Before this review gets started, let’s get some things straight. Fleabag is funny. Hilarious, even. When rewatching the second season of the show for this review, I was reminded of that fact very clearly. I erupted into laughter in the middle of a quiet coffee shop when Godmother said that her fur purse was not unethical because the animal “had a stroke.” After getting several disgruntled looks from the customers around me, I closed my laptop and returned to the privacy of my dorm room where I could guffaw in peace. Fleabag, however, is more than just its humor. The show has heart, ingenuity and genuinely touching moments that don’t always come through in your average sitcom.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the writer, creator and main character of Fleabag, is one of the most brilliant comedic minds working today. The way in which she uses the camera as a primary character in the show without utilizing the interview format of shows like The Office or Parks and Rec is mind-boggling. For those who haven’t seen the show, Waller-Bridge’s character, who is simply known as Fleabag, interacts with the camera as if it is a person. Imagine Jim Halpert’s eye contact with the camera multiplied by 1000. In fact, in a therapy session — given to her as a birthday gift from her out-of-touch father — Fleabag is asked if she has friends by the therapist, played by Fiona Shaw. Initially, she says no. This is true at first glance. Fleabag’s only friend, Boo, died by suicide before the first season. Then, Fleabag corrects herself, saying her friend is “always there.” Making eye contact with the camera, she then says, “They’re always there.” As a viewer, I felt like I was Fleabag’s only friend, the only one she felt close enough to talk to. This really brought me into the show and is what kept me coming back for more.

The original season of Fleabag was based on a one-woman stage production created by Waller-Bridge in 2013, three years before the TV premiere. For the TV show, Waller-Bridge fleshed out the scenarios, adding in characters like Claire (Sian Clifford), Fleabag’s older workaholic sister, and Godmother (Olivia Colman), a nightmare of a woman who starts dating, and eventually marries, Fleabag’s father after her mother died. In a BUILD Series interview, Waller-Bridge initially didn’t plan on creating a second season of the show. She eventually agreed to create a second season, as she “had this one idea about how to use the camera in an interesting way.” This new idea involved adding a new character to the Fleabag family: The Priest, played by Andrew Scott. In the third episode, The Priest actually takes notice of Fleabag’s asides, the only one to do so in the series. This creates a brief moment of tension between the two, who had up to that point been flirting aggressively. This moment, in particular, shocked me as a viewer. It was so different from other sitcoms, where acknowledging the fourth wall felt so wrong. This moment further broke the rules that had already been broken in the first season. It didn’t sour the show for me, but it did feel like a bit of an odd choice that ends up not amounting to much. The Priest and Fleabag’s relationship, though, is what kept me going throughout the season. In the aforementioned therapy session, Fleabag admits, “I want to fuck a priest.”

The therapist’s nonchalant response of “Catholic?” is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in my entire life. I probably am not conveying how funny it was in the moment, as I don’t have the comedic writing prowess of Queen Phoebe, but it is certainly a scene that should be hung in a museum. The therapist and Fleabag continue their discussion of fucking priests until the therapist asks if Fleabag really wants to fuck the priest or if she wants to fuck God. Fleabag responds, “Can you fuck God?”

“Oh, yes.”

This scene is why Fiona Shaw earned an Emmy nomination for her role as the therapist. In fact, this is the only scene she has in the entire series. The four and a half minutes she is on screen are so hilarious that she earned an Emmy nomination. Anyway, back to fucking a priest.

Fleabag and The Priest eventually copulate. It’s glorious. The Priest and Fleabag have a will-they-won’t-they relationship throughout the series. In the fifth episode of the second season, they eventually have sex with each other, but The Priest chooses God over Fleabag in one of the best closing scenes of a TV finale. Even though the two don’t end up together, their relationship feels fleshed out and real. This is hard to do in only six episodes. It is, however, a testament to Waller-Bridge’s writing prowess and her and Scott’s acting skills that they are able to make the audience believe in them.

In closing, I’d like to shout out a few of my favorite lines from Season 2 of Fleabag without context. If you haven’t watched the show, these should entice you to do so. It really is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. If you have seen the show, you’ll find these even funnier.

– Fleabag: “It’ll be fine.” Claire: “It’s not fine! I awarded her with a pair of tits!”

– Claire: “I have two important meetings today, and I look like a pencil.”

– Fleabag, in a Quaker meeting: “I sometimes worry that I wouldn’t be such a feminist if I had bigger tits.”

– Godmother, to The Priest in reference to Fleabag: “This is my unstable daughter who’s had a miscarriage!” Claire: “It was my fucking miscarriage!”

– The Priest to Fleabag: “Oh, fuck off calling me Father like it doesn’t turn you on just to say it.”

– Martin (Claire’s husband): “I am not a bad guy! I just have a bad personality!”

– Claire: “Putting pine nuts on your salad doesn’t make you a grown-up.” Fleabag, to camera: “Fucking does.”

– Godmother to Fleabag: “You do have a lovely thick neck.”

– The Priest: “Kneel.” (You’ll have to watch the show for context on this one; another scene that should be hung in a museum.)

Sorry for the spoilers, but I promise they will not affect your overall enjoyment. Watch it. Right now. It’s on Amazon. You really have no excuse.

 

Camden Rider | camden.rider@yale.edu