Fleabag is a TV series that has created quite a stir in the market, Phoebe Waller-Bridge presents a character who is undone by life but manages to keep going. Fleabag is a woman who uses dry humour and sex (or tennis, what is the difference?) to get a hold on her life as it unfolds before her; and she lets us be a part of the story, quite literally.
While there is a lot that has caught people’s attention in Fleabag, something that is often talked about it is the breaking of the fourth wall. Various TV series use this tool, however, the frequency with which it is used by Fleabag to communicate with the audience is quite high; what is startling is that it is also acknowledged by another character. She distances herself from her own life and makes the audience an accomplice. The latter, in fact, unknowingly comes to participate as an invisible character itself. She lets us in (replacing us with her friend Boo, perhaps or a shrink that she should have definitely gone to?) and she leaves us when the priest directs her (and she finds another agency to replace us? Now she believes in God, eh?)
Her perspective of life shapes our understanding of her world to a large extent, and so intimate is our relationship with her that at times we begin to love the characters she loves and we begin to sincerely dislike (hate!) the characters she dislikes (hates?) and we begin to feel shame for the guilt that she nurtures and somehow we end up as a sympathizing, unknowing confederate.
The show deals with issues of contemporary womanhood and mental health among others. While season one focuses more on the protagonist, season two (thankfully) is a little more comfortable with sharing space. The perspective of other characters not only brings to prominence issues like motherhood (oh, dear, Claire) it also helps us sympathizing with other characters (not you, Martin)
It is not just the brilliantly written storyline that is praiseworthy but the direction and the cinematography which is beautiful. The symbolism too is fine-drawn (the fox as a symbol of temptation, is it?), the buildout of music to shape the scenes is competent as well, the actors are brilliant (I am not sure if I will ever like Olivia Colman now), their development is subtle but clear (Claire!). Fleabag, of course, is a brilliant intrusive narrator. The episodes are also stand-alone, but the whole series, put together is honestly an accomplishment.
To summarize, the defiance of the genre, the dry humor, the viewers intimacy with Fleabag, the issues, the coping mechanisms, the deranged family, the loneliness, the confessions (*winks*), the cinematography, the hot priest, the vulnerability, the grisly details, the writing, the acting and the honesty of it all makes Fleabag such an endearing series. And even the ending, if not perfect, is acceptable (just like life, eh) with the characters (well, most of them) learning, moving and taking their life in their own hands without waiting for an outward authorization of their actions.
Also, I have tried to write this article in the way Fleabag is directed, you can tell me if I failed at it at — (Please don’t be too harsh because unlike Fleabag, I still seek validation from my audience)