Taking another look at the hit limited series Fleabag is Natasha Turnbull
It is difficult to envision that a comedy-drama can stick in your mind and stand out amongst the plethora of content shovelled out today, but ‘Fleabag’ does, and it does it tremendously. The two-series show explores the fascinating life of Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the protagonist who oddly remains unnamed throughout the 12 episodes. With her ludicrous interactions with men, her crumbling café, and a failing relationship with her family, Fleabag’s life is comical yet touching. While the show concluded in 2019, it has remained one of my favourite television series thanks to its dry humour, unique narration style and admirable relatability.
The first series begins with Fleabag having a one-night stand. While she pretends to be enjoying the encounter, she turns to the camera to voice her true feelings in hilariously blunt remarks, all while the man cannot hear her talking to us. Viewers are taken by complete surprise, introducing us to the unique narration style that will continue throughout the show. The character breaks the fourth wall so excellently that it instantly starts to feel natural to viewers.
Later, viewers meet wealthy older sister Claire (Sian Clifford), who is the opposite of Fleabag. While Fleabag is painfully chaotic and unhinged, Claire is painfully uptight and direct. Fleabag finds joy in irritating her sister while Claire is constantly on edge around her, providing some stellar comedy. Fleabag’s father and godmother feel the same as they struggle to deal with her bizarre behaviour.
Despite the tense sisterly relationship, Claire’s husband Martin is where Fleabag’s troubles ultimately begin. Martin proclaims himself as “a good guy with a bad personality” and seemingly cannot stand Fleabag. Despite this, he attempts to kiss her on Claire’s birthday. Fleabag later confides in Claire, and while she initially believes her and claims she will leave Martin, the concluding episode of the first series shows otherwise. Martin manages to convince his wife that Fleabag initiated the kiss. Why would Claire ever believe this? Well, because Fleabag has done this before.
Fleabag had a best friend, Bo, who was also her business partner for their crumbling café. We discover that Bo died after walking into traffic after finding out her boyfriend had cheated on her. Viewers see flashbacks of Bo’s interactions with Fleabag, and there is a real sense that Bo understood and loved Fleabag like nobody else in her life. After growing to love Bo, we learn that Fleabag was the woman her boyfriend cheated on her with, leaving us torn on how to feel about the loveable but flawed Fleabag.
The second series begins with a dramatic fight at the dinner table between Fleabag and Martin, starting with throwing snarky comments to throwing literal punches. Amidst the conflict, a new character appears at the table. The Priest (Andrew Scott), who also remains nameless throughout the series, plans to wed Fleabag’s father and godmother but becomes closer to Fleabag in the process. We initially believe he is yet another of Fleabag’s meaningless male interests. However, as their interactions continue, there is a noticeable and genuine bond between the pair, not one Fleabag has merely manufactured for a sense of fulfilment. It is hilariously ironic that Fleabag, who engages in casual hook-ups to fill a void, has connected with a priest and his celibacy becomes a prevalent issue throughout the final episodes.
When The Priest asks Fleabag, “What was that?” while she is talking to the audience, the series completely changes. This simple question means Fleabag no longer has the safety-net of the audience, and she can no longer disconnect from her real life for comfort. She forces herself to be genuine in her interactions with The Priest, as uncomfortable as that may make her feel. I have never seen such a unique plot twist, driven with comedic yet eye-opening purposes. It is in moments like these make Fleabag so undeniably unforgettable.
Fleabag falls in love with The Priest, and we can tell that the feeling is mutual. However, the most gutting scene is when he prioritises his religious beliefs and informs Fleabag that his feelings will pass. Despite Fleabag’s flaws, we were undoubtedly rooting for her the entire time.
The series concludes with her turning towards the audience for the final time, then walking away, symbolising her need to move forwards by herself. ‘Fleabag’ establishes a relationship between the protagonist and the viewer that is truly special. The show is something I believe can’t ever be created to the same success again and is a future classic which should talked about for years to come.
Written by Natasha Turnbull