She’s back! And honestly I couldn’t be more excited.
It feels like ages since we spent time with the lovable/unlovable Fleabag. Yes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was busy writing Killing Eve, which gave us Sandra Oh in a role worthy of her talents and which we wouldn’t do without; and her turn as a rebellious droid in Solo: A star Wars Story was worth it simply so that she could merge with the Millennium Falcon’s main computer becoming part of Star Wars lore for all time.
But, there’s nothing like coming home, is there?
Or, is there? Maye not.
So, as this show is coming out weekly and I really wanted to do a recap aaaaaaand I feel like there’ll be plenty to discuss here, I’m going to be doing a recap of each episode as they come out. Releasing it every Tuesday.
I mentioned homecomings and this first episode back is rather like a homecoming. And well, we know from the start it’s going to get messy. The entire episode takes place at one particularly tense family dinner and everyone is there, pissed or pissed off, and not having seen each other since the last season ended 371 days, 19 hours & 26 minutes ago. Luckily, a comprehensive ‘previously on’ is there to catch you up on everything that happened in the stellar first season. Just in case you forgot. You didn’t though, did you?
The episode starts in a fab bathroom (sidenote: if this and Russian Doll are anything to go by all TV shows should start in fancy toilets from now on, just as a rule) where we find our anti-heroine standing at the mirror, blood pouring from her nose, and a girl we don’t recognise on the floor, with a similar problem. Everyone else has left. Then we’re told, literally, as fourth wall breaking, asides to camera are still a thing (a much more successfully accomplished thing here then say Sex and the City’s attempt in its first season), that this is a love story.
We flash back to the start of dinner.
Fleabag has been trying to get her life together. She’s done everything. Exercising, eating well, not sleeping around. She’s doing everything to be better…? I hope I’m not alone in finding this an eerily familiar endeavor. You know, thinking that piece of salmon with poached kale is going to sort everything in your life out. And we’re reintroduced to the family as they sit at the dinner table. Her Dad is dead… wait… no, he’s engaged to (oscar winner!!!!) Olivia Coleman, and as inarticulate as ever. Claire, her sister is engaged to the slimey Martin, they’re both not drinking, and it transpires later they’ve been trying to get pregnant, although not particularly successfully. Claire and Fleabag are pretending to be friends. An hilariously spiky greeting upon their arrival at the restaurant their first interaction since last season.
‘You look good. Where have you been?’
‘Boots. It’s lovely this time of year.’
And there’s a random guy, played by marry-me-already (!!!) Andrew Scott, at the table.
So it turns out we haven’t missed anything in the intervening and very specific time between seasons because, um, no one’s been talking since then. Great!
Already the dialogue is sharp, fast, cutting, hilarious and perfect and we don’t even know why Andrew Scott is there yet. Spoiler, he’s the priest, the cool sweary priest, who’s set to marry Dad and Stepmom, as Stepmom finds a legitimate priest something of a novelty at a wedding.
We meet the Needy Waitress, who is the girl from the earlier scene in the bathroom, the one with the bloody face. And get a little insight into the commonalities Fleabag might share with the cool sweary priest when they both order Tequila before the meal. An insight which is somewhat elaborated on in a later scene where the Father heads out to join Fleabag for one of her cigarettes breaks (a recurring convention throughout the episode). That coy smile after she abandons him and he responds with ‘fuck you.’
I think he’s going to.
Or maybe they won’t.
But they’ll definitely want to.
Either way, I’m sure Fleabag’s interactions with a man of the cloth, whose moral compass is wavering, will be an integral part of her own journey towards forgiving herself and discovering her worth. If a priest can have moral mishaps, can’t she? (This is all conjecture but it’s where I think we’re heading.) Also Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott are just super well matched so I’m here for all of this. Correct.
Ok, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
Claire is working in Finland and LOVING it. Maybe too much. There’s something else going on there, as pointed out by Fleabag.
The asides are used super well here, there’s something conspiratorial about them, like we’re Fleabag’s naughty, imaginary friend, like we’re actually in the room. I like it. Especially when the convention is flipped; like when Fleabag points out she’s not been asked a question about herself in 45 minutes and the priest immediately asks what she does. Like, could he hear? Or, did he notice as well? Or, is he just interested? Anyway, fab writing, and the coffee shop is going well, no really, it is.
The smoking scene happens and Jesus! Andrew Scott stop smiling at me!
Sidenote: I miss people smoking on TV? Why is that a thing?
Anyhoo, back at the table, the family kind of probes Scott re his calling and I get the feeling he’s not that attached to the priesthood. At least, there’s a realist in there somewhere. Fleabag even calls him out on it, asking: ‘Are you a real priest?’
And we find out that Scott’s priest is new and lonely. More reasons to hang out with Fleabag then. We also find out why he doesn’t speak to his brother and it’s a great, pretty uncomfortable moment, and something of a declaration about what the show really thinks of the clergy, I think.
The ‘action’ as it were, or plot, maybe (?), is interrupted by perfect restaurant-y moments. The waitress desperate to pour more wine.
Olivia Coleman is en pointe as always, announcing that they don’t want gifts for their wedding instead they’d like everyone to give to charity in their names, capturing the duality of this being a selfless act, while reveling in self-righteousness. Finally, she says that as a present to their father, Stepmom is planning to paint a portrait of the girls, which they’ll need to sit for, at least twice. Which seems like the last thing either of them want and the premise for a future episode, perhaps?
On her next cigarette break, Fleabag gets a visit from her father who gives her a belated birthday present and the moment feels quite sweet after how they’d left things last season. Could things possibly be reconciled here?
Coming back to the table, Fleabag finds Martin, in sleazy top form having a sneaky drink by the bar (he’s suppose to be sober, you remember), which is only made more infuriating by Claire’s proclamations about how much work it takes to be positive, that putting pine nuts on your salad doesn’t make you an adult.
Then it turns out that nobody, NOBODY!, knows that Claire works in finance and is not in fact a lawyer. I’m a little rusty but I’m assuming this is what Fleabag told us last time around. Why is this family terrible?
Claire has picked up on Fleabag’s unusually tight lipped performance at dinner and calls her on it, asking her about the present she’s holding. It turns out Dad bought her a voucher for therapy, so maybe, not such a sweet gift after all. And this moment ends in a great stand off between Fleabag and Claire.
‘You have to face who are and suffer the consequences, it’s the only road to happiness.’
‘Maybe happiness isn’t in what you believe, but who you believe.’
Which I think is going to be a running arc of this season. About finding happiness, but more so about facing who you are and where your trust and loyalty lies and whether you believe yourself a decent person, regardless of whether your Dad thinks you need counselling, and finding happiness despite not being perfect. Fits in with my theory about the morally dubious priest, or at least dubious for a clergyman. If a man of faith can doubt and misbehave, aren’t we all a bit naughty, as Dad would put it?
So, the action (plot?) kicks into gear here when Claire goes to the bathroom. Scott’s priest is pretty keen to fill up Fleabag’s wine glass, because he feels for her situation, or something more lascivious, who’s to say. Then finally, Fleabag goes to see if Claire, who’s taking a while in the bathroom, is angry or just doing a poo.
Actually, she’s having a miscarriage.
Fleabag kicks into sisterly mode, determined to get Claire to the hospital, despite Claire’s pride, her need to not fail or seem like she’s not got it together, not like Fleabag, by sitting back at the table and breaking her dry spell. In an attempt to get Claire to the hospital, Fleabag owns up to the miscarriage, taking the bullet (if you will) in front of the family. Which turns into a pretty heated and cleverly constructed conversation about getting her to the hospital. When Martin makes it seem like Fleabag is just trying to get attention. She punches him. And honestly it couldn't have come soon enough. A slapstick-y, fight in which just about everyone gets hit in the face erupts and we end up back in the bathroom where we started. Everyone else leaves, except for Andrew Scott, who offers up his number on a napkin, in case Fleabag needs to talk. Morally dubious priest aside get me that napkin, right?!
Fleabag leaves, the operatic score which has been pumping underneath the whole episode, rising behind her as she walks, still bleeding from her nose.
Claire is waiting in a cab nearby and when she tells Fleabag to give the driver her address, she asks to go to the nearest hospital. Seeding the start of the sisterly reconciliation, another arc that I reckon will run throughout the series.
We’re left with the sisters agreeing something we’ve all known all along: the priest is hot.
It’s a punchy, dramatic start to the new season of Fleabag. An almost perfect bottle episode to get the ball rolling.
My predictions for story arcs are: Fleabag gets involved with the priest, making her doubt even more her own sense of worth and decency, but also learning through his missteps that failure and messing up are inevitable. Recognising her own sense of morality and believing in her redemption even if her family don’t.
The sisters are brought together in a number of comedic circumstances, grappling with their own roles as the perfect child and the mess up, and slowly reconcile their relationship. Probably ending up with Claire realising the truth about who kissed whom and hoooooooopefully leaving Martin.
Olivia Coleman is love to hate perfection throughout.
I continue to thirst after Andrew Scott in a big, big way, and talk about how thirsty I am until you’re sick of reading this.
That’s all. Welcome back Fleabag! Tune in every Tuesday to read about the thing you just watched!