Killing Eve — Breaking Down the Act Structure of S1E1 — ‘Nice Face’
I’m currently on my third rewatch of the BBC America series Killing Eve, and I have to say, the awkward humor meets primetime gore hasn’t worn off on me yet. It’s such a clever mashup of serious and silly that’s hard to achieve for many writers (See: A Discussion on Bathos, via The Closer Look).
As a writer myself, I wanted to try my hand at breaking down the act structure in the first episode of season one, ‘Nice Face’.
My ultimate goal is to compare and contrast the arc of the entire series thus far with the plot lines of each episode to see what we can learn about storytelling from them...
What is Act Structure?
It’s a narrative tool that is used to create well-paced stories that focus on establishing and resolving tension in a film.
Lindsay Ellis sums it up quite nicely in How Three-Act Screenplays Work (And Why It Matters).
Act 1 — Establishes Main Tension
The main tension, or conflict, is the intrinsic or extrinsic obstacle a protagonist faces. In Act 1, we’re not only introduced to this conflict, but also the main character’s response to it.
Act 2 — Discovery/Exploration
In order to beat this obstacle, the protagonist must go on a journey of self-discovery where they explore new ways to confront the antagonizing force.
For example, in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 The Bride’s training with Pai Mei (Though technically a flashback) is a very literal interpretation of Act 2; Where she levels up, or rather harkens back to, her martial arts lessons in order to fight the remaining members of Bill’s syndicate.
Act 3 — Resolves Main Tension
Act 3, the final act, effectively resolves the main tension of the film.
In many cases this takes the form of a once insurmountable force that is overcome. However, it’s important to note that the resolution of tension can…