Fleabag series 2 | TV review by Steve Bennett © BBC/Two Brothers
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Fleabag series 2

TV review by Steve Bennett

It’s been 571 days 19 hours and 26 minutes after the dramatic climax of the last series of Fleabag, so the title frame tells us. And within seconds we know the life of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s title character is as chaotic as before, since we meet her, dressed to the nines in the toilet of a swanky restaurant, with blood pouring out of her nose.

‘This is a love story,’ she tells us, and over the next 30 tight and tension-filled minutes, dripping with her trademark mordant humour, we learn how she got here. It’s quite the ride, as brilliant as you could expect.

The emotional action takes place around one event: an engagement dinner for her dad (Bill Paterson) and godmother (Olivia Colman) with passive-aggression on the menu for every course. At the table, Fleabag is reunited with her sister Claire for the first time since throwing a virtual Molotov Cocktail into her marriage in the last season

The siblings are polar opposites: Claire ‘bottles and buries’ every emotion compares to Fleabag’s dangerously blunt talking. At least that’s what you might have expected from the first series. Here, though, she’s an apparently reformed character, holding her vicious tongue even in the fact of extreme provocation, not least from Claire’s insufferable husband, Mark (Brett Gelman).

All the family dance around each other, each line the exchange heavy with hidden, usually emotionally manipulative meaning, while pretending everything is as all right as possible. That the operatic soundtrack seems more suited to a mafia movie than a family comedy adds to the sense of grand drama.

Each performance is exquisite, Waller-Bridge and Clifford as stand-outs, more than capable of matching their freshly Oscar-winning co-star for conveying an intent at odds with their words.

As always, the camera is Fleabag’s confidante  – and the audience, by extension, become co-conspirators in her delicious acidic thoughts, even if they are not always voiced. Meanwhile a love interest comes from Andrew Scott’s ‘cool, sweary’ – not to mention handsome – priest, making Fleabag the second damaged comedy character to fall for a person of the cloth after Sophia Di Martino's Amy in Channel 4’s weird Flowers.

Some moments in Fleabag’s opening episode are still as grim as ever, but the tense mood not only drives the drama serves to punch extra piquancy into the sardonically witty moments that are shot through this compelling, sophisticated and all-too-believable comedy. Welcome back our broken, mischievous, frank-talking friend.

  • The first episode of Fleabag Series 2 is on iPlayer now and airs on BBC One at 10.35pm tonight.

Review date: 4 Mar 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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