Fleabag, BBC Two

After the first series of Fleabag aired on BBC Two in the autumn of 2016, its creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge watched her career go interstellar – quite literally: she landed a sizeable role in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story on the back of it. She was also given a free hand for her next BBC project and chose to take a behind-the-scenes role and adapt the novel Killing Eve for television. We know how that ended up. For those who don’t, two Emmy nominations, a Golden Globes win for lead actress Sandra Oh, and almost universal critical acclaim should fill in the blanks.

Understandably, then, series two of Fleabag arrived with a great deal more fanfare than its predecessor and a cast list whose clout illustrated it and Waller-Bridge’s growing reputation, with Sherlock’s Andrew Scott joining Bill Paterson, Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford who play (respectively) Dad, Godmother and sister Claire.

Happily, little else had changed. Fleabag is still edgy, excruciating to watch at points, constantly teetering between black comedy and outright nihilism, and still powered by Waller-Bridge in the title role, a performance peppered with to-camera asides that continually break the fourth wall to comment on the action or reveal her own inner thoughts. That has been done before, of course, but rarely with such honesty or to such powerful effect.

Episode one opened with Fleabag wiping her own bloodied nose in a restaurant mirror then rewound to show the calamitous events that had caused the claret to flow. It was, in short, the family dinner from hell, this one called to celebrate the impending marriage of Dad and Godmother and overseen by a peculiarly attentive waitress (Maddie Rice, who played Fleabag in last year’s one-woman stage version). Also in attendance was Claire’s obnoxious American husband Martin (Brett Gelman), now allegedly teetotal, and the priest (Scott) who was to conduct the service, an unlikely-looking cleric who drank and swore and revealed at one point that his truck driver brother was a paedophile. “I’m aware of the irony of that,” he said as an embarrassed silence fell, and Fleabag gave us one of her looks.

The episode ended in emotional carnage and physical violence, with Fleabag and Claire escaping in a taxi and heading for a hospital. They didn’t fasten their seatbelts but the rest of us better had if this opener was anything to go by. And the sisters’ take on the evening? The priest was hot. “So hot,” said Fleabag, with a lascivious wink into the camera lens.

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