The most inspiring tales serve to motivate you as well as give you the drive to carry on. They leave you with lingering questions that allow you to feel whole instead of deficient; connected rather than alone. This encapsulates the storyline of the six-episode second and last season of Fleabag.
The incredibly gifted Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this show which closely follows the exploits of a character we recognize Fleabag as she continues to process the loss of both her mom and her best friend, who passed away before the show began. In the first episode, Fleabag tells us, her closest friends, “This is a love story”, yet it’s not the kind of love story you might be used to from conventional, female-centric media.
The entire show revolves around Fleabag attempting to learn to accept herself despite the suffering she caused her closest friend before she passed away, and her attempting to appreciate herself more. Naturally, as we already discovered in the previous season, this practice for her is possible after she learns to cultivate loving, healthy relationships with those around her.
By the premiere of the second season of the series, Fleabag has already established her capacity for both consistently creating novel methods to end up making her own life much worse and for also wreaking havoc on the lives of those closest to her. Boo ends up killing herself in the first season’s most shocking revelation after discovering her boyfriend had been having an affair with a woman. Interestingly, that somebody had been Fleabag, but Boo died before she had a chance to learn of the betrayal, leaving Fleabag to curl up in her own guilt.
With very few flashback scenes of the two being together than in Season one, Fleabag’s shame over Boo still seems to be present but less intense here. In the series’ last few episodes, Waller-Bridge prepares Fleabag to address her fundamental issue: her unaddressed sadness over her mom’s death and her resulting animosity towards her soon-to-be stepmother. Of course, she continues to pursue dysfunctional relationships, and this time she hits the jackpot in terms of unavailable partners: a partner who’s already committed to God.
On the one hand, it’s good to see Fleabag be vulnerable with a potential love interest. Sadly, the target of her affection is a priest preparing to officiate her dad and stepmom’s union. For the first time, Fleabag is shown being truly intimate with a potential partner.
In order to show this, Waller-Bridge makes the priest the only character in the entire show who can see Fleabag constantly breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. Perhaps one of her primary tools for self-defense was her capacity to temporarily remove herself from environments and use humor to deflect the nervousness or discomfort of any situation, but the priest eliminates it. When Fleabag puts the camera away whilst making love with the priest, we can see that she is finally growing more at ease with vulnerable situations.
The protagonist’s grief has been shown throughout the series to take the form of destructive behavior which has been jeopardizing her relationships. Fleabag wanders out onto the next phase of her life, willing to try living it as a more equipped adult, having actually brought herself to just be vulnerable and also feel rejection. In an emotionally charged final sequence, she also closes the viewer’s door into her inner world.
In the second season, Fleabag’s humor is less biting, not owing to it being less offensive or because the sharp points have been tendered in favor of something less efficient and more tolerable, but rather because it is conveyed with less intense, unresolved pain. Fleabag has improved her ability to treat herself and others with kindness as she progresses through her recovery cycle.
Sadly though, there is no conventional redemption story for our gutsy Fleabag. As with many of our decisions in life, the turning point of the show depends on desperation as well as an unanticipated act of kindness. Despite how painful the TV show is, it does make room for kindness and love.
“This is a love story,” makes reference not only to the protagonist’s tale with the Priest but also to the connection she shares with her family. A few loose ends are elegantly tied by the end of the season and the show. In order to tell her love, a man who is comically named Klare, about her feelings, Claire leaves her awful, alcoholic partner Martin and scurries to the airport. Furthermore, a touching conversation between Fleabag and her dad helps them better understand one another.
Waller Bridge’s skills rest in creating characters who aren’t likable – much less lovable – but still absolutely relatable. The fact that our protagonist is a morally grey figure makes the show stand out because it makes her seem more humane.
This season, Andrew Scott, who plays the Priest, absolutely steals the show and elevates it to new heights. From his wit to his emotional monologue at Fleabag’s father’s wedding, he is a delight to watch.
Sian Clifford, who plays Claire on the show, is another brilliant actor. She completely owns her role and does an incredible job of portraying the perfectionist sister who is equally hurt by her life choices. Fleabag’s godmother and stepmother, Olivia Colman, does great work in her role too. She thrives in her portrayal of the antagonistic stepmother who is chivalrous yet passive-aggressive.
Overall, Fleabag builds on its strengths from the previous season and improves upon them by incorporating new elements. Everything about the series, including the storyline, character development, use of the fourth wall (and eventual removal of such) —is exquisitely beautiful. What a great way to close out this wonderful series.
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Verdict - 9/10