With Killing Eve, has Jodie Comer proved herself the most exciting actor of her generation?

Comer’s turn as Villanelle is a piercing jolt of a performance that hits you like a hairpin to the eyeball.

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You might not know the name Jodie Comer, but you’ve probably seen her on TV in the past few years. Perhaps you caught her first major TV role, in E4’s My Mad Fat Diary, as lead character Rae’s popular, beautiful, under-confident and occasionally mean best friend, Chloe. (If not, why not? Its funny, warm depiction of one woman’s frustrating, insecure, horny teenage years is still yet to be matched on TV – it finished airing three years ago and I still recommend it all the time.) Perhaps you saw her as the Other Woman: petulant, defiant Kate, in the BBC’s Doctor Foster. Or as Ivy, the twitchy, frantic lead in BBC Three’s missing-girl-found-years-later drama, Thirteen.

What has impressed me about all of Comer’s roles is her ability to find an edge to vulnerability. As a traumatised kidnapping survivor, Comer is visibly fragile, but somehow steely, unafraid to bring a hint of the unlikeable to a role that many would play as a perfect, naive victim. As Chloe, she is self-absorbed, funny, vicious and loving all at once.

And now she plays Villanelle, a gorgeous, magnetic, sociopathic serial killer, all gleeful brutality and spite, in Killing Eve, 2018’s best TV show. Comer, whose Scouse accent has a habit of surprising interviewers, moves between languages, personas and (convincingly feigned) emotions at the flick of a switchblade. One minute, Villanelle charms a foolish, infatuated stranger with her doe eyes, or politely encourages a maternal woman to let her in for a cup of tea. The next, she’s revelling in mocking, sarcastic sympathy as her victim begs for their life, her eyes flashing with delight.

It’s a piercing jolt of a performance that hits you like a hairpin to the eyeball. Never has a murderer on screen had so much fun, and been so funny with it. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 21 September 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn’s next war

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