sat 24/08/2019

Fleabag, Series 2 finale, BBC Three review - Phoebe Waller-Bridge's miraculous situation tragedy | reviews, news & interviews

Fleabag, Series 2 finale, BBC Three review - Phoebe Waller-Bridge's miraculous situation tragedy

Fleabag, Series 2 finale, BBC Three review - Phoebe Waller-Bridge's miraculous situation tragedy

Tear-jerking farewell to a towering dramatic creation

Like father, unlike daughter: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bill Paterson in 'Fleabag'Kevin Baker

The problem with Fleabag (BBC Three/BBC One) is that it makes almost all television look pedestrian. It’s like the difference between Fleabag’s scummily inadequate boyfriends and the unattainable perfection embodied by the cool sweary priest. Earth vs heaven. Water/wine. And now it is gone.

Having delivered a raging aria about the cruelty of love, the sinning father fled back to the triumphant embrace of the Almighty, pursued by a cunning fox. Having declared her own simple truth about love Fleabag, clutching a re-stolen effigy of her mother’s fecund body, set off in the other direction, her heart at once broken and healed. She turned at the very last to wave farewell. What a way to go. Each episode in this second series has had the sharp glint of an exquisitely cut diamond. It has been a genre-defiant bridge linking cringe sitcom and tragic romance. Yes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has sung this song for and about young women, but it has been revelatorily good for the rest of us, too.

The profound artistry of Fleabag was most astonishingly revealed for me in a single flashback. Flashbacks are often crude mechanisms for crowbarring plot in. They were sparely used by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, like shards of memory or esprits de l’escalier. The only sizeable return to the past revisited the funeral of Fleabag’s mother. Her widower and younger daughter sat in her old bedroom and in a few conjuring phrases she bloomed into being more truly than most characters in most scripts with an actual face and voice. A miracle.Andrew Scott in FleabagThe mother returned for this climactic episode. “You’re the way you are because of her,” said Bill Paterson with such touching delicacy as Fleabag, in return, liberated his foot of clay in the attic. “And it’s those bits that you need to cling to.” Don’t, he meant, be emotionless like me, as he literally limped into infernal matrimony with a virtue-signalling gold-digging monster who didn’t even know his name (Olivia Colman, sublimely channelling her inner Penelope Keith).

Names in general were in short supply: the two fathers, the mother – none had one. The exception was Claire, who found love with Klare. Sian Clifford was gorgeous as, like a fawn eyeing a gap in the fence, she abandoned starchy repression for romantic ad-libbing. The idea is that perhaps now her sister in her new sad state of grace is also free to follow her along that road.

The system allows for a tariff of five stars. It’s nothing like enough. One thing these 12 sublime half-hours have done is kill off the glance to camera. Its roots were in confessional one-woman theatre, into which form Fleabag was born, but its DNA carried over, to be intimately recalibrated by director Harry Bradbeer. Fleabag in flagrante delicto. Fleabag primly adjusting her skirt on the ladder to the loft. Fleabag spectating as her sister’s marriage crashed on the kitchen island. When the priest noticed she was communicating with this invisible third wheel it sent a shudder up and down your vertebrae. No one will ever do this better.

“I wondered if you have a little show planned,” said the godless godmother. The logical hope is that Phoebe Waller-Bridge really will plan another, for what else could you possibly want but more of this little show? But in her remarkable skillset, including a genius for making you cackle and weep, is an instinct for ending. Or as she herself put it, "Let's just leave that out there for a second on its own." So even if you would run through an airport for another glimpse of her, Fleabag should keep on walking and walking until she, like a modern godhead, ascends into the television firmament.

@JasperRees

The profound artistry of Fleabag was most astonishingly revealed in a single flashback

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Comments

Funny, as a Fleabag fan I was expecting something bigger from the final episode, at least from the very emotional reactions. Perhaps it was as it should be, but the real surprise reactions and scenes came earlier on. Personally I feel the 'beyond five stars' approach is a bit exaggerated. And meanwhile Alan Partridge, in something more familiar, is still delivering the laugh-so-much-you-cry stuff,

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