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.
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.
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?