Squawk Box: Fleabag

Look, as binges go you've got no excuse for not checking out Fleabag. It's two seasons, six episodes apiece and it's a sitcom, so we're talking like 25-30 minutes a pop, episode wise. I get the whole age of streaming exhaustion thing. I do, but finally you've got a show where you won't by physically exhausted at the prospect of getting lost in multiple seasons of a show. It's 12 episodes. They're short- and, dear reader, here is the kicker to end all kickers: it's an absolutely incredible show that leaves you begging, screaming for more than you just don't get. It's hilarious, bittersweeet, melancholy and riotously funny all at the same time- sometimes in the all in the same scene.

The titular character is Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who breaks the fourth wall frequently and is well, kind of a mess as we gradually discover in Season 1. She starts by recounting her day which begins with a one-night stand and then another encounter with a dude with large teeth she meets on the bus and explains how she broke up with her boyfriend. She gets refused a bank loan and then meets and argues with her sister Claire (Sian Clifford) at a feminist lecture. We then find out more about her family: their mother is dead, their father (Bill Paterson) moved in with their Godmother (Olivia Colman). Clare is in a loveless marriage to Martin (Brett Gelman) and a little skeeved out by Martin's son, Jake (Angus Imrie) who keeps trying to get in the bath with her.

The first season, it's obvious Fleabag is having a rough time dealing with the death of her best friend Boo (Jenny Rainsford)- we don't actually get the full details on why Fleabag is so guilty and torn up about it until the Season Finale and for an episode or two I was kind of worried it was going to be something legitimately dark. To me, the highlight of the first season probably the silent retreat that Fleabag and her sister get sent on by their father-- it mines the tensions between the sisters beautifully, but it's an unexpected connection that you don't see coming that is really a poignant beautiful moment that's not worth spoiling- go see for yourselves.

By the end of the first season, we finally get to the truth behind the guilt that Fleabag is wrestling with over her best friend and she if not comes to terms with it, at least makes a certain amount of peace with it all. And just when she thinks that things might be looking up for once, her family turns on her. (Clare's husband drunkenly kisses her at one point and she steals one of her Godmother's statues and keeps lying about it until finally she gets caught in a lie and her family gets sick of her shit- which all seems a bit unfair- but, it is what it is.)

Season Two picks up a few months down the road. Fleabag is doing better and Godmother and her father are about to tie the knot. At a dinner to plan for the wedding, Fleabag is immediately intrigued by the Priest (Andrew Scott) that Godmother has gotten lined up to do the wedding. The attraction between the two of them is mutual. Tensions within Clare's marriage are still high, but Clare is interested in her Finnish colleague, also named Klare. The two daughters are wrestling with wanting to be there for their Dad and their dislike of Godmother. In the meantime, Fleabag and The Priest are wrestling with their mutual attraction to one and other.

Now, it's easy to look at the pairing up of the two with a certain amount of distaste. How are you going to pull this off without being tacky at best and downright offensive at worst? I kept waiting for the shoe to drop- and you know what? It didn't. It's a sweet if slightly unusual love story and the one thing I love about it is that the Priest is the only one who can see when Fleabag turns to break the fourth wall. It's so subtle but it's an absolutely perfect way to underline how these two people are absolutely perfect for each other- and the way it ends- wow.

Overall, it's really hard to write this review without giving too much away, but if you've seen hype about this show and critical praise for it- all of it is well-deserved. If you're in between shows and looking for a nice fast binge, put this on your list. Hell, if you're just looking for a really excellent show to watch- this is eminently worth your time. My Grade: **** out of ****


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