I can’t get over how fantastically talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge is. Not only is she the writer, creator, and star of the Emmy-nominated Fleabag, she’s also the showrunner for the spy thriller, Killing Eve – a completely different show in both style and tone, but still excellent and fun to watch. Additionally, she’s the creator/star of a 2016 BBC show called Crashing and was the voice of L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story last year, among many other things. Still, her crowning achievement, in my opinion, is Fleabag. It’s a very simple, very understated show, but it blew me away. Twice.
The first season, which premiered in late 2016, is a slow build. It starts out as a wacky comedy about an absolute mess of a woman, whom we call Fleabag, trying to hold her life together in hilarious ways, while offering snide comments and wry observations directly to the camera. By the end of the six-episode arc, though, it becomes something much deeper and more complicated which ends up hitting you like a ton of bricks.
Season 1 is fantastic, and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t yet, but in this review, I mainly want to focus on season 2. After the first season premiered, a lot of people were clamoring for a second, but Waller-Bridge swore she wouldn’t do one unless she could come up with something new and meaningful to do with the character. Fortunately, she did, and the second season premiered earlier this year, first on the BBC, and then on Amazon Prime in the U.S.
As a side note, if you don’t have Amazon Prime, both seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray, but unfortunately, only in PAL/Region 2 format. That means that, for now at any rate, if you want to watch the discs in the U.S., you’ll need a region-free DVD or Blu-ray player.
So, what is this show actually like? Well, in season 1, Fleabag was hemorrhaging money in the café she ran, would try to sleep with virtually anyone she encountered, and, by the end, had succeeded in alienating most of her family. Season 2 picks up just over a year later, and it’s clear early on that things are different. She’s actually been getting her life on track.
The formerly empty café now has loads of customers, and Fleabag genuinely seems to enjoy running it. She’s also given up sex, at least for the moment, and is curbing the self-destructive behaviors that went with it. Her relationship with her family, though, is still strained at best. Fleabag may be turning her life around, but her sister, her father, and the others around her spent years dealing with the train wreck that she was. Can they accept her as anything else? Can they ever stop assuming the worst about her, given her past behavior?
And of course, just as Fleabag is finally turning things around for herself, something has to come along to jeopardize everything she’s worked for. Enter the hot priest.
Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) is the “cool, swear-y priest” who’s come along to marry Fleabag’s father (Bill Paterson) and her evil godmother (Olivia Colman). And Fleabag—one year celibate, life finally back on the right track—almost immediately falls for him.
Typically, if someone falls for a priest, it’s about forbidden fruit and wanting what you can’t have; however, that’s never been Fleabag’s particular poison. The appeal in this case, rather, is something much deeper: He sees her. Her family and those closest to her all view her in a certain way and treat her a certain way, no matter how much she changes and grows. The Priest, however, sees Fleabag for who she truly is, on a level no one else does.
This connection is rather brilliantly illustrated by the fact that the priest can somehow hear the little side comments that Fleabag makes directly to the audience—arguably the only time when she’s truly being herself. This sudden revelation is a total surprise to both of them and frightens and confuses them considerably—much like the ever-growing, undeniable connection between them. This becomes increasingly clear as the show progresses, and their interactions, though innocuous on the surface, become almost unbearably sexy in their undertones.
All of this is just barely scratching the surface of what there is to love about this season of Fleabag, and the show in general. Like season 1, it’s at times wacky and strange, at times darkly funny, and at times deep and hard hitting in ways you never expected. If season 1 hit me like a ton of bricks, season 2 left me with my jaw on the floor.
The writing is fantastic, and the performances are phenomenal. Waller-Bridge makes great use of the fact that her character is no longer able to talk directly to the audience without being heard, and instead speaks volumes with just a quick, surreptitious glance to the camera. Sian Clifford is great as Fleabag’s workaholic sister Claire who’s dealing with just as many issues as Fleabag, but who hides them more effectively. Claire’s husband Martin is played by Brett Gelman who excels at playing obnoxious and crass. (You may recognize him as Murray from Stranger Things.) And then there’s Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as Fleabag and Claire’s godmother who always acts very cordial and nice to everyone, but who is nonetheless dripping with evil, with every word out of her mouth.
Season 2 came out a few months ago, but it’s been back in the public eye recently, as the show has now been nominated for no less than 11 different Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as Outstanding Writing by Waller-Bridge, and Outstanding Performances by Waller-Bridge, Colman, Clifford, and others. I hope it wins as many as possible. This is a fantastic show and well worth your time and attention.
In typical British fashion, each season is only 6 episodes. You could binge the whole thing in an afternoon. Once you finish it, though, the impact the show has will stick with you for a long, long time to come.
Creative Team: Phoebe Waller-Bridge (writer/creator, Fleabag), Sian Clifford (Claire), Andrew Scott (Priest), Olivia Colman (Godmother), Bill Paterson (Dad), Brett Gelman (Martin)
Released By: BBC and Amazon Prime
Click here to watch or here to purchase.