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Fleabag season 2 review: A profane and profound sequel to one of Amazon’s best shows

Fleabag season 2 review: Phoebe Waller-Bridge asserts herself as one of the finest creators working in television right now, with her profane and profound sequel to one of Amazon’s finest comedies.

tv Updated: May 17, 2019 17:40 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Fleabag,Fleabag season 2,Fleabag season 2 Review
Fleabag season 2 review: Phoebe Waller-Bridge is going places.

Fleabag - season 2
Cast - Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Andrew Scott, Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman, Bill Paterson
Rating - 4/5

We all know someone like Fleabag. And we’re all capable of empathy. The very existence of this show depends on it. Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has absolute faith in us. Had she not, Fleabag wouldn’t have worked.

It is her unflappable belief that we, her audience, regardless of what corner of the world we come from, will see shades of ourselves in the broken souls that populate her show. We will see through the elemental concoction of bad decisions and poor judgement and recognise ourselves, whether we like it or not. Fleabag is rather confrontational that way.

Watch the Fleabag season two trailer here

In its second season (available, like its first, on Amazon Prime Video), Waller-Bridge seamlessly continues the several plot threads that were unspooled in season one. A seemingly settled Fleabag finds herself wanting to break out of her newfound stability by setting herself the challenge of seducing a priest. This sounds absurd, but is perfectly in line with the sort of thing you’d expect someone as self-destructive as her would do.

It reminded me of Californication, an unfairly maligned show that was far more forthright in its portrayal of addiction. Its first episode began with the central character - the hard-drinking, womanising writer Hank Moody, receiving fellatio from a nun (in a church). A similar scene, although extremely restrained by comparison, plays out in Fleabag.

And as icky as it might seem, on some level, you get it. Conquering the unconquerable seems to be an excellent motivator for damaged souls. They seem to be fuelled by this escalation of desire, to feel something, anything, in a world where heightened emotion is peddled like drugs.

And because we can’t physically reach out and pull them off the ledge, we sit in helpless silence and watch them jump.

For the longest time, it has been assumed - for no good reason - that this is the domain of men, that women are incapable of debauchery (at least on film). But a recent spate of movies and television shows have, in their own small way, helped sway the conversation to a more balanced position. Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, Amy Adams in Sharp Objects, Lena Dunham in Girls; they’ve all played characters that were so far removed from the cinematic ideal we’ve been brainwashed with for decades.

A good reason for how well Fleabag succeeds at luring the viewer in is its (better than average) fourth wall breaking. Often, when characters winkingly acknowledge the viewer, as if to suggest a stronger bond between us than there really is, it can become annoyingly distracting. It is a tactic best used in moderation. At the risk of invoking the ghost of Kevin Spacey past, he was right. We are complicit. When Fleabag winks at us cheekily after nicking her stepmother’s torso sculpture (again), we approve. When she panics after being caught ‘thinking out loud’, it is almost as if we’ve been caught too. How embarrassing.

Notice where Waller-Bridge puts us in relation to Fleabag. We’re always within earshot, and never too far away, as if to suggest that we’re close, but not close enough. And that’s the distance Fleabag likes to maintain in general. It is her personal space. Very few have been able to invade it. Season two is the story of one such occasion.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: May 17, 2019 17:40 IST