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The searing first season of “Fleabag” felt like a complete story in and of itself. As adapted from Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, the series expanded on the world of a woman wild with lust and grief with such expert ease that by the time it ended, even Waller-Bridge herself was sure that it was the last we’d see of her. Instead, she dug deeper and found something new to say about Fleabag, her acute self-loathing, and the startling way she could grow up beyond eating avocado toast and hoping for the best.
The resulting second season, which dropped May 17 on Amazon, is a meticulous triumph as gorgeous as it is wrenching. It gives Fleabag, her sister Claire (Sian Clifford), and father (Bill Paterson) moments of maturation a long time in the making. It sparingly uses caustic side characters like their condescending godmother (Olivia Colman) and Claire’s alcoholic husband Martin (Brett Gelman) for greater effect. It introduces an anxious wit to rival Fleabag’s own in an intriguing new priest (Andrew Scott), whose chemistry with her permeates every scene like frissions of static electricity.
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But the smartest writing in “Fleabag” season 2 unfolds as Waller-Bridge more and more directly interrogates a narrative device she’s used since the beginning. “Fleabag” began as a stage play in which Waller-Bridge spoke to the audience. She carried that confessional vibe over to the TV adaptation by having Fleabag sporadically talk to or wink at the viewer by addressing the camera directly. These fourth wall breaks quickly became crucial to the particular success of the show, but it’s only in this second season that Waller-Bridge breaks down what it actually means.
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