In a world where people are becoming increasingly infatuated with multi-hyphenates, it’s surprising that Phoebe Waller-Bridge hasn’t gotten more attention. She has been writing and acting in consistently stellar content over the past few years, including “Broadchurch,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and, soon, “Bond 25.” On top of her acting roles, she has begun to make a name for herself in her own projects like “Crashing,” which she wrote and starred in and “Killing Eve,” a show that made big waves last year.
With the release of the second season of “Fleabag,” a BBC comedy-drama created by, written by and starring Waller-Bridge, it’s time for that to change. The first season of the show was impressive in its own right when it came out back in 2016. Its edgy, punchy comedy and dark dramatic stories blended perfectly and brought to life expertly by the cast. The first season follows Fleabag, played by Waller-Bridge, as she mourns the death of her friend Boo (Jenny Rainsford). It’s largely a character study while she navigates her life, romances, family, guilt and depression, as it seems things get worse and worse for her as her life spirals, and she gets blamed for every negative thing that happens.
The brilliance of this first season is not only recaptured in the second but expanded upon. The writing is impeccable. The season follows Fleabag as she resists and fails falling in love with The Priest (Andrew Scott), who is meant to be marrying her dad (Bill Paterson) to her godmother (Olivia Colman). She’s also attempting to deal with the fallout of her sister Claire’s (Sian Clifford) scummy, alcoholic husband, Martin (Brett Gelman) coming on to her and having him blame her for it.
The beats of the story are tense and surprising, and the script is borderline perfection. The ease with which the show can shift from situations of extremely uncomfortable humor to moments of teeth-clenching intensity to scenes of profound and deep emotion is beyond impressive. Though Waller-Bridge is not a novice writer, the skill she displays as a writer is flooring. Every character is fully fleshed out and multi-dimensional and given compelling motivations and characterizations in a short six-episode season.
Every single actor and actress in this show gives their all, and it shows. Waller-Bridge and Scott still manage to stand-out among the powerhouse actors. Their chemistry is palpable, and watching their characters fall in love and fight how they feel with every fiber of their being but not being able to is both realistic and compelling. Colman and Clifford also bring a refreshing amount of life to their characters and perfectly embody all of the dysfunction that defines them. It never felt fake or manufactured; all the characters felt like people that existed on and off the screen, and that’s a testament to these performances. From the genuine, touching moments, to the awkward, laugh-out-loud ones, there isn’t a single beat missed.
Harry Bradbeer directs and creates a visually bleak but interesting world in which these characters exist. It’s a well-shot and beautiful show that manages to nail every element, not just the writing and acting that many shows that fall short of greatness tend to ignore. The music, though sparse, is used precisely when needed to underscore significant scenes.
I honestly don’t know how to compliment this show enough. Waller-Bridge creates a world of deep characters full of growth and strong messages about family and femininity that are brilliantly framed and delivered. It’s an all-time great television show, and I hope it helps Waller-Bridge to finally get her name in the mainstream, for the world needs more of her work in it.