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Killing Eve: About Fiona Shaw’s character Carolyn Martens

Killing Eve, Carolyn Martens, Fiona Shaw

“Killing Eve” is one of those shows which comes once every few years. It’s a show about women and all their complexities.

It celebrates women, which is no surprise since it is created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, film and television’s current celebrated screenwriter.

Based on the Villanelle novel series by Luke Jennings, it takes you on a journey of international espionage, the interaction between spy agencies and the criminals they sometimes have to keep on their side to help fight the more dangerous criminals.

It’s so well-written, directed and acted, that the show’s stars are reaping the rewards for their work.

“Killing Eve” has won Sandra Oh a Golden Globe award, an Emmy and Bafta for Jodie Comer, and a Bafta Fiona Shaw.

While the bulk of “Killing Eve” is about the psychopathic female assassin called Villanelle and Eve Polastri, the MI6 agent who hunts her down, a big part of the story is also about the enigmatic Carolyn Martens, an MI6 boss who starts noticing Eve’s potential and moves her from desk work to be an agent in the field.

And so begins the search for an assassin who is everywhere and nowhere at once.

“Killing Eve” takes us all over Europe and Russia, where we explore the different complexities and how and why these three women make the decisions they do.

While I love Villanelle and Eve, I can’t help but be drawn to Carolyn’s stoicness. She is the dependable force who calms everything down. But she is also, I feel, somehow intricately involved in the behind the scenes machinations of Villanelle’s operations.

So, is Carolyn who she says she is or is there more to her than we expect? Is she part of The Twelve?

“Oh noooo,” she says, a bit shocked at the question when I called her in London. “Nothing is certain, really. She could very well be part of The Twelve. Of course she could. It is very likely that The Twelve are clever enough to have people who may appear like they are looking for them but are actually part of them.

“That is possible. But the reverse is also true. She may not be part of them. She’s also trying to find them and she may be the most intelligent person trying to locate them. The Twelve are very hard to get hold of. They are a force that seems to be underneath all the gremlins that happen around the world.

“I’m sure they would be behind the coronavirus pandemic. There may be three people in The Twelve or even 30 people. They are just called The Twelve and they are the source of evil, like the Voldemort of the world.”

I was hoping that she would make a “Harry Potter” reference.

Shaw played one of the most hated characters in the film, Petunia Dursley, who was Harry’s aunt. And likening The Twelve to Voldemort is truly an apt comparison.

There’s something about how the show has these three complex characters and they are all important to the story and each other’s trajectories.

When asked if being in a show with these strong women characters was what attracted her to the script, she surprised me with her answer.

“Well, I wouldn’t say they are strong women characters. Most characters for women are underwritten in both film and TV. This is obviously almost boring to say now, but women take too little space on screen, compared to their male counterparts,” she says.

Her words remind me of why the Bechdel Test (the measure of representation of women in fiction) has become so important in recent years. “Women live just as complex a life as their male colleagues.”

She has high praise for Waller-Bridge, who she worked with previously on “Fleabag”. Shaw was nominated for two Emmys last year. One for “Killing Eve” and the other for “Fleabag”.

“I think Phoebe has picked these three women and given them these complex, but also cartoonish characters. Villanelle for example, is extreme.

“She goes from violence to cartoonish. What I think Phoebe is good at, is the vulnerability of the characters particularly in the Eve character. She’s a mess in life but very clever at work. Carolyn too. She has a complex life as you have seen on the show and you will see even further in the next two seasons.”

Shaw enjoys portraying Carolyn, mainly because of how measured she is when approaching something and dealing with what is happening in her world of espionage.

“She’s very much not like me at all. She is full of that gift that people in her field have – the capacity to be very quiet when other people are speaking so as to not get caught up in the argument. And to keep a clear head.

“Finding The Twelve and stopping Villanelle is not the only thing she is working on. There are other agents she works with that have to debrief her.”

In season 1’s finale, Eve and Villanelle reunite at Villanelle’s Paris flat. But something bloody happens- Eve stabs Villanelle and she believes her nemesis is dead.

However, Villanelle is alive, and is trying to get medical help.

Season 2, Shaw tells me, is going to be interesting, so gird your loins.

She left me with one thought: “Carolyn always knows more than she lets on. Even the things Eve does that she thinks Carolyn doesn’t know about, she knows. It makes their relationship even more interesting in the upcoming seasons.”

* Catch “Killing Eve” season 2 on Wednesdays at 8.45pm on Fox Africa (DStv 125).