July 17, 2019

‘Fleabag’ Is (Finally) Back. Here’s a Refresher.

‘Fleabag’ Is (Finally) Back. Here’s a Refresher.


It’s been a long time since the first season of the dark British comedy series “Fleabag” arrived in the U.S. on Amazon Prime Video — nearly three years, in fact. The creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been busy in that time, launching the hit thriller “Killing Eve” and reviving the stage version of “Fleabag” for Off Broadway audiences, but the wait is finally over.

Season 2 (which Waller-Bridge has said will be the last) premieres Friday on Amazon and picks up right where the first season left off, so you’ll probably want a refresher. Here’s what you’ll need to remember about the fourth wall-breaking Fleabag (we never do learn her real name), the sardonic manager of a failing, guinea pig-themed London cafe

Flashbacks reveal Fleabag opened the cafe with her best friend, Boo (Jenny Rainsford), who recently died after walking into traffic. At different points, Fleabag makes the case that Boo didn’t mean to kill herself, and in one flashback, Boo says she wanted get a minor injury that might elicit her cheating boyfriend’s sympathy. Though the show resolutely remains a comedy (especially in the first half of the season), as the story develops, it gradually becomes clear that Boo’s death weighs heavily on Fleabag.

A few years previously, Fleabag’s mother died. Fleabag and her sister Claire (Sian Clifford) are dealing with their grief differently; Fleabag dates a lot of different men and presides halfheartedly over her cafe, which is home to a resident guinea pig named Hilary. Claire, on the other hand, is a driven overachiever who stays with her husband, Martin (Brett Gelman), despite the fact that at Claire’s birthday party, he tried to kiss Fleabag.

One pastime the sisters enthusiastically share is reveling in their dislike of their stepmother, who is only ever called “godmother” and is played with delicious venom by Olivia Colman. Godmother is a talented artist who makes it clear to her stepdaughters that she controls their father’s life and they had better not mess with her. All of this grinding irritation and mutual dislike is conveyed via amusing British repression.

A good bit of the season revolves around a small statue of a woman’s torso that Fleabag stole from Godmother’s home studio. Fleabag asks Martin to sell it, but he gives it to Claire for her birthday instead. After Fleabag secretly returns the piece to the studio — Godmother can’t prove Fleabag took it, but she clearly suspects her — Claire steals it back again, mainly because Colman’s character is vicious to the sisters at a lunch meant to celebrate the memory of their late mother.

Fleabag’s father (Bill Paterson) tries to keep the peace between his wife and daughters, but his hopes for harmony among them are dashed at Godmother’s “Sexhibition,” an art show at which Fleabag is pressured into serving drinks. Late in the party, she smashes several glasses in front of guests, but Godmother’s fury at this rebellion is not the worst part of Fleabag’s night. Her father makes it clear that he wants his new marriage to work, Fleabag’s ex shows up with a new girlfriend and the hot, rather dim guy Fleabag has been dating casually dumps her. Worst of all, Claire tells Fleabag that she believes the story she’s been told by Martin: That Fleabag kissed him at Claire’s birthday party, not the other way around.

During the confrontation between Claire and Fleabag at the Sexhibition party, Claire alludes to a fact that is established firmly via flashbacks: Fleabag is the one who slept with Boo’s boyfriend. The comedy swerves into tragic territory by revealing that this entire time, despite her frankness about everything else, Fleabag has been secretly racked with guilt about possibly causing her best friend’s death.

The morning after the “Sexhibition” party, Fleabag stands on the curb in front of the cafe and considers walking into traffic just as Boo did. Her bank manager (Hugh Dennis), who appeared in a couple of installments (including a memorable trip to a meditation retreat), rolls up in his car and asks if she’s O.K. She’s not, but he gently reminds Fleabag that everyone makes mistakes. And very late in the game, he realizes that he was mistaken about the nature of Fleabag’s business: The cafe has a guinea-pig decorative theme, and is not designed for the small mammals.



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