Amazon has done an excellent job building up their original programming catalog over the last few years, bringing us fantastic titles such as Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, and Red Oaks to name a few. And while I don’t think the voting is taken into account by any means, I do really enjoy the Amazon Pilot Season as a means to establish hype for their upcoming programming.
Seeing as Fleabag was an acquired series from the UK’s BBC Three, I didn’t feel that initial connection to the series. That connection that I have in the past, for the originals that I had spent months anticipating from pilot to full season order. What I did find after giving Fleabag a chance was something both enjoyable and confusing.
I’ve been struggling to write this review for quite some time.
While there are interactions with other living and breathing human beings throughout the first installment of Fleabag, none of the characters held onto a sense of permanence to them; their existence is tied completely to the show’s titular character—Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)—and they seem as if they might float away without her to weigh them down. That is to say, I couldn’t tell if any of these characters would return during the series.
That shouldn’t be put on the characters, however. It isn’t their nature that strikes me as flighty and ungrounded, but Fleabag’s. The young woman that this show follows is struggling to stay afloat in every aspect of her life and seems to be conscious of her situation, but unable to overcome herself to fix them.
Fleabag is constantly sabotaging herself at every turn.
While the opening moments of the series has Fleabag fumble through a romantic relationship with a level of skill that could only be called expertise, it is her poor handling of her familial relationships that seem the most detrimental. What little we’ve been shown so far of Fleabag’s relationship with her folks seems to suggest she has little faith that they would come to her aid when she needed it and it is probably with good reason.
Outside of her relationship problems, the first episode mainly deals with Fleabag being too broke to live. She is dire need of some funds to help out her floundering business and she tries—three times—to secure a lifeline, but each time she gets in her own way and everything comes crashing down around her. I have a hunch that we will be seeing a lot more of this as the show goes on.
I enjoyed the first episode of Fleabag enough to want to watch more, but not enough to pick up another episode in the month I have been putting this review off for. There are wonderful performances from Phoebe Waller-Bridge as well as Bill Paterson and Olivia Colman (as Phoebe’s father and stepmother) throughout the first episode, but none of them were enough to draw me in entirely.
Fleabag isn’t being provided to entertain or evoke any emotions from its audience; but, like a friend who just wants an ear to vent their day into, it just wants to have the story physically expressed. That’s not to say that Fleabag isn’t a hilariously depressing half-hour, but it took me quite some time to really wrap my head around what would happen for the rest of the season. Maybe because it didn’t really matter. It is just a biography of the nameless, young woman and her struggles to stay afloat in her sea of troubles.
Things will continue to go poorly for Fleabag for the remaining five episodes, but she’ll find herself a brief respite from her troubles as she secures some money to keep her shop open and has a promising new relationship to latch herself onto.
Unfortunately, Fleabag will find that it was only the eye of the storm and she will endure further hardships; including the loss of her shop and the family she so desperately needs as a safety net. I could see her father passing away and her stepmother cutting her off completely, while her sister moves away to avoid being taken down with the ship.
Fleabag is a strange series that seems to fall into the same space as autobiographical comedies in terms of tone. It isn’t the type of comedy that will have your sides in stitches by the end of the half hour, but you will probably have a laugh or two while reflecting on your life in the same way that you might after an episode of Louie.
I enjoyed my stay with Fleabag and its charismatic leading lady, but like the people in Fleabag’s life—once I was free of her presence, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted another visit any time soon. If the show was just on, I am sure I would not be able to turn away, but the problem with series that don’t air on actual television networks is just that: they are never just on. Maybe once I return to watch the next two episodes of Fleabag I’ll feel compelled enough to finish the first season.
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
If you’re interested in the series, the first season of Fleabag is available to watch on Amazon Prime. If you’d like to see what else Daniel is watching, you can check his Trakt page to keep up-to-date with all of his shows.