotic nature of their relationship. Despite their opposing roles as pursuer and prey, Eve and Villanelle share a profound connection that transcends conventional notions of adversary. This dynamic adds depth to their interactions, infusing the series with a palpable sense of tension and intrigue.

The Legacy of “Killing Eve”: A Cultural Phenomenon

Since its debut, “Killing Eve” has garnered widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike, cementing its status as a cultural phenomenon. The series has received numerous accolades, including multiple Emmy Awards and Golden Globe nominations, further solidifying its place in the pantheon of great television.

Beyond its critical acclaim, “Killing Eve” has sparked fervent discussions among viewers, inspiring fan theories, analyses, and fan fiction. The series’ complex characters and intricate plotlines have fostered a dedicated fanbase that continues to engage with and dissect every aspect of the show.

Moreover, “Killing Eve” has had a significant impact on popular culture, inspiring fashion trends, memes, and even academic discourse. Its exploration of themes such as gender, power, and desire has sparked important conversations about representation and diversity in media, further underscoring its cultural relevance.


In conclusion, the question of what book “Killing Eve” is based on serves as a gateway to understanding the complex interplay between literature, television, and popular culture. While the series draws inspiration from Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle novella series, it transcends its literary origins to become a singularly compelling work of art in its own right.

Through its captivating characters, suspenseful plotlines, and thematic depth, “Killing Eve” has captivated audiences around the world, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape. Whether viewed as a thrilling spy thriller, a nuanced character study, or a meditation on the nature of obsession, the series continues to resonate with viewers, reaffirming its status as one of the defining television events of its time.

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