Phoebe Waller–Bridge’s exemplary artistry shines through in the latest series of her beautifully candid comedy Fleabag. Set a year after the events of the first installment, Waller-Bridge’s second round reiterates her glorious tirade upon the symptoms of the modern millennial existence. All the characters whom audiences have come to know and love rear their ugly heads, with Waller-Bridge herself at the helm leading the series to new heights of effortless satire.
Following the heartbreaking, yet hilarious finale of the first series, the second chapter in the life of Waller-Bridge’s alter ego gets off to a flying start. A family dinner takes a characteristically dramatic turn, Godmother is once again fantastically nasty and an enticing Catholic priest catches the attention of Fleabag.
Waller-Bridge’s penchant for nuanced and complex, yet wholly realistic characters is arguably what places Fleabag at the top of its game. Claire (Sian Clifford), who received a prestigious promotion at the end of the last series, should be basking in the warmth of a highly successful career.
Instead, her newfound affluence is overshadowed by a less than loving relationship with her slimy, repulsive husband Martin, making for some truly uncomfortable viewing.
Dad (Bill Paterson) is once again the epitome of the truly absent and incompetent parent, evidently crushed under the manipulation of his vile fiancee (Olivia Coleman), yet freely unaware of the sensitivities and situations of his two daughters.
The latest edition to Waller-Bridge’s band of relatable misfits is the Priest (Andrew Scott), an anomalous member of the Catholic clergy, who utters expletives more readily than prayers. The Priest is the perfect foil to Fleabag’s floundering nonchalance.
Gone are the two-dimensional pseudo-love interests of the first series making space for a new chapter in the somewhat mismatched trajectory of Fleabag’s love life. The character’s attraction towards one another is orchestrated by Waller-Bridge’s excellent mastery of subtext, teasing out the characters’ thoughts without either one actually directly expressing them.
Fleabag would not be complete without its protagonist’s frequent breaking of the fourth wall. A specifically theatrical technique, Waller-Bridge employs this skill subtly yet triumphantly, further emphasising the show’s transcendence beyond the constraints of TV conventions.
Providing some of Fleabag’s most iconic moments, Waller-Bridge’s engagement with her audience reiterates the realistic complexity of her main character, allowing them to gain an insight into who Fleabag really is, a question which she herself grapples with over the course of the series.
At only half an hour in length and released once weekly, Fleabag cunningly teases viewers with thirty minutes of sheer dramatic genius. The brilliance of the first series was a tough act to follow, yet Phoebe Waller-Bridge demonstrates her talent with a follow up which proves that for her, it was not so.
Image: BBC via Wikipedia Commons