Fleabag (Episode 1.2)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: July 28, 2016 (BBC Three)

This episode may or may not have shown that FLEABAG is following a greater storyline, and that the show isn’t just the one-woman show Phoebe Waller-Bridge adapted from her own stage play for television. Recurring characters, a recurring relationship, a continued focus on Fleabag’s deconstructed love life which she seemingly tries to fix up again through her breaking-the-fourth-wall moments, but there is also a sense of the episodes doing their own little comedy thing, turning scenes into sketches, because at the end of the day Fleabag’s life is still created out of the mind of a comedian. The scene in the tube, the scene at the cafe with the Risotto girls and the hamster who escaped, and even the scary movie moment with Fleabag “surprising” Harry straight into a lethal heart attack could be considered sketches, even if the latter is part of Fleabag’s failing love story with Harry. I don’t mind when comedy shows look like sketch shows that have a small amount of a narrative within it, but I also wouldn’t mind if those kind of comedy shows would just drop the sketches and go straight for the narrative. Then again, if FLEABAG would turn into a such a show, it would probably just be another American comedy series with various character stories, the only difference being FLEABAG only has one character.

Proof that her ex will return to her life and make her happy again.

I am concerned about Harry, and I say that as someone who was freaking horrified by Fleabag’s idea of a surprise. First of all, Fleabag is in fact a terrible character who does not concern herself with the emotions of the people she surrounds herself with, but Harry also has a few problems and I’m not quite sure if those can be traced back to his relationship with Fleabag. I almost thought that Harry may be on the autism spectrum and that Fleabag doesn’t even know (maybe Harry told her millions of times and she just didn’t care), and I get the feeling that Harry is being used and abused by Fleabag, yet always returning into her arms and bed like the victim of domestic abuse who cannot unlove the abuser. In a way this show is portraying the standard domestic abuse storyline in a gender-reversed fashion, which gets me to say that I am worried about Harry’s sanity and life. And yes, Fleabag’s slasher horror move was utterly horrifying. Every sane man would have immediately left her and called the cops on her, but Harry, the victim he is, has to apologize and still ask if Fleabag had a nice day. I’m not so sure now whether or not I’m also supposed to be concerned about Fleabag’s life and inability to feel not lonely.

It’s Halloween, bitch!

But this happens to be a great character arc, if followed throughout the next episodes. Fleabag has no friends, and she has a life that is anything but exciting. Her sister does not care about her, her boyfriends just want her body (she may feel excited about it, but if there’s no romantic connection, it will make you feel even lonelier at the end of the day), her cafe is empty for almost all of the time and when she has customers, they happen to be dicks (okay, the Risotto girls seemed nice and they had reason to freak out about a free-walking hamster on the floor), her father has no backbone to punish his adult daughter for stealing a statue, and she doesn’t seem to have empathy. Yeah, Fleabag has secured a place in Hell already, and now I’m wondering if the future of the show will have a character arc that leads to redemption for the woman. Is this show going to be about how Fleabag slowly but surely becomes a better person, or is the opposite about to happen?

Fleabag (Episode 1.1)

Series 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: July 21, 2016 (BBC Three)

This show was on my to-do list ever since the second series premiered and my Twitter timeline was blowing up over how relatable and comically dark the show is, in addition to Phoebe Waller Bridge delivering award-worthy writing and performances. Things always got in the way of me watching FLEABAG (like time or other shows I really wanted to watch, or the simple fact that dark stuff is sometimes a little too much for me when I already follow the political times of 2019), but on a rainy Sunday afternoon I finally found the opportunity to hit the play button on the first episode. Sometimes it pays to have shows on your hard drive for moments that are so boring, the only thing you can do is watch television shows. And sometimes you can even discover great television that way.

After the first 25 and a half minutes, I don’t even know what I am watching here. The show looks like a depressed version of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND without the musical numbers and the surrounding friends or obsessions, and I’m getting the feeling that Fleabag is working towards a harsh and brutal mental breakdown, in which she decides to screw everything about her life and just call it quits, but not necessarily through suicide. All the stuff that happened to Fleabag in this episode (a breakup over masturbating to Barack Obama, a tooth-happy flirt in the bus, a bank manager who takes women’s ever move seriously and in a threatening way, a sister and a stepmother who are both cunts but also really try to be nice and helpful to Fleabag) made me think that she is supposed to live a weird and depressing and humiliating life, in which nothing happens to advance or forward her life and instead stop her in her tracks all the time. She can’t get a guy because maybe they either see a sex toy in her or they can’t live with her. She can’t get a job because the world eyes her like she is a danger to them. She doesn’t have a positive look on life because she can’t do anything about people using her for whatever they need (either it’s anal sex or power from the plug at her place of business). All this very much looks like Fleabag is driving straight towards a midlife crisis pairing itself up with a depression that can only be answered by swallowing pills, drinking a lot of booze, and having sex with random guys from the streets or the next ride on the bus and catching all the STDs that way.

Hard to believe this guy will never get to chat up a woman on the bus.

The thing is just, this episode also looked like a sketch show at times, with the punchlines focusing on the humiliation of people. If FLEABAG really is that — a depiction of an incoming depression dressed up in a sketch comedy show — then congratulations, Phoebe Waller Bridge, because you just created a new genre of television which I am totally into. But I don’t think FLEABAG is that, since it can’t be that or the show would really go nuts and weird with upcoming episodes, even if this episode was already nuts and weird. But it was nuts and weird in a more grounded way, as I can believe that Fleabag would be confused for a lovely young man at the bus stop, or that a bank manager would fear another sexual harassment lawsuit coming up when a woman in front of him is only making the slightest of moves to be a little more sexy, or so he thinks. All this begs the question what FLEABAG really is and what it wants to be as a television show: A grounded portrayal of the feminist world from the point of view of someone who doesn’t care about the branding of feminism or a sketch comedy show with so much humiliation that it’s turning into a real-life horror show about life in Britain before it gets ripped out of the European Union?

Fleabag gets love and attention for a quick second.

With those questions, some more are being raised about the supporting characters of the show, or how much Fleabag’s father and stepmother and sister and best friend forever play into the narrative. FLEABAG could turn into a British one-woman show in the vein of BROAD CITY (a “Yes please!” to that), but it could also really focus on a narrative here and go for the dark stuff, in which Fleabag really gets desperate for some depression, which would mean that FLEABAG is a show about to turn from a comedy into a humiliation horror drama (a”Yes please!” to that as well). One episode usually does not tell you anything about the show, but FLEABAG is giving me so many vibes after the first half hour that I really have no clue where it will go for the next eleven episodes that are on my hard drive. I can only hope it’s not getting super dark and uncomfortable, because right now that’s not how I want to feel, or else I would have to team up episodes of FLEABAG with more LIV AND MADDIE, to equal out my emotions.