Fleabag, the hilarious and irreverent BBC show about a hapless and damaged singleton, is back.
In episode one of the new series, the eponymous character Fleabag (played by the show’s creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge,) finds herself sat next to a young and rather attractive Catholic priest during a dinner to celebrate the engagement of her father and passive aggressive godmother (played to perfection by Olivia Coleman).
In true Fleabag style, the episode ends in familial feuding: punches being thrown, bloody noses and swearing, all as “Father” (played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott) watches on in, ahem, disbelief.
There has been much media speculation about whether Fleabag will turn to faith in series two of the critically acclaimed show. So far we’ve seen a new level of depth to the protagonist as she grapples with some of the claims of Christianity (episode three opens with Fleabag reading a Bible in the bath. From her expression I’d guess she’s in the Old Testament). But so far she seems more interested in flirting with the “hot priest” than pursuing God.
The jokes have been just the right side of funny, bordering on blasphemous, but never quite breaching the sacred/profane line. Having said that, there's still three episodes to go.
It’s certainly an unexpected and brave angle for the award-winning writer to take. In a recent interview, Waller-Bridge explained how a desire to explore faith was pivotal in her decision to create the new season.
"I was really convinced I wasn't going to do a second series and felt I had a lot of artistic integrity in saying that," Waller-Bridge explained. "But a couple of ideas popped into my head that I got excited by and I thought, 'oh, go on then.'
"The real bedrock of it was tied up with the idea of religion. I was starting to write jokes about perspectives on the Christian faith and Catholicism, and that bled into the show.
"I liked the idea of Fleabag meeting her match in someone with the same intelligence and wit she has who leads a completely different life."
As a Catholic priest, “Father” certainly does lead a different life, one marked by celibacy for one thing. This makes for some hilarious scenes as Fleabag tries her hardest to seduce him.
As the new series unfolds we’ll find out whether Fleabag is converted to Christianity or whether the priest, instead, succumbs to her charms and ends up de-frocked. So far Waller-Bridge’s down-to-earth portrayal of a ‘man of the cloth’ has been refreshing.
When the theme of the new series was announced I thought it would render Fleabag blasphemous and unwatchable, but in fact I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Waller-Bridge has managed to poke fun at many of the curious idiosyncrasies of organised religion in a sensitive and astute way that many Christians will recognise with a knowing smile. What’s more, through Fleabag’s searching for wholeness and healing, she has drawn out some interesting themes around sin, redemption and forgiveness.
If art can be interpreted as an imitation of life then perhaps Fleabag represents the many millennials searching for meaning in a broken world. We can only hope she finds it.
Fleabag is on BBC 1 every Monday at 10.35pm and available on iPlayer