This isn’t what I normally do here at THiNC. but heck – I’m ’bout to do it anyway. After nineteen flights and 27 redeye wake ups, I’m in the mood to talk me some Fleabag. I told myself – “No, Holmes…don’t you dare do it. The answer is no.” I even created reminders for myself on my phone to warn me daily, “ABSOLUTELY NOT! You are ABSOLUTELY NOT to talk about that season one ending of Fleabag…..noooo. Stop it. ABORT!” But I just went through and systematically added new reminders to quickly follow the previous reminders that said, “HAHAHA you are too late!!! HE’S ALREADY DONE IT! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!?!”
OK, so that was all hyperbole…and fantasy. None of that actually happened. But if you’ve read this blog for longer than 30 seconds, you get that. I’m literally certifiable.
But the war in my mind might has well have played out like that. Because I’ve been done with season 1 of Fleabag since Phoebe Waller-Bridge walked away with all of the Emmy’s for Fleabag and Killing Eve. And I just keep thinking about that ending scene – I literally can’t stop thinking about it. So I want to talk about it. With you.
BUT THAT MEANS IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED FLEABAG SEASON ONE YOU CAN’T STAY. YOU HAVE TO LEAVE – BECAUSE IT WOULD SPOIL ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. AND I REFUSE TO SPOIL A SHOW THIS GOOD.
Cough. Sorry. That was loud. But I’m serious about not wanting to spoil the show. But please understand, this show is absolutely not for everyone. Christians? You might lose your salvation watching this one. Atheists? You might find God watching this one. Regardless, it’ll be your worst nightmare, it’s that edgy. But, oh, wow. So profoundly beautiful. Broken. And insightful about humans on planet earth. If only I could ascribe to being that open and honest in my own walk. Fleabag originally comes from a one woman standup show, and has been adapted for screen by Phoebe from there. If you still aren’t sure you want to watch – here’s a trailer:
OK with that, I want to jump straight to the end of season one, and talk specifically about Fleabag’s meltdown.
Throughout season one, Fleabag continues struggling with the death of her best friend, Boo. As a coping mechanism she continually talks to the screen, and also envisions Boo talking back to her in the midst of her struggles. The cafe that Boo and Fleabag had been running together has hit on dire straights, and is in desperate need of funding – and she applies for a loan. During that loan process, she gives off the wrong impression to the loan officer (played extraordinarily well by Hugh Dennis), by accidentally taking off her jacket and forgetting she only had her bra on underneath. Then, later, while out at a women’s retreat center, she accidentally runs into the loan officer again. And while the two seemed to hate each other after their previous encounter, they seem to bury the hatchet, and “talk” about the really important things about life. The cosmically big things.
Then, at the end of the season, Fleabag heads back to the shop, feeds the hamster, and is about to walk into traffic in order to commit suicide. Which, sad as it is, would have been killing herself in a similar way to how Boo went. But instead, the loan officer, recognizes her, and begins to talk with her. It’s a divine appointment intervention, and a divine moment. An atheistic divine appointment if you will. So this quote is riddled with profanity – but if you’ve seen the show, you know that already:
The Loan Officer: “Cafe’s are a very difficult business. You’ve certainly made this one very – unique.”
Fleabag: “I also fucked it into liquidation.”
The Loan Officer: “OK.”
Fleabag: “And I fucked up my family.”
The Loan Officer: “Did you?”
Fleabag: “And I fucked my friend by fucking her boyfriend.”
The Loan Officer: “Right.”
Fleabag: “And sometimes I wish I didn’t even know that fucking existed. And I know that my body, as it is now, really is the only thing I have left, and when that gets old and un-fuckable I may as well just kill it. And somehow there isn’t anything worse…than someone who doesn’t want to fuck me. I fuck everything…except for when I was in your office, I really wasn’t trying to have sex. You know, either everyone feels like this a little bit, and they’re just not talking about it, or I’m completely fucking alone…which isn’t fucking funny.”
The Loan Officer: “Right, well…I should probably…I should probably…I should probably…People make mistakes.”
Fleabag: “ It’s why they put rubbers on the ends of pencils.”
The Loan Officer: “Is that a joke?”
Fleabag: “I don’t know.”
The Loan Officer: “I think we should start your interview again.”
The Loan Officer: “Yeah.”
The show culminated into this moment of grace. Of self-reflection. And salvation from the abyss. Fleabag (come on, that name alone is just riddled with meaning.) is on the verge of self-eradication. Her best friend, Boo, it turns out, killed herself because of something that she had done…like, to her. Gah. And then, here we are, with a random intervention by her number one nemesis from the beginning of the show.
So, not to get spiritual on you – but we are all desperate for forgiveness. We are all desperate for this sort of divine intervention on someone’s behalf to free us of these cosmic screw-ups. Fleabag is 100% right, we all either feel this to some degree or another…or we are all desperately alone. But it’s these ‘fuck-ups’ as Fleabag refers to them, that unite us together. Humanity, as a whole, are all, 100% in desperate need for a collective intervention.
I think I mentioned that I’m traveling. I am now stuck in a layover in Dallas, and you just don’t see this in more clear terms than at airports! hahah. Man, everyone is getting theirs. I offered an older woman my seat on the Skytram and you would have thought I had won the Superbowl. (OK, I swear I wasn’t doing that for the applause, she really looked like she wasn’t going to stay upright. And generally I don’t do that anymore because I hear from people (women?) that it’s sexist. Gah. I can’t keep up. But I will always differ to kindness even in the face of charges of “sexism.”) But we were all like zombies, clawing our way out of our planes, into the airport, infesting the city in a deluge. But we could also flip back through history as well in order to really see what man’s inhumanity to man really is capable of. Necklacing in Africa. Black lynchings in America. Nazi gas chambers. You get the idea. We are capable of horrifyingly despicable acts of atrocity.
Which brings us back to this poignant moment between Fleabag and her arch nemesis loan officer. In this one moment we get more authenticity than I’ve seen in the real world in years. And whether Fleabag is literally Phoebe Waller-Bridge, or not, is really immaterial. (Although Fleabag is the nickname her family gave her as a child. It still is a real moment, conveying real fears, and communicating the real horror that is our human experience.)
I have moments in my life that I have done that haunt me like waking nightmares. I’ve betrayed people, stolen from people, lied to friends, knifed others in the back. I am a desperately wicked individual above all else. I would love to be that chivalrous guy on the Skytram all the time, but I’m not that guy even 10% of the time. I’m out for myself more often than not. And when spurned – oh, lordy. Hell has no wrath like Taylor Holmes scorned. Two of the most embarrassing moments in my life involved cars – parking lots (the worst was a library parking lot) and an ass that thought I had wronged him when I hadn’t. Next thing I know my wife is shielding my kids as their dad flew completely off the handle, I was literally considering putting the guy in the hospital I was so irate. And for what? A parking spot? Oh, now I need God’s grace. And those are just the failures I’m comfortable telling random internet denizens. Email me and the list will grow rapidly way way longer. I am a failure of a human.
Which is the fascinating part for me. Phoebe is illustrating a universal maxim. A global constant. And that is the fallen nature of life, the universe, and everything. And while you don’t need to agree with me on this part – as it seems so blindingly obvious to me – but it speaks to our need for redemption. Our need for some hero to sweep into our lives and restore us to who were meant to be. And while Phoebe’s season 2 does dive more into spirituality, it isn’t the deep heartfelt ache of spiritual longing and distance that I’m talking about here. I mean, here she is talking about Christian principles that have gone missing, in an interview with LA Times.
“I just find it so moving, that sense of faith, belief, certainty,” she says over lunch near Union Square. “As a generation it’s not very cool to believe anything. But the appeal of basic Christian principles — which is basically be nice to people, don’t be a dick, don’t kill anyone — does get lost.”
Yeah, no. That’s literally the opposite of what I found compelling in Fleabag’s season 1. I’m talking about the heart cry of this show, which, while being really funny, also was depressingly and jarringly honest. It tells the story of Fleabag’s enormous need in her own life. A need that she filled through sex, and selfishness. I do the same thing, just in different ways. (And for the record, so do you.) It tells the story of man’s rift with God, and foundationally, with who we were originally intended to be.
I mean, have you noticed how deeply this idea of salvation is ingrained into our culture, our art, poetry, plays, movies, our thinking? The greats, all throughout time, all dealt with this problem. I mean, Dante’s Inferno, Michelangelo’s Pietà, Handel’s Messiah…literally, the most vaultedly glorious works of art grapple with God and our relationship with Him. Sure, you – an atheist – could take these pieces as metaphor. You can abstract them out to deal with the question of human pain and suffering. Or you could take them literally. Similarly, I – a Christian – could view Fleabag as the brilliant Atheist creator intended it…which was just as a humorous character that found herself making bad choices:
‘Waller-Bridge hesitates to over-intellectualize the show’s focus on sex. Early in the show’s creation, she was constantly asked why Flea does what she does—a nesting doll of unnecessarily deep questions that boil down to a very simple answer, according to the show-runner: ”‘Cause people! Fucking! Do!” Waller-Bridge says. “There are people in the world who have fucked the wrong person.”’
Or, I could see the divine in this struggle. Ascribe my own meaning to her struggle, and declare it our own…humanity’s own struggle. That I am lost without my creator. That these intentional self-sabotaging acts that I do are what have short circuited my true calling. Or not. But I choose to see the divine in this Fleabag, and just go ahead and try to convince me otherwise.
Edited by: CY
* This piece will literally make no one happy. I know this already. Christians that read this and then watch Fleabag will pick up stones to stone me for heresy. Which, I’m fine with. Whatever. Atheists that read this will pick up stones for my being simple and obtuse. Which, I’m fine with as well. But I see the divine at work here, whether both sides stone me or not.