Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning Fleabag. Or at least heard about the infamous confession booth ‘kneel’ scene. Lord forgive me.
Originally a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Fleabag gripped the screens of many with its first series: a woman grieving the death of her best friend while trying to run a guinea pig themed cafe in Central London and strategically breaking up with her boyfriend so he’ll clean the house. Gold.
The second and final series aired this March to rave reviews. Waller-Bridge’s breaking of the fourth wall isn’t groundbreaking, but unlike the overdone Miranda-esque style, a feeling of connection with the unnamed protagonist Fleabag is created, and it stays throughout. I felt fiercely defensive of Fleabag, even when I didn’t agree with her actions. Series 2 didn’t follow up on the heaviness of her dead best friend, instead focusing on the family relations and forthcoming marriage of her dad and his new wife. This hateful character is portrayed by Olivia Coleman, proving that she actually is one of the best actors of our generation, because I never thought I’d hate her. She brings the trope of the wicked stepmother perfectly into the 21st century, as well as accurately presenting the relationship between a widowed father and two daughters he’s never fully connected to.
One of the key themes of the new series was the complex and devastating relationship with the also unnamed Priest. I’ve read an embarrassing number of articles accusing him of abusing his position of power, and I could not disagree more. The Priest is portrayed as a flawed, human man. I’m often the first to criticise men, but in this case, I feel that he was written as an extraordinarily human character who fell off the wagon, and by the end, was back on and a better person for it. A priest who drinks, swears and gives in to impulse? I’d rather that than a perfect, unrelatable one who reinforces the stereotype of the Catholic Church being unattainable.
I found myself often being frustrated with other characters’ treatments of Fleabag too, often getting blamed for things out of her control – again, an example of stellar acting and writing. The anonymity of all characters forces you to assess them based on action alone – Claire’s sleazy husband is sadly similar to many male characters, but seeing him based on action alone really forces the point. By the end, I was extremely satisfied that others saw him for the creep he was.
Maybe I’m biased because I’m in love with Fleabag, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like it’s the best thing that’s been on TV for years. I mourned the loss for about a week. The ending was bittersweet and tied up all the loose ends necessary without taking away the mystery, managing to make me laugh and cry simultaneously. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is rightly in demand for her writing and acting skills following its’ success. It’s going to be renowned for its innovative style in the future, and I can’t wait to see the influence it’ll have on future shows. If you haven’t watched it yet, you’re missing out.