Phoebe Waller-Bridge rounds out the depressingly funny story of Fleabag with a (supposedly) final, brilliant series.
This review of Fleabag Season 2 contains some minor spoilers.
Many shows go on for too long, and end up tiring out and reusing old plotlines before the fans realize they’ve had enough of seeing the same thing over and over – I guess networks and creators decide to go by the idea that more is better and take quantity over quality. Creator, writer and star of BBC’s Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has taken the classic approach, and has reportedly decided to end the series with this most recent season, completing the story arc of the upcoming wedding of Fleabag’s Dad and Godmother, the will-they-won’t-they divorce of Fleabag’s sister Claire and absolute arsehole husband, as well as bringing Fleabag’s own character to a close, with her finally developing feelings for someone who could genuinely be good for her, and not just one-night stands and feeling nothing.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for her decision to end the series here – it is, by all accounts, a perfect ending. There’re no loose ends; things are ambiguous, sure – we never know if Claire finds and manages to get with her Finnish partner Klare, for example. There’s nothing that’s got me sat thinking, “I wonder what happened to so-and-so”, hell, we even had Hugh Dennis’ Bank Manager character return, who has also moved on in his life to a better place since his last appearance in Season 1. Despite this closure, I still find myself wanting more. I want to see more of Fleabag’s life because as we all should have expected, the ending isn’t cheery. It ends with the optimistic hope that Fleabag will find someone who loves her and her alone, seconds after being reluctantly shut down by Andrew Scott’s magnificent and loveable Priest at a bus stop. He leaves, content with his own love for God, leaving Fleabag sat waiting for her canceled bus, which will never arrive. She walks off home, but before breaking the fourth wall one final time and waving us all at home goodbye, she drops the statue made by Godmother in the bin – the same one that Fleabag stole back at the end of the very first episode of the show, taking this recurring object in her life off her chest forever, dumping her guilt and allowing her to start fresh. That in itself sounds happy and a relatively positive end for the character, but something in me is feeling the tug of something negative. It’s a heartbreaking end for her, and I can’t praise Waller-Bridge enough.
I don’t think I could think of any negatives for this series, given Waller-Bridge wanted to end the series in 2016 after one series, there was a chance this could have felt forced, unnecessary, as the first series also felt as if it had rounded out her character. She accepted what she had done, finally accepted the death of her friend and moved on to work on her café, which was a moving yet uplifting end for the show. However, Fleabag Season 2 moves past that, and while Boo and the café are seen and referenced in passing, neither are the focal point of the story anymore. We’re watching Claire’s marriage fall apart while Fleabag slowly falls in love, while also trying to get her Dad to not marry her Godmother, which leads to a wonderful interaction between the two in the final episode, as Fleabag and her Dad tell each other the truth, and though she expects her Dad to take her side, he tells her he knows Godmother isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he likes her. We’re so used to seeing TV and films where everyone takes the protagonist’s side, and after the Godmother was set up to be an antagonist of sorts (all thanks to the writing and Olivia Colman’s perfect portrayal), I fully expected people to take Fleabag’s side and everything have a happy ending, but this is not that kind of show. We get the painful, truthful and realistic ending, where not everything goes our way, but it works out for someone.
As well as praising the creator, I think a massive hand needs to be given to the show’s brilliant cast, both newcomers and returning characters. The show might have strongly obvious antagonists such as the sarcastic, unlikeable Godmother and Martin, Claire’s husband, who is possibly one of the few characters in a show I can definitively hate (which is down to the incredible Brett Gelman, who I have no doubts is a very nice person), but everyone provides a little bit of a setback to Fleabag, including Fleabag herself, who is incredibly self-destructive, though she’s absolutely aware of it. One new addition to Fleabag Season 2 is someone I’ve already briefly mentioned in passing here, Andrew Scott as the Priest, who is easily one of the highlights of this season. I was massively disappointed at the end of Episode 1 as I was under the impression he was only a guest star, and was set to appear in one, two episodes maximum. So imagine my surprise and happiness when he returns week after week, as one of the funniest characters in the show, and weirdly well developed, as for a character who literally goes by the name Priest you’d expect him to be all religion, very stone-faced, deadpan and stereotypical, but thankfully, not at all. Finally, it goes without saying but Sian Clifford as Claire has one of the best story arcs of the series and I was genuinely interested in seeing where this would end up, and I’m glad that off-screen, after the credits roll, I can sleep happy knowing she probably got a happy ending – of course, I’d love it if we could get a third season, special episode or even a final one-off, but I know that’s probably wishful thinking.
Fleabag now at least has hope, breaking things off with us. It’s probably for the best, but it certainly wasn’t mutual.