Featured Characters: Fleabag and Hot Priest
Whether a romance prevails or ends far too quickly, there’s still an incandescent, haunting beauty within every waking moment of its story. Phoebe Waller Bridge’s dark-comedy sensation, Fleabag, is a love story. It’s a love story about sisters, a forbidden romance that shouldn’t be, second chances, and an homage to friendships. Its carefully crafted, nuanced exploration of grief and the heartaches of loneliness that viewers go through, one relatable episode after another, teaches us we aren’t alone in the trenches of despair we’re fighting through.
Fleabag’s relationship with Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest thus not only makes Season 2 a beautiful exploration of all that can be, but it’s concrete proof of the fact that just because something ends, it doesn’t make it any less memorable. In fact, there’s something about the “what if…” stories—the exhibitions of the heartrending tales that leave lifelong footprints while changing people for the better. It’s a feeling Taylor Swift captures almost perfectly in “august”—the losses, the hope, the gratitude—all entwined in a feeling that’s indescribably significant and beautiful. Fleabag and Hot Priest’s story is heartbreaking and sensational all at once, leaving viewers with a sense of ease despite the profound sadness we’re left with after their final scene in Season 2, Episode 6. It’s a love story that allows two people to not only give in to their feelings but to become better versions of themselves because of the adoration they know they’re capable of by virtue of knowing the other.
Fleabag and Hot Priest: Forbidden Romance
In most cases, the forbidden romance trope is tough to write appropriately because when bordering on controversial versus truly dangerous, it can be a tough pill to swallow. But that’s not the case with Fleabag and Hot Priest because theirs is not only a relationship between two consenting adults but also one that’s forbidden solely because of a job. There are no power imbalances between the two or unhealthy age gaps. Further, in a world with much controversy surrounding churches, Fleabag humanizes both characters by ultimately showcasing that if we examine people under the umbrella of one God, we find proof that everyone, no matter their differences, is worthy of love.
Fleabag does something extraordinary with their relationship by ensuring that though outwardly sin, by laws of the church is heavily explored, it’s beautiful and rewarding and never once offensive. Because despite the euphemisms in moments such as the kneel in Episode 4 or the various puns, Fleabag is ultimately telling a love story about what it means to submit to the human desires we all have. While some could argue that those feelings are carnal outside marriage, this writer would counter that they can be gorgeous and pure too. Because what’s more pure than giving in to someone who simply wants you for all that you are? Hot Priest isn’t an immoral or corrupt member of the church; instead, the show actively exhibits how human he is while authentically showcasing his deep adoration for God and faith. The church is important to him because faith is essential to him, but…well, at the same time, he’s human.
1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” What is love if not compassion, empathy, and kindness extended toward another person? The Bible never once in this verse states what kind of love is greater. Just love. And while perhaps we all have different ways of how we love, along with how we prefer to receive it, it doesn’t change the sentiment. Hot Priest might’ve sworn himself to celibacy, but when he gives into the forbidden fruit that is exploring his feelings for Fleabag, it’s not merely to get something out of his system. It’s not something that will pass despite what he tells her in the end. It’s about giving into his desires for someone who fascinates him—someone with whom, in another life, they could have grown old together, built a life full of laughter, bad jokes, and deep, lasting adoration.
Fleabag and Hot Priest’s relationship is short-lived, perhaps even too brief to be considered an epic, tragically beautiful love story, but it’s all those things. In each other’s arms, there’s a safe place where they don’t have to hide any part of who they are—the good, the bad, the ugly; it’s all beautiful—hot, rather. For a moment, they were each other’s everything. The safe place to fall when the world outside burned and grief was too hard to think about. I fucking love you was a promise—it was proof of how good these short moments were. Hot Priest’s decision to not only be beside Fleabag during her most challenging days, but her admiration of his craft, really and truly is something that made him better while it made her braver.
A relationship like this is stunning in the hands of a brilliant writer, but it also needs two people who give their blood, sweat, and tears to the role, making it one that viewers could never forget. Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott give us stolen glances, immense heart behind every conversation, and some of the most sensational performances we’ll ever watch on TV. In one short season, they give us enough to fill pages and pages with analysis. They show us a lifetime in a few brief moments by delivering performances that acutely showcase what it means to see inside someone’s soul and adore them beyond comprehension.
We knew they could never be forever. But their ephemeral time together doesn’t change the fact that their love is eternal. In Episode 6, their declarations promise that they will keep each other close in their hearts, using what they felt together as a paradigm of what love should be like. And while Hot Priest will probably not leave the church, it’s hard not to believe that her love is proof of God’s existence to him. For if it weren’t significant enough to believe in something bigger than himself, he wouldn’t choose the job over her. It’s tragic that he must do so, and it’s tragic that the rules are so complicated and messy because they deserve better, but it’s beautiful to know that what they shared together, they’ll never find elsewhere. It was its own unique, once-in-a-lifetime supernova.