2018 saw Phoebe Waller-Bridge critically acclaimed for the creation of BBC America’s Killing Eve. Writer, director and actor – it’s clear that Waller-Bridge has wowed audiences yet again this year, as 2019 sees the return of her first television wonder, Fleabag.
The second series of Fleabag saw the introduction of some marvellous new characters, and their equally marvellous actors, beginning with Andrew Scott. Best known for Sherlock and James Bond’s Spectre, Scott is perhaps the only other actor who can match Waller-Bridge’s perfect comedic timing and wit. His less-than-holy Priest seems to take an instant interest in Fleabag at an extremely tense engagement dinner for her father and awful Godmother. Fleabag tries to keep the peace and stay quiet, but a series of events take place that end in four people getting punched and leaving the restaurant with a bloodied face. Martin’s alcohol-fuelled, vile comments, the Godmother’s dreadful belittling, Claire’s abrupt and shocking miscarriage as well as Fleabag claiming that it was her who had miscarried… were only a few of the shocking moments the premiere granted us.
Episode 2 opens with Fleabag attending a church service, something that we would not have foreseen in the first series. Bravo Waller-Bridge for the brilliant leap into new environments in which to explore a character. Fleabag and the Hot Priest discuss religion over cans of M&S G&T’s (yes I really did just say that) and they agree to disagree over the existence of God. Fleabag quickly realises that she is utterly infatuated with the Priest. A Catholic priest, who after a quick Google search, she discovers she can’t have sex with. Cue frustration, and fascination.
Episode 3 introduces us to the brilliant Belinda (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is, without a doubt, the most refreshing and wonderful person that Fleabag has the pleasure of meeting. After an amusing and slightly thought provoking take on the life of a woman, the pains, struggles and menopause, Fleabag unburdens herself by explaining that people in general are just, well, shit, to which Belinda aptly replies, “people are all we’ve got”. A late-night visit with a bag of G&T’s leads the Priest to bluntly inform Fleabag that they will not be having sex. Sex has never healed any situation before, for either of them, and it will not do so now, so, he would just like to be friends. But the last few moments sees the Priest shockingly ask Fleabag, “What was that? … Where did you just go?”, after she turns to address us. By being the only character to ever notice this and the only one to question her about it, he breaks the breaking-the-fourth-wall. Perhaps the Priest will be the one to help Fleabag overcome her metaphorical demons?
Episode 4… oh, maybe they will be just friends? I guess it could work? Interesting. Anyway, Fleabag helped the Priest to shop for a new robe and he continued to notice her talking to us, so much so that she messes up her fourth-wall-breaking. The first 10 minutes of this episode posed many questions – ones that Fleabag didn’t like. She attempts to retreat, from a friendship with the Priest, and a friendship with us (the audience). A flashback to her mother’s funeral shows us just how devastated Fleabag was by her death and how it led to her father admitting that he loved, but did not particularly like his late wife. Fleabag also disclosed to her, also deceased, best friend Boo that she didn’t know where to put her left-over-love now that her mother had died. Boo said that she would take it, which begs the question, where is that love now? Knowing that Boo is now also dead, where has Fleabag put her love? Are we supposed to be Boo? The episode ends, very unexpectedly, in the passionate embrace of Fleabag and the Hot Priest. That is until divine intervention, as a painting of God falls to the floor and scares the Priest into stopping the sinful kiss.
Episode 5, and the end is nigh, as the Hot Priest directly tells Fleabag that they cannot sleep together because if they do, he will fall in love with her. Which is obviously morally wrong, with him being a priest and all. He tells the awful Godmother that he can’t perform the wedding ceremony anymore, which makes for a wonderful swearing session from the now-Oscar-winning Olivia Colman. After rushing to Claire’s side to support her rash, horrid hair cut choices, as well as an attempted telling off from a drunken Martin, Fleabag gets a late night visit from the Priest. And oh my God (get it?), they do it! They have sex! Of course, they couldn’t just be friends, why did we even entertain the idea… But for the first time, Fleabag averts our eyes by pushing the camera away – an intimate moment that we are not invited to.
We reach the last episode of this fabulous series and it was absolutely, goddamn perfect. Poetic even. Fleabag’s father may have married her awful Godmother, but the wedding allowed him to compassionately tell Fleabag how much he loved the similarities that she shares with her late mother. The wedding also provided the perfect means for Claire to end her terrible marriage to a man she doesn’t like and to let Fleabag know that she would be the only person that she would run through an airport for. It was beautiful.
I had originally felt that the religious theme was odd for a show that confronts sex and female ‘failure’ so brazenly, however, I think it perfectly represented the kind of peace and stability that Fleabag needed. In meeting the Hot Priest, she understood that everybody finds solace in different ways. And she got to have amazing sex with him, so that’s a nice bonus.
A bittersweet, farewell shake-of-the-head from our protagonist concludes the documented life of the woman whose name we still do not know. Whilst we’ve enjoyed peering into her life, Fleabag has realised that to let go of the sadness in her past, she must also let go of us. She has turned to us to share the burden of her unpredictable life, but now, she must confront it head-on, and alone. As she walks off into the night, she asks us not follow – we are no longer needed. We watched her fall deeply and passionately in love with a man who did what she asked him to: he told her what to do. He told her that her love for him would pass.
Fleabag accepted her previous indiscretions, and the fact that they do not make her a bad person, only a person who has done bad things. She is capable of love, probably more capable than most people. She loves her sister, her father, her mother, Boo, and now, perhaps, even herself, but sadly, she cannot love the Hot Priest. Which is a bit shit really isn’t it, but fuck it – that’s life.
Words by Emma Greedy