TV REVIEW – Fleabag Season 2: Praise to the Beautiful, Anarchic Second Coming…

*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Still smiling. Still reeling. Still skulking at the bus stop waiting for her to come back and collect us. Please don’t go. I suppose, however, it’s her happy ending that she can finally leave us behind and move on. But, still… please don’t go.

Despite mourning the melancholic farewell to our favourite misfit, the epic finale guided us to a truly moving and worthy close. Fleabag has triumphed, ultimately confronting all the demons that haunted her in season one and, though for the most part alone, she’s now on the road to recovery. Overall, although this season grappled with themes of depression and guilt in more depth, it somehow felt lighter and more hopeful than season one. Perhaps it was because this time it was like returning to an old friend, or maybe it was because love was finally in the air in the form of a hot, though unattainable, priest: enter the spectacular Andrew Scott. In season one, we watched her plummet to painful depths, but now, we get to watch her rise – rip-roaring and spectacularly vibrant.

Her guinea pig café is booming, buzzing with life, particularly on ‘Chatty Wednesdays’ when strangers are encouraged to converse with one another – an alien idea amidst lonely London life. She’s also replaced sex with avocado on toast and pine nuts on salad – which, by the way, do in fact make you a responsible adult. We also see her getting closer with her lovably uptight and neurotic sister, Claire (played to perfection by Sian Clifford). However, over the course of the series, despite being surrounded by people, she’s as lonely as ever – the knowing asides to us serving as a mask to deflect from the agony she still carries with her. Perhaps this was what Kristen Scott-Thomas was getting at in her scene-stealing cameo, delivering a brilliant monologue on how women are born with “pain built in”.

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Luckily, star and creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is no stranger to masterfully balancing pathos and humour, and with season two, we welcome in side-splitting, tear-jerking anarchy. From the opening episode the bar is set very high with an exquisitely hellish passive-aggressive family meal. In this instance perhaps Phoebe was drawing on her roots in theatre, as it took place only in one setting and was fuelled by exceptional dialogue that could rival any Harold Pinter or David Mamet play. Throughout, it boils over with loaded remarks and spit-fire comic timing, ending in full-fisted bloodshed like some Shakespearean family feud.

As well as Fleabag’s signature fourth wall breaking, what really drives this show is the relationships she shares. With Andrew Scott, playing the Winnie-the-Pooh loving, fox fearing “cool, sweary” priest, she shares beautiful chemistry, with genuine warmth and simmering sexual tension. These two are great together, with Scott delivering, as always, an outstanding performance. A particular highlight being when, after a painting of Jesus eerily crashes to the ground upon Fleabag openly declaring her atheism in Church, he remarks, both smug and awe-struck, “… I love it when he does that”. The more moving moments between them are truly heart-breaking, both Scott and Waller-Bridge possessing the skill of saying so much with so little. The honest, messy sisterhood she shares with Claire is also spectacular, the sparky rapport between them never failing to ignite hilarity, leading to some of the most memorable moments in the show, such as the infamous bad hair-cut scene… “I look like a pencil”. Their bond onscreen is magical and so starkly relatable for anyone who is lucky enough to have a sister, “You’re the only person I’d run through an airport for”. Also, I suppose we’ll never know, but here’s hoping Claire got her happy ending with… Klare. Genius.

Honourable mentions must also go to the rest of the cast – one of the best ensembles to ever grace the box – the always fabulous Olivia Colman as the divinely bitchy Godmother, Bill Paterson as adorable, bumbling Dad and Brett Gelman as obnoxious brother-in-law Martin (who looks great in a pair of high-heels, flashback to season one). There were also some familiar faces returning in brilliant cameos from Hugh Skinner and Jenny Rainsford, but also some new ones in Fiona Shaw’s hilariously dry portrayal of the Therapist and (previously mentioned) legend Kristen Scott Thomas, playing the supremely wise, martini-sipping ‘businesswoman of the year’.

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It’s been said before, but it truly was the perfect ending. In it, we finally learnt what our role was in Fleabag – we were her escape, her audience, and we were allies with her against the world. Although she doesn’t end up with the priest, she still wins in simply and sincerely being able to finally say “I really love you”. She opens up, and for the first time, it’s not directed at us. She doesn’t need us anymore, and there lies her salvation.

A queen of comedy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance and writing is a true gift. Dubbed the ‘flawed anti-hero’, it’s often questioned as to why we still like Fleabag and want to be around her? A simple answer to that would be, why not? She is indeed very complex, but as are most people. An eclectic concoction of the admirable and not-so-admirable, she’s one of the most real, empathetically written women to ever grace TV. Ultimately, in recent years, steps have been made to get us talking about women onscreen, and Fleabag should always be credited as an instigator of that conversation.

Amen.

by Angel Lloyd

Angel Lloyd graduated from University of York in 2018 with a degree in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance. Admittedly always felt like a traitor as film stole my heart long ago. Graduated from BFI Scriptwriting Academy in 2015 and Northern Stars Documentary Academy in 2014. Much love and adoration for Carrie Fisher, Julie Taymor and Andrea Arnold. Soft spot for Baz Luhrmann glamour and Tim Burton wackiness. Favourite films include Withnail and IEdward ScissorhandsNowhere Boy and Moulin Rouge. 

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