Fleabag is, and will always be incomparable as a series, and while its first season is fantastic, it starts to really solidify itself in season two. And it starts with the opening scene, which seldom in a comedy does it work as wondrously. Five words and we are done for. We’re sold. We’re in. “This is a love story” she promises us and it is, in more ways than one.
But we aren’t here to talk about the season as a whole though as much we’ve done so in the past, really, we could keep going. It is the way this scene pans out from beginning to end with Fleabag and a bloody nose that tells us the aftermath of the finale, though a year later is still haunting. There haven’t been as many resolutions as we’d hoped, and things are grim.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is revolutionary, bold, and unbeatable with the power to evoke so much with five words, one sentence after spending just moments before cleaning up a mess. She is tantalizing in that moment, tuned off from the crowd, and talking to a man, who we do not recognize yet, but later come to learn it is the Hot Priest. (Or perhaps, fans of Andrew Scott had already recognized his voice.) It does however, start to set the stage with enamoring ease because it is easy for us to already wonder: why is Fleabag bloody and in a bathroom? Who is this man saying the others have gone? Who were the others?
And then she cleans herself up, turns to us in the camera and tells us—this is a love story.
If this was any other show, I would be screaming “show, don’t tell,” but Fleabag is not any other show, and so much of our experience is dependent on how Fleabag breaks the fourth wall to include us in the story. So much of the story is dependent on whether or not we feel connected with her during whatever she has going on. And even when there are no words, every single look she spares to us is incredibly revealing of what is happening inside of her.
Fleabag trusts us. That is part of what makes this show so special because when she speaks to us, the story becomes that much more real and vulnerable. But words matter and they matter exponentially—the choice of words here is everything. A love story can be romantic, and it can be platonic. A love story does not necessarily mean it is always happy either, sometimes it is ambiguous or dark, but nevertheless, in the midst of all that, it is always special.
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That said, what we do learn is that we were right to trust her—this is in fact, a love story. It is a love story between sisters. It is a forbidden love story between a priest and a complex woman. And it is a love story between the heroine and her audience. This is a love story for us too, and what we experience in watching this show and getting to know this character along with the people she chooses to love.
We choose to appreciate Fleabag because she chooses to appreciate us and with the dimmed lighting in the bathroom, the aftermath of what’s dark and brutal, she makes a promise that this is going to be a love story, which we’re in on. So much of the reason why this show is so special is because when it promises us something, it delivers on those promises. This not only sets the stage beautifully, but it almost reiterates the fact that this show can stand on its own for the very reason that it chooses to break the fourth wall so effortlessly.
This is a love story between a scene and its viewers, because it’s a scene that trusts its audience to understand that there’s so much more to the entire story even when we are told where it is going. This is a love story in a dark scene that promises to the audience that though there will be uncertainties and likely heartache, it is still the kind of story where love is an emotion that is welcomed.