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« Cannes winds down. What's winning the Palme? | Main | Posterized: Liza Minnelli »
Friday
May242019

Fleabag: Season 2 

By Spencer Coile

Rather than beat around the bush, let me just come right out and say: Fleabag is a miraculous piece of television. Its first season, an adaptation of the stage production by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, debuted on Amazon Prime back in 2016. It followed the titular Fleabag (played by Waller-Bridge), a foul-mouthed, lying, sexually insatiable cafe owner in London coming to terms with her best friend’s death. With few friends, she’s prone to stealing, sleeping with assorted men, and antagonizing her family, including her godmother-turned-stepmother (Olivia Colman) - all the while breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us, her audience. It was an uncomfortable yet poignant six episode run, but Fleabag’s story wasn’t quite over.

Waller-Bridge, notable for her recent involvement with Killing Eve, is back for one final season with her plucky anti-hero. And rather than just be a continuation of the first season, Fleabag returns to Prime with a second season so stunning and so deeply personal, you may have no choice but to see it to believe it. So, rather than a review, let’s consider this a celebration of Fleabag...

For its second season, Fleabag picks up roughly one year following the events of the first and Fleabag is doing better than ever. Whereas before her business was suffering, she was estranged from her sister (Sian Clifford), and she was feeling remorse over her friend’s death… now her cafe is thriving, she’s reduced her smoking, drinking, and sexual activity, and she’s pushed aside and buried any negative feelings she carries from the past. In theory, she should have the world wrapped around her finger… except the opening shot of the season reveals Fleabag with blood pouring from her nose. She cleans herself up, glances at us slightly from the mirror, and says, “This is a love story.”   

And boy is it. From the get-go of season two, Fleabag  is chock full of grace and love. But who is it a love story between? Is it Fleabag finally reconnecting with her sister? How about the romance that blossoms between her and the hot priest (Andrew Scott) who is going to officiate Fleabag’s dad and stepmom’s impending nuptials? What about the brief but significant conversation Fleabag shares with businesswoman Belinda (Kristin Scott Thomas in an effortless guest role)? Truthfully, the answer is yes - to all of them.

Therein lies the beauty of Waller-Bridge’s worldmaking. On its surface, Fleabag is an awkward tale about a woman who guards herself off to those around her, finding any semblance of comfort by breaking that fourth wall and speaking to those who cannot judge her - sometimes mid-conversation with other characters. After all, she is constantly attempting to hide from her own reality. However, as season two develops, it becomes less and less about Fleabag’s buried emotional state and more about her opening herself up; to the future, to rekindling relationships, to recognizing she is worthy of this “love story” - especially from herself.

While this is largely one woman’s journey, I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t offer at least a paragraph to discuss Andrew Scott’s hot priest. He is nerdy and devout, but still has a penchant for smoking and swearing - much to Fleabag’s delight. Importantly, he sees Fleabag in ways no one else has. He is as quick witted as she is, but perhaps most importantly, he notices when she speaks to the camera. Only, he doesn’t know she is speaking to someone else, but that she “goes somewhere” when she glances in our direction. He makes astute observations about her character that begin to peel away at her damaged and emotionally insecure layers.

It helps immensely that Scott and Waller-Bridge share indescribable chemistry. While their romance is forbidden - after all, he is a man of faith - there is something so palpable in their attraction that it’s hard not to route for them. They see something special in one another that they are afraid for others to notice. In just a few short episodes, their relationship becomes as textured as the series itself. This is due in large part to Andrew Scott’s endearing and sincerely engaging commitment to pulling out the priest’s kindness and compassion, but also his ragged edges and his flaws.

Speaking of a few short episodes, another clever trait to Fleabag is its efficiency. At only six episodes with the longest being roughly 27 minutes, Waller-Bridge manages to pack so much into such a tiny package. While many shows run into the problem of churning its wheels near the end, hoping to justify its length and episode run, Fleabag is over in a flash. It sparkles brilliantly and never once fades, and by the final scene of the series, there is a sense of completeness. For us, Fleabag’s confidantes for two seasons, her story may be over. But for Fleabag, it is only just beginning.

 

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Reader Comments (12)

I needed a new show to watch and now I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Wonderfully said. This show is astonishing. I think it (and Phoebe W-B) will give Maisel and Veep a run for their money at the Emmys. We have one episode left and are hesitant to watch it because we don't want to be done.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

Julia isn’t losing the Emmy because she beat cancer.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

You're probably right, beyaccount. But they can give PWB the comedy writing award and still see her on stage.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I liked the first season a lot, but this season is amazing, I loved it in a way that I can't really express. Thanks for trying to explain PWB's talent and appeal.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

If I see a better television this year I'll be shocked. This show is an all-timer.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I read so much pre-release hype on this show and I couldn't wait to see it. Then I saw it... and it surpassed my every expectation. Even though I didn't want to rush through the episodes, I found myself watching one after another after another. There is not a wasted moment - everyone and everything is firing on all cylinders. And when I got to the end, I was elated, surprised, shocked, dazed, sad, happy - I walked around in a haze for the rest of the weekend. Like Fleabag, I start to go somewhere else when I think about the experience of watching the show. The religious themes this season are apt because this show is touching some kind of divinity.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

i watched both seasons quickly over the past few days, and i must say, it's extraordinary work. the second season, specifically, is just brilliant. the discourse on love in this season was more profound than any i've seen in film or television in some time. it's something that the rest of us can only aspire to. thank you for this write-up.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

i thought the first season so perfect and self-contained that any more might spoil it - how wrong i was. [aside to audience] should have never doubted phoebe

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpar

This show is a miracle. I couldn't stop binge-watching both seasons.

May 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Yeah. I liked the first season but the second just slayed me. I can't stop thinking about it.

May 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I say this without hyperbole...season 2 might be the best season of television I have ever seen

June 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBen

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