A lot, of course. How could we expect anything less?
Series 2 opens with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s gloriously calamitous creation looking at herself in a ladies’ toilet mirror, wiping a layer of blood from her upper lip.
Sure, Fleabag covered plenty of bases in series 1: awkward sex, horrific arguments, and graphic inner thoughts (provided through punchy direct-to-camera asides) – but violence? Waller-Bridge is a great teaser, so rewinds back to the start of the evening -– leaving us to constantly ask what the hell happened.
Godmother is re-played with horrifying vigour by recent Oscar-winner Olivia Colman
With Dad and Godmother (re-played with horrifying vigour by recent Oscar-winner Olivia Colman), Claire also attends the dinner with her alcoholic husband Martin. Most of Fleabag’s hatred and anxiety sprouts from Martin, who pushed her into a gross kiss last series and blamed it on her – leading to her fall-out with Claire.
Aside from Martin’s balding head, making him look like a seedy Allan Ginsberg, nobody’s changed. Everybody’s issues – Martin’s emasculation, Godmother’s evil insults, Claire’s repressed rage, and Dad’s hilarious uselessness – threaten to boil into something awful.
Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) steps out of the heat and into the cold
Waller-Bridge writes the episode like a building panic attack, which inevitably bursts to a thrilling climax. The only respite is in the occasional cigarette break, where Fleabag steps from the heat of the restaurant to the lonesome cold outside.
Sherlock actor Andrew Scott is introduced as the priest marrying Dad and Godmother. But he’s not your typical TV priest. He doesn’t wear a white collar, he likes to drink and swear, and he’s hilariously honest. That’s probably why he and Fleabag get on so well, promising a growing friendship as the series continues.
An unconventional priest (Andrew Scott): drinks, swears, doesn't wear a collar
Like series 1, there’s also intense drama underneath the comedy. Waller-Bridge doesn’t over-dramatise or artificially inflate these more hard-hitting scenes – entering into a more uncomfortable sense of realism. That makes the performances so vital. And despite being Waller-Bridge’s gig with Olivia Colman nearly stealing it, Sian Clifford matches them both with an emotionally striking performance as Claire.
The most entertaining and depressing aspect to Fleabag is the realisation that most people are horrible beings incapable of change, and Waller-Bridge loves to laugh and cry through that. And when characters do change, proving (it seems) that empathy can exist, the series is made all the more poignant. There’s plenty to crush the spirit, but it’s not averse to being lifted again.
So far, this is the most intense episode of Fleabag – and certainly the best. Despite losing Waller-Bridge from the keenly anticipated second season of Killing Eve, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice for this funny and anxiety-inducing tragicomedy. Fleabag is back with a vengeance.
|What||Fleabag series 2, BBC review, episode 1|
On 04 Mar 19, 10:35 PM – 11:00 PM