Fans were annoyed at the death of Villanelle, seeing her demise as a continuation of a trope as old as time.
The finale of British spy comedy-drama ‘Killing Eve,’ which aired on Sunday, has proven controversial, with mixed reviews from fans.
The critically-acclaimed show has won awards for leading stars Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, as well as season one showrunner, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but no sooner had the thriller ended with the death of anti-heroine Villanelle, than fans spotted an unwelcome pattern.
It seems that the one-time favourite show, praised for its feminist credentials, queer storylines, and subversion of spy-genre tropes, had in fact fallen into an old cliche: Bury Your Gays.
In the final season the titular spy Eve and trained killer Villanelle had consummated their long-simmering, sexually tense relationship, before the fashion-forward assassin met her untimely demise. Making it look as if, in a queer tale as old as time, Villanelle may be getting punished for her sexuality.
The ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope has a long and illustrious history, with queer characters either presented as villains who meet a sticky end (see queer-coded villains like Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’), prone to suicide (Michael Corrigan, “House of Cards’) or tragic victims of circumstance (‘Boys Don't Cry’ and almost any film, play or TV show about AIDS).
While it may seem fair enough to make media about the AIDS crisis in which main characters meet tragic ends, there is often thought to be a casualisation of queer death in films and TV which makes characters seem more expendable, and certainly more accident-prone.
It is particularly striking when looking at media about queer women, with a comprehensive list compiled by Autostraddle showing that 215 queer female characters have been bumped off on-screen since 1976, in a twisted reflection of the GLAAD media report.
Some notable deaths include Tara Maclay (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) killed by a stray bullet, Maga St Germain (‘Pretty Little Liars’) murdered by her fake cousin, and Naomi Campbell (‘Skins’) who died of cancer without telling her partner (why didn’t you tell her Naomi? Why?).
Even shows which are centred on the queer experience have killed off their characters, as demonstrated by the famous killing of Jenny Schecter in the final season of ‘The L Word’. Although it has to be said the cruellest thing about this particular murder was that the world’s most irritating character was still present throughout the finale in flashbacks.
But since ‘Bury Your Gays’ appears to be one trope the internet thinks ‘Killing Eve’ can’t subvert, and that by murdering a strong, queer, female lead the show is simply a reverting to type, maybe Autostraddle should keep the updates coming.