“Fleabag” Season Two: Phoebe Waller-Bridge Is Back and Bisexual

The second season of Fleabag has a reasonable premise: The only romantic rival worthy of Phoebe Waller-Bridge is God.

We pick up 371 days, 19 hours, and 26 minutes after season one ended. Fleabag’s café is going well, she hasn’t seen her family all year, and she’s forced herself to stop having casual sex. Her sister, Claire, and Claire’s husband, Martin, are trying (and failing) to have a baby and trying (and failing) not to drink. Fleabag’s father and godmother are finally getting married. And their new priest is hot and says fuck a lot.

Fleabag looks shocked reading a Bible

Maybe it’s because he’s unobtainable or maybe it’s because he’s the only person at the family dinner who asks Fleabag about herself. But she quickly becomes smitten with the priest and a will they/won’t they friendship is born.

If the first season was consumed with Fleabag using sex to distract from the death of her friend, this season focuses on Fleabag’s desire for friendship in lieu of (or along with) sex. Early in the season Fleabag attends a counseling session with a therapist played by Fiona Shaw. The therapist asks her if she has any friends and Fleabag seems to realize in the moment that she does not. She later clarifies that she does have friends and winks at us, the viewer, the imagined audience for whom she feels the constant need to perform. (Sidebar: I want to make sure you caught that Fiona Shaw plays the therapist and inform you that Fleabag hits on her and that it is amazing!!)

The entire season examines Fleabag’s fourth wall breaking, who we are to her, and what we’re providing for her. It transforms a storytelling device born from the show’s theatrical beginnings into one of its deepest qualities. Fleabag has masked her loneliness by turning inwards, by controlling her narrative with endless quips, and keeping the people in her life at a distance by making them characters. Her commitment to unreality has allowed her to avoid the hardest problems in her life. Every time she looks directly into our eyes we might swoon, but we’re, unfortunately, unable to give her anything back.

This is why it’s so meaningful when the priest notices this tendency. “We’ll last a week,” she tells us after they agree to just be friends. The priest’s brow furrows. “Where did you just go?” he asks her. She doesn’t know what to say. Nobody in her life has paid enough attention to her or understood her enough to notice how disconnected she is from the world around her.

Fleabag looks at Belinda

But Fleabag’s meaningful connections are not reserved solely for this man (who I must confess even I found hot). That’s right. The buzz you heard from its UK release was true. Fleabag is openly bisexual! Kristin Scott Thomas plays Belinda Fries, a lesbian named Best Woman in Business by Claire’s company. Due to an award mishap, Fleabag ends up at a bar alone with Belinda. It is thrilling (thrilling!) to watch Fleabag’s reckless confidence turn into reckless insecurity in the face of her own baby queerness and this powerful woman. Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Kristin Scott Thomas play so well together and Waller-Bridge is especially phenomenal in these moments. She’s nervous in a way we’ve never seen before and yet remains totally true to her character.

She looks at Belinda with so much desire and admiration and vulnerability it’s frankly overwhelming. I took 54 screenshots during this episode and a third of them are just Phoebe Waller-Bridge looking at Kristin Scott Thomas the way I imagine I’d look at Phoebe if we ever met in person. The way she looks at her made me gayer. I didn’t think I could be gayer, but I also didn’t think Fleabag could get better and it has, so there you go.

This season is messier, more complicated, and, yes, somehow, even better than the first. I found the last season finale dramatically satisfying if a bit false, but the end of the second season, and the series, is perfection. It’s a happy ending in all the ways you don’t expect and I watched it unfold with such an immense feeling of gratitude. For the first time in a long time I felt like things in my life were really going to be okay. Maybe you’ll feel that way too.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge gave us a gift with this series. A gift from God, one might say.

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Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is currently working on a short film about Gordo from Lizzie McGuire’s transition (it’s canon) and a million other projects. She also runs social media for I Heart Female Directors. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 24 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. I never expected to like Fleabag but boy did it catch me by surprise. It’s funny and tragic and DEEP. Thank you for this review. It encompasses a lot of what I feel about this show and its characters. God bless Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Honestly, the woman is brimming over with talent.

  2. KST gives a monologue that is one of the most beautiful and poignant things I’ve heard in my life. It genuinely made me feel better about being a woman and getting older.

    Also now every time I think of Claire I always envision her with THAT haircut saying that she looks like a pencil and it cracks me up every time.

    • Someone else brought this up in the comments of my season one piece, so I’m glad you brought it up!

      *spoilers*

      Something I think about a lot is the difference between a show or movie taking a certain stance and character within the show or movie taking the stance. For me it felt very realistic that Belinda would feel that way and not think twice about the trans-inclusivity of her language. It would’ve felt worse to me if she said something about transness after the speech, because that would’ve been PWB the culturally sensitive young person adding it instead of it feeling authentic.

      And as far as the speech itself I don’t know… I do think there’s something to it. If not being about women at least it being about “women” i.e. lots of cultures’ attitudes towards women for centuries and the way cis women’s biological function is valued over their personhood. And then, yes, the ways that impacts trans people across the spectrum.

      Also I don’t know how a trans man or non-binary AFAB person would feel about the speech, but as a trans woman I certainly feel like I’ve earned my place within its overall point. I may not have a period or give birth to children, but I do plan to someday have my genitals split in half and folded inward. 🙂

      The speech and the ways it didn’t bother me reminded me of Andrea Long Chu’s recent essay. I highly recommend!

      https://nplusonemag.com/issue-34/politics/the-pink/

    • I think too many people look at things now days from a very narrow lens under microscopy that doesn’t allow for anything else to be seen or any other context.

      Every woman I know (cis, trans and in between) feels life in a way that stands in stark contrast to how cis men experience the world, their bodies and life. KST is speaking from the place of an older woman who has lived through decades of misogyny, likely acute self doubt about her body and stance in the world, and the pain that comes with that in all its incarnations and has persevered and attained enough clarity to find joy and confidence on the other side of it.

      As a woman (cis or trans or other) if you can’t appreciate an older woman telling you that though your pain (physical, emotional, social, etc) may seem constant and oft times unfair, there is better on the other side of it.

      So if one were to look at it macroscopically instead of microscopically it’s a life lesson and assurance that the pain doesn’t last always…joy will be born from it.

      • I mostly agree with this assessment. And as I said I think context of who is saying it is really important.

        But I’m also sympathetic towards anyone who doesn’t connect with a monologue that so deeply ties gender experience to cis-normative biology. Especially considering the anti-trans culture in the UK among older cis lesbians.

        I especially think in the context of this week and how frequently reproductive rights are still framed as men vs. women it’s important to note that language such as Belinda’s does lead practically to people being denied healthcare. So it’s not just sensitivity.

        But, again, I don’t think this is something the Belinda character would realistically be thinking about. And I agree with you that the deeper essence of what she’s saying is what matters most for the character, the scene, and the show as a whole.

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