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The world can’t seem to get enough of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. As Waller-Bridge debuts the second season of BBC America’s hit thriller “Killing Eve” and its first season wins accolades, the second season of her original dramedy “Fleabag” finally comes to American television. Though its first season is quite self-contained, “Fleabag” returns to screens once more, courtesy of Waller-Bridge and director Harry Bradbeer. The duo teamed up for a second run that proves to be just as funny and poignant. With its signature dark humor, self-awareness, and its ability to capture the painfully accurate truths of female experience, the final season is perhaps even better than the first.
A year after the disastrous events of the Season One finale, Fleabag is back — she has stopped going on dates and spends more time with friends, while her café has finally taken off. On paper, she is doing much better than before. In reality, Fleabag is just as confused, crippled with self-loathing, and lonely as ever. As usual, her interactions with others are interspersed with her breaking of the fourth-wall to reveal her inner dialogue, providing caustic yet hilarious commentary and humorous predictions (or misinterpretations) of what will happen next.
While Season One deals more directly with the aftermath of her best friend Boo’s death, Season Two more generally tackles Fleabag’s ruptured relationships, focusing on those with her various family members — most notably her relationship with both her uptight sister and bumbling father. Fleabag and Claire (Sian Clifford) haven’t talked in a year, but in the season premiere the two are finally reunite for their father’s engagement party. This season does an excellent job of giving each sister a voice to explain the inner conflicts that each has felt with regards to each other. Clifford moves her character beyond the controlling stereotype to provide a much more feeling portrait of a woman trying as hard as she can to hide her inner crisis.
Fleabag’s father (Bill Paterson) is officially engaged to her obnoxious godmother (Olivia Colman). This event forces Fleabag and her father to come to terms with their dissolved relationship and to confront the strange void that has filled their world since the death of Fleabag’s mother. Though he suffers the same idiosyncratic stilted speech, Fleabag’s father eventually manages to provide a satisfactory explanation for his odd, neglectful behavior — finally giving the audience a deeper understanding of his character.
The wedding introduces another complicated aspect into Fleabag’s life: the Priest (Andrew Scott) with whom she has an incredibly electric and forbidden connection. If Fleabag always saw herself as a load of emotional baggage, the Priest — with his drinking problem and precarious faith — gives her a run for her money. Beyond the whole taboo, the idea of throwing these unstable characters into a charged relationship at first seems rather reductive, especially given what we know of Fleabag’s romantic past. However, Waller-Bridge’s instinct to put these two together ultimately turns out to be one of the most interesting and suspenseful parts of the show. Partly due to their honest dialogue and partly to Waller-Bridges and Scott’s tangible connection, all scenes they share are simultaneously tender and exciting. It’s a relief that the show doesn’t use Fleabag’ s romantic relationship as the basis for her slow recovery, but rather to show that she is capable of loving and being loved. If Fleabag’s actions in the first season were marked by selfishness or inflicting unintended pain, she has clearly grown more aware and open to vulnerability over the course of this season and Waller-Bridge portrays this with the right amount of tentativeness. While Fleabag’s ending is not all happiness, she emerges from the events of Season Two with more strength and the hope that she deserves.
Of course, the show’s signature hilarity is another part of its success: The Godmother’s blatant dislike for Fleabag and all scenes featuring Creepy Jake (Angus Imrie) with his constant, disconcerting cries of “Where’s Claire?” are golden. The moment when Fleabag’s therapist (Fiona Shaw) analyzes Fleabag’s motives for wanting to be with the Priest: “Do you really want to fuck the priest or do you want to fuck God?” And the pause, coupled with the rapid exchange of looks that follows right after, points to the show’s perfect use of visual humor and comedic timing. These small scenes and details all demonstrate that the writing is as sharp and creative as ever and the situations that Fleabag gets herself into are just as complex.
Of course, some characters ultimately feel unnecessary. The introduction of the lascivious lawyer billed as “Hot Misogynist” (Ray Fearon) is rather extraneous, given that this whole series is supposed to be about Fleabag’s recovery from mindless sex into more meaningful relationships. He doesn’t have much of a role and his character sticks around just a tad too long considering that he is supposed to be an unwanted reminiscence of the past. There is also Kristin Scott Thomas’s brilliant albeit almost random cameo in Episode Three. Though she delivers a fantastic, very obviously feminist-angled speech about the undermining phrase “women in business,” her appearance feels rather incongruous with the rest of the show, especially since her character never returns.
Ultimately, even these small elements can’t take away from the brilliant acting of every single member of the cast or the show’s overall witty dialogue. Though there is a two year gap between the first and second season, the actors jump into their roles so flawlessly that it takes no time to get back into the world of “Fleabag.” Nailing every single part of a fantastic production, “Fleabag” is surely one the most unique and intelligent shows that has been on recently, making its ending one of the greatest tragedies and triumphs of TV history.
—Staff writer Aline G. Damas can be reached at email@example.com.
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