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I spy with my little eye… a cultural tour of Killing Eve

4 June 2020

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Martinis, Aston Martins, Mark Rothko… what is it about art and espionage? Whether it’s art historians with double lives (Anthony Blunt) or national intelligence services secretly funding painting movements (the CIA and Abstract Expressionism), it seems that for spies the allure of high culture is impossible to resist.

Equally, your rakish correspondent must confess to a fondness for spy-related content: not least the black-comedy thriller Killing Eve, the third season of which has just ended. Over the course of eight blood-spattered episodes, Rakewell has been making careful notes – not in an attempt to solve the murders and mysteries that drive the drama, but on the series’ often divertingly dramatic locations.

The show’s creators have seemingly taken their cue from the historical examples of art-loving spies, with a series of rendezvous taking place in cultural venues across London. In the final episode, the MI5’s Carolyn (played by Fiona Shaw) finally meets Villanelle (played by Jodie Comer), a psychopathic assassin working for an enigmatic international crime organisation called the Twelve. The location? The Royal Albert Hall in London:

Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in the Royal Albert Hall

Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Laura Radford/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle

For another meeting across the river, Carolyn selected the brutalist environs of the Southbank Centre:

Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) at the Southbank Centre. Photo: Ludovic Robert/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle

Meanwhile Villanelle’s tastes – whether in clothing, interiors or murder weapons – lean towards the baroque. An aborted wedding reception takes place at the 14th-century Castillo de la Monclova in Andalusia, while for her base in Barcelona she spreads out across a whole floor of the Cases Ramos, a spectacular example of ornate Catalan modernism designed in the early 20th century by Jaume Torres i Grau.

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in the Cases Ramos.

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in the Cases Ramos. Photo: Des Willie/BBCAmerica

The Armourers’ Hall back in London is an on-the-nose choice from the Twelve for a tense meeting with Villanelle:

Villanelle meets The Twelve’s representatives at the Armourers’ Hall.

Villanelle meets the Twelve’s representatives at the Armourers’ Hall. Photo: Laura Radford/BBCAmerica/Sid Gentle

And finally – with thanks to an eagle-eyed Twitter user for this discovery – there’s the somewhat more populist venue picked out by the titular Eve (Sandra Oh), the shabbily dressed former intelligence officer with little interest in a life of luxury:

Yes, that’s Rowans, the legendary bowling alley usually found in Finsbury Park – but for the purposes of Killing Eve, now situated somewhere in Barcelona…