Storyclock Research Log

Fleabag (S2 E4)

By Ryan Polly

Fleabag (S2 E4)

We’re in the back half of our blogs on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Emmy-winning series Fleabag. Today’s Storyclock Research Log: Season 2 Episode 4. As usual, we've watched the episode and used the Storyclock Notebook to visualize the episode's structure in the form of a clock.



In the last edition of the Fleabag Research Log™, we focused completely on Phoebe’s genius, inventive use of the 4th wall break technique. If I’m honest, with the amount of times Fleabag addresses the camera in this season (liberal is an understatement!), I could write another full article on it. But you will have to check out my definitely-real Phoebe Waller-Bridge fansite for that.

Before we move on, I will say that this episode starts with some amazing evolution of last week’s topic. Fleabag walks down the street with Hot Priest and can’t even make it through a conversation without accidentally saying something to him that she meant to say to the audience. I love the way they use this technique as a way to continue to build on their relationship and show Fleabag unraveling over the course of the season.

Fleabag’s journey throughout the entirety of the series (and highlighted in Season 2) is a beautiful example of a character going through internal struggle, and the flashback to mom’s funeral in this episode shows us the origin of that struggle. After Fleabag pushes away Hot Priest for trying to get her to open up, we cut to the flashback. Taking us back to this moment really shows us how pivotal it was to Fleabag’s character, and it also offers up some big reveals.

There are a few key moments in the flashback:

  1. Claire makes Fleabag feel like she can’t do anything right. Whether that’s looking too good, eating food/not working hard enough at the reception, or thinking too much about sex. Claire is doing her best, mourning in her own way, but she doesn’t see how her actions are affecting her sister.
  2. Godmother is already trying to get with Dad, and Fleabag can tell right away.
  3. Boo is still alive and we’re reminded of how great of a friend she was to Fleabag. There’s an amazing moment where Fleabag confesses that she gave so much love to Mom and doesn’t know where to put it now– Boo tells her to give it to her.
  4. Lastly, a huge moment between Fleabag and Dad. We hear from Dad that Mom was fun, kind, and charming (sounds familiar). Fleabag confesses to her dad that she doesn’t know what to do. This is the first time we really get to see Fleabag breakdown and cry. Dad tells her “Buck up. Smile. Charm. Off we go. We’ll be okay.” Fleabag has obviously taken that to heart– but to an extreme degree. She’s all charm– pushing down any sadness and loneliness and trying to fill that void with sex and sarcasm.

Seeing her break down in the flashback mirrors what happens just 5-6 minutes later with Fleabag finally opening up to Hot Priest in the confession booth. As we’ve seen with the way he notices her 4th wall breaking, Hot Priest is the only person who sees her completely as she is. When he gets her to step inside that confession booth, he’s able to finally break down her defenses by giving her a “judgement free” acceptance.

But Hot Priest is in love with Fleabag, and after just 4 episodes he gives into his temptation and makes out with Fleabag right after she confesses. A portrait of Jesus falls and snaps Hot Priest back into reality though (such a darkly funny and dramatic end to the scene -- I love how God has a sense of humor in this show). Fleabag is left frustrated and confused.

It’s cathartic to see Fleabag’s defenses broken after all of this time, and I love the way that Phoebe uses this episode to deeper explore and look back at the themes of the entire series. Now that we’re in the last two episodes of the series, we can only imagine that Fleabag’s “dark night of the soul” is coming right up.

Miscellaneous Observations

  • Symmetrical Moments: Fleabag freaks out on Hot Priest for trying to get her to open up about her feelings / Fleabag begins to confess to Hot Priest
  • Fleabag getting a compliment on how she looks from every single person at the funeral is comedy gold. She can and probably should look terrible at this moment, but instead her hair falls in an incredibly chic way and she can’t not look good.

Join us next week as we analyze Season 2 Episode 5 of Fleabag. In the meantime, grab a Storyclock Notebook to research the structure of your favorite stories!

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