Fleabag Season 2 (2019) – TV Review

“This is a love story.”

After adapting her one woman play Fleabag into a hugely successful series for the BBC and then also creating the smash-hit Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge seemed to have the world at her feet, and she was persuaded to come back to write a second and final season of ‘Fleabag’. The pressure was on, but she not only lived up to season one, but massively surpassed it and created one of British TVs finest ever seasons of Television.

‘Fleabag’ is quite rightly classed as a comedy, as it features some of the funniest one-liners and comic situations you will find on TV, but the reason that it has always risen above the rest is that perfect ability to balance comedy with deeply emotional and human moments, full of grief and pain. The show is as much about the drama and the slow unravelling of the psyche of Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as it is delivering jokes, and that is why people connected so much with the first season. It felt very much like a clear arc through the six episodes and that we had reached a natural conclusion to the story Waller-Bridge wanted to tell, and that was why there was confusion and slightly mixed feelings when she announced that she would be returning for a second and final season of the show. Obviously, there was huge anticipation because of the quality of the first season and of Waller-Bridge’s other work, but there was also some worry that it could be just a cash-in and that it would tarnish what was achieved with the first season.

However, there should never have been any doubt, as what we get not only lives up to the previous season, but builds on it and surpasses it in many ways, and ends up being one of the finest seasons of TV ever made. We start the season a year after the events of season one, and the family is reunited at a dinner party in a restaurant to celebrate the engagement of Father (Bill Paterson) and Godmother (Olivia Colman), and the whole episode is pure perfection. Like a stage play on steroids, it continually ramps up the tension and the comedy, with a huge development in the relationship between Fleabag and Claire (Sian Clifford), and the key introduction of Priest (Andrew Scott), who will have a huge impact on the season. There is unlikely to have ever been a first episode of a new season of TV that is this good, so tightly wound and ready to explode at any moment, working as a perfect standalone piece of entertainment and also as a perfect launching pad for the season.

I could talk for hours about all the individual plot points, performances, and character developments, but it would be much more beneficial in that case for the reader to just watch the show, without knowing everything. Instead, what I want to look at are some of the particular themes Waller-Bridge pursues with her writing here, and why they are so impressive, and brilliantly wound together. There are many different characters and plotlines, but the two big through lines of the season are Fleabag’s relationships with two people, her sister Claire and with the Priest.

Andrew Scott arrives in season 2 as the ‘Hot Priest’ and completely changes the dynamic of Fleabag’s current situation, and of the show. The pair of them have an instant sexual chemistry, a simmering tension that leaps off the screen and once they are no longer on screen, it leaves the audience almost breathless. A scene in a church confessional in particular is one of the most tense and sexual scenes on tv in many years. Both Fleabag and Priest are facing internal battles throughout, and their desire and love for each other only further complicates that for each other, but it is also obvious how perfect they are for each other. In a move that shook fans to their core, Priest actually notices Fleabag talking to the camera at times and questions her on it, becoming the only person throughout the show to do that. It creates some memorable jump moments for the audience, and is also another brilliant layer to their relationship. The reason he is able to see this is up for people to debate and interpret their own way, whether it is his religion, or something else, but I interpreted it as him being the only person who saw every side of her and actually took notice. Their relationship is full of pain and sadness, but it is also exactly what they both had to go through at that specific time.

The relationship between Claire and Fleabag was explored quite a lot in season one, but much more in order to create comedic value, placing the highly strung and organised Claire with a sister who is wild and unpredictable, and seeing how long it takes for her to crack. This season however, the relationship is explored on a much deeper level, as they are both going through big life changes, specifically within their relationships and also with witnessing their dad getting married again after the death of their mother, and they find solace in each other. It quickly emerges that despite all the sex and romantic relationships that take up the focus of the show, the real love story at the heart of the show is the one between Claire and Fleabag. Claire’s line to Fleabag in the finale, “You are the only person I would run through an airport for”, is one of the most openly earnest moments in the show and perfectly emblematic of the relationship between the two, and how it is actually the emotional through line that runs between both seasons.

The cast are all extraordinary, every member, including the more supporting cast like Olivia Colman, Bill Paterson, and Brett Gelman, who are all brilliant when required. Clifford deserves all the awards and praise in the world for her deadpan line-deliveries and genius facial expressions. She makes Claire into a fully rounded and deeply engaging character, who at times really threatens to steal the entire show. Andrew Scott arrives on this show like a bolt of lightning, bringing a unique energy into every scene and challenging the very core dynamic of the show. However, despite all the star power and great performances, this show belongs very much to Phoebe Waller-Bridge and she remains the stand out. Whether it is her pitch perfect line-deliveries, her sharp glances to the camera, the deep and conflicting emotions evident at all times. Waller-Bridge is clearly so close to this character in every way, her writing so perfect and her delivery of it so precise. The role of a lifetime and it was one she made for herself.

There have been many much more in-depth and impressive essays written about this show, and many of which are really worth a read because they offer more detailed examinations of the themes and decisions that go into this season. I think it is unquestionably one of the most effecting and simply best seasons of Television produced in a long time, and despite all the hype that has built up around it in the years since it premiered, it still lives up to each and every one. For people who love this, an even more recent piece of work that is equally as fresh, personal, and evocative is Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You (2020). Very rarely does a show like Fleabag come around, and I think it should be treasured. The final scene is far from a happy ending, it is actually an emotional gut punch, but it is also very much the clear ending, Fleabag has reached a new stage in her life, she is able to walk away and no longer needs to audience anymore. She is at peace.

“I think you know how to love better than any of us, that’s why you find it all so painful”

Rating = 5/5

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