Fleabag is a 20-something, depressed, middle-class woman who lives in London and runs an unsuccessful café. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag originally started as a play at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and went on to win the Fringe First Award before being picked up by BBC Three. The theatrical style carries on into the television show, breaking the fourth wall numerous times an episode by turning to the camera to deliver asides, before continuing the scene. This style has been done before in shows like Miranda.
The main plot focuses on the titular character’s loneliness and grief, hidden behind layers of sarcasm and random sexual encounters. The show proves that there is a fine line between hilarity and bleakness. As viewers, we only get a small glimpse of Fleabag’s tragic history throughout the series, which helps to explain her erratic and emotional, over-the-top behaviour.
Although Fleabag’s problematic past is overly dramatised, it is relatable and allows us as an audience to build an emotional connection to the character. The interesting writing allows the viewer to sympathise with Fleabag, watching in the hope that she will solve her problems as we hope to solve our own. This is especially well done when the show tackles taboo subjects such as sex and death.
Much of the supporting cast are terrible people, such as Fleabag’s step-mother (Olivia Coleman), which in turn makes us want Fleabag to succeed even more. Even a customer takes advantages of Fleabag by silently sitting in her empty café charging his electrical devices without buying anything. Conversely, Fleabag’s sister Claire (Sian Clifford) is secretly very supportive and protective of her despite their unconventional relationship. No one seems particularly happy in the show, yet they spend the majority of their time and energy covering their unhappiness up, pretending that everything is perfect.
Ultimately, Fleabag is one of the most real television shows in recent times. It perfectly covers taboo subjects in a light-hearted, humorous manner. The show allows us to feel better about ourselves and instead invest our emotions in the Waller-Bridge’s character. The script is full of bitter one-liners that add to the characters’ false personalities and the show is full of hidden depth that slowly makes itself known throughout the series, letting the viewer become emotionally invested and leave them wanting more.