‘Fleabag’ is devastatingly hilarious

The show tackles grief, sexuality, and purpose

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliance shines in Fleabag.
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Fleabag is the most hilarious yet devastating show on television.  

The two seasons from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who plays Fleabag, are a realistic portrayal of loss, coming of age, and what it’s like to be the black sheep of the family. 

The show follows Fleabag—her real name is never actually said—as she navigates her life after Boo, her best friend who she once opened a hamster-themed café with, commits suicide.

Season one tackles hyper-sexuality caused by insecurity, exploring how sex can give people a sense of control when the roots of their problems are too heavy. This theme is developed through overtly sexual innuendos delivered perfectly, albeit crudely, throughout the show via one-on-one conversations between Fleabag and the camera.

This breaking of the fourth wall is masterfully done, giving the audience a unique sense of relatability toward the characters who, while not always likeable, are unnervingly raw.

The show makes it clear that in losing Boo and her mother, Fleabag has lost the only two people who understood her. She’s shielding herself through hilarity and questionable decision making—many of us can relate to this in the aftermath of uncomfortable change.

A common theory among the show’s cult-like following is that Fleabag is actually talking to Boo throughout the show, as her complicated relationship with her family—comprised of her father and sister, who couldn’t be more opposite from Fleabag, and her insufferable godmother/soon-to-be step-mother—have left her lost in a world she cannot make sense of.

Waller-Bridge’s brilliance shines in the symbolism throughout the show, resulting in many “aha” moments once you reach the end of its 12 episodes. 

Be it a nude sculpture repeatedly stolen and returned to her godmother, or a fox that can’t seem to leave her season two love interest alone, true understanding of Fleabag is found in the last episode of the series.

The show’s best moments come in unexpected bites of comic relief, such as Fleabag dropping a rather expensive award mere seconds after her sister, Claire, instructs her not to touch it, smelling Bibles, or when the godmother’s portrait of the sisters ends up featuring the back of Fleabag’s head. 

However, for all these moments, season two is where the show really hits its stride. 

Fleabag’s character development shifts her from unhealthy coping mechanisms to a much better place after taking time for herself through a nearly year-long hiatus from Claire and her terribly unlikeable husband.

On the cusp of transitioning into an out of sight, out of mind mentality, she meets the Hot Priest who, true to his name, is an endearing love interest.

Played by Andrew Scott, he’s a chill, gin and tonic-loving, sailor-mouthed priest whose frazzled approach to Godly devotion after a clearly eventful life is nothing if not intriguing.

Hot Priest is the only person since Boo who truly sees Fleabag for herself. He forces her out of her comfort zone by being someone good who believes in the good of others.

It’s peculiar to feel so close to a character without even knowing her name, but Waller-Bridge skillfully makes this possible. The series’ cast has made it clear that Fleabag’s story is over with the season two finale—her journey is complete in self-acceptance and acknowledgment with the help of the Hot Priest and her sister Claire.

The observations made by Waller-Bridge on love and its complications are perhaps best summed up by the Hot Priest’s monologue in the last episode: “Love is awful. It’s painful. Frightening. It makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life. Makes you selfish, makes you creepy, makes you obsessed with your hair… Love isn’t something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope.”

The last episode is perfect, through perhaps disappointing for some fans, but it’s the right one for Fleabag. The closing song, “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes, couldn’t have been better chosen, aptly ending the series.

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