Season two of Fleabag returned to BBC Three in an explosive and brilliant first episode on Monday. I was gutted they weren’t all released at one for me to binge, but maybe it’s better for my summatives that I have to confine myself to half an hour a week.
Waller- Bridge also wrote Killing Eve for the screen, another show with hugely interesting and complicated female protagonists, which is very nice to see.
Fleabag is not for everyone; to say that the humour is dark would be an understatement. But, it’s genius and absolutely brilliant in my opinion. What’s more, with so much TV out there, it feels refreshingly original.
Last season of Fleabag followed the horny and unnamed protagonist, played by writer Phoebe Waller- Bridge, as she tried to run her restaurant business, navigate the world of men and process her grief after she slept with her best friend’s boyfriend, leading her to intentionally walk in front of a bike and pass away.
She’s a troubled character, but very endearing. The intimate moments where Waller- Bridge directly addresses the viewer, staring at the camera, are hugely effective. It almost feels like a one person show at the theatre in this sense.
This episode saw Waller- Bridge’s widowed father (Bill Patterson) and godmother (Olivia Coleman) celebrate their engagement in a family dinner, a year after the ‘sexhibition’ that was the setting for last year’s finale. As expected from the opening shot of Waller- Bridge cleaning up her bloody nose, the dinner does not go particularly smoothly.
This middle class family are far from happy. Whether it’s Claire believing her sister to have kissed her husband Martin (when it was really the other way round), the seemingly abusive relationship her father is in with the poisonous godmother (played by Coleman), or the awkwardness of her father giving her vouchers for counselling (which she opens in front of the whole table), this show can be uncomfortable. However, there are sweeter moments of union, such as Waller- Bridge and her sister bonding in the back of a taxi.
This show really divides viewers. It takes tragic themes, and makes them funny. It can be a bit jarring to see serious issues like a miscarriage and paedophilia appearing in a comedy show, but the head on treatment of these things is more admirable than trivial in my view. There are more lighthearted jokes, such as the uptight Claire complaining about her ‘disgusting’ sauce, before telling the keen waitress that it’s delicious.
This episode is so economical and tightly compact that it feels a lot longer than its half an hour. There’s not a wasted line or shot, which is surely the result of the truly excellent script. This is a viewing experience that is not to be missed.