Who would have thought that Killing Eve, a BBC America spy thriller, would make you miss the early days of Grey's Anatomy? The titular role is played by a Seattle Grace veteran you might have been missing more than you realized. Sandra Oh's character on Killing Eve is not the spy version of Cristina Yang, but she's pretty dang brilliant and badass in her own right. Mild spoilers for the premiere episode and beyond ahead!
In Killing Eve, Oh plays an ex-pat MI-5 desk jockey (talk about a multi-hyphenate) who becomes obsessed with finding a Russian assassin called Villanelle (played by Jodie Comer). She has a fascination with female killers that comes in handy when she stumbles, almost by chance, into this thrilling assignment and chase.
Eve is great at her job, ambitious, a total badass, and somewhat socially awkward — but the comparisons to Oh's Grey's Anatomy character end there. She's not the "robot" that Yang was perceived to be at the beginning of the ABC series. She's confident, but not overly or dangerously so. Eve's not one for biting sarcasm either, nor is she secure enough to dish out motivational speeches with beautiful metaphors about you being the sun and your crush being an eclipse.
Eve is also happily married at the start of the series, so don't expect any "OMG" moments of the romantic variety. She does, however, have wine glasses big enough for Shondaland's Olivia Pope in her home. They make an appearance in Episode 5.
That said, there is a certain naturalness that Oh brings to both roles. Eve is not clumsy or quirky in a cliché romantic comedy way, but she feels real and relatable on screen. Complicated, too. It's not like Oh is doing an accent or undergoing a physical transformation to play this role. Both Eve and Cristina are women you feel like you could encounter in your life.
Maybe it has to do with both Grey's Anatomy and Killing Eve coming from female creators. Most Grey's fans are familiar with all of the multifaceted and cutthroat women in Shonda Rhimes' shows; and Killing Eve comes from writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose series Fleabag has been hailed for similar portrayals of complex women.
In an interview with Vogue, Senior Culture Writer Julia Felsenthal drew a comparison between Eve — who takes a giant leap in her career, leaving stability for risks and uncertainty — and Oh herself, who left a steady gig at Grey's Anatomy before the series ended. Oh agreed, saying:
"For me, it’s always been a search for what is igniting to me. There’s not a consciousness of, I think this is the right move, or, it’s been enough time. It’s never been in relation to a previous job. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting. I did leave Grey’s about four years ago. I’ve tried to be patient and stay true to what is it that I’m going to fall in love with? What is it that might drive me mad? What is it that’s going to put stuff at risk for me? That is where I want to grow from. I waited until this came along. It was almost like, I’m just going to go on with my life, and if I fall in love . . . you can’t force that stuff to happen. I don’t think it’s as conscious as how you put it, but it does feel like pretty good territory, how you put it together. It’s just like: How do you know what the right decision is for you? What do you want love to be, now, in this middle part of your life?"
All in all, it's good to see Oh on television again. "It’s taken me 30 years to get this part," she said in the same Vogue interview, speaking in particular about being an Asian-American lead protagonist. "I see that so clearly."
Eve may not be as biting as Cristina Yang. She's too busy trying to stop a killer to be anyone's "person" or break down crying in a wedding gown. But there's still so much to love about her and root for on Killing Eve.