NBC’s drama The Endgame premieres less than a week before the final season of Killing Eve — which feels appropriate since the two shows are already being compared to one another. Both are led by a pair of strong female characters, and both begin with the central concept that one is a government officer while the other is a notorious criminal. Naturally, the two are obsessed with taking each other down. But beyond those basics, is the comparison truly apt? And could The Endgame benefit from taking a page from Killing Eve‘s playbook?
The Endgame stars Ryan Michelle Bathé as FBI agent Val Turner and Morena Baccarin as criminal mastermind Elena Federova. Val is locked in a battle of wits and forces with Elena, but Elena is a mercenary instead of a master assassin. And while Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer have spent three years building up a co-dependent relationship between Eve Polastri and Villanelle, Val’s fixation on Elena is more about professional redemption than personal flaws. The Endgame has the potential to be as addictive as Killing Eve; between this and the Emmy Award-worthy Ordinary Joe, NBC has the best new shows of the season.
Both The Endgame and Killing Eve set up a back-and-forth between their main characters, where they recognize each other’s competency even though they’re on opposite sides. The obsession between Eve and Villanelle deepens to the point where, as the Season 4 trailer shows, the only relationship they have left is with each other. Each of them leaves a path of destruction in their wake, whether it’s actual bodies or the end of Eve’s marriage. The Endgame shows no interest in making Val and Elena’s dynamic anywhere near that unhealthy. Both of them have longstanding marriages they hold tightly onto and goals beyond dealing with each other.
Killing Eve fans will still get a kick out of the show, though, because Bathé and Baccarin make as entertaining a pair as Oh and Comer. Baccarin gets the showier part, looking completely unbothered in an expensive Carolina Herrera dress for most of the pilot; it’s the antithesis of her role on Homeland, where she earned an Emmy nomination for showing how Jessica Brody was affected not only by terrorism but by the effect fighting it had on her husband. Bathé, so good as hotshot lawyer Rachel Audubon on All Rise, has that same “me against the world” attitude here but now her character is in the spotlight instead of supporting others. Their scenes together are just as intense as their Killing Eve counterparts — without all of the emotional baggage.
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But to call The Endgame a network TV version of Killing Eve is only seeing a fraction of the picture. If viewers are judging by the concept, the series also shares common DNA with two other NBC dramas, The Blacklist and The Enemy Within. Both those series also had a two-handed setup with a hero on one side and a villain on the other. While those shows were based on cooperation — the latter even made Jennifer Carpenter’s villain a former CIA agent — they used the same basic idea of an underlying tension that played good against evil both literally and metaphorically. There’s even a little bit of Blindspot, between an ongoing subplot and Blindspot alum Jordan Johnson-Hinds being an Endgame regular.
NBC will be able to pull in some curious viewers if it teases the comparison, given how Killing Eve is so critically acclaimed and viewers are wanting network shows that break from the procedural mold. Yet the network shouldn’t set up an expectation that The Endgame won’t meet. It’s not a series where characters will be infiltrating kids’ birthday parties or be seen as style icons (Elena’s gorgeous dress aside), and it’s set on the harsh streets of New York (the same location as New Amsterdam) instead of the beautiful locations of Europe. While Killing Eve has the psychological drama and the romantic angst down pat, The Endgame is a breathless, gritty thriller that punches the audience in the face. The two shows have similar vibes, but they’re telling separate fantastic stories.
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