Fleabag, episode 5 review: it finally happened – but what now?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag - 5
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag - 5

Forget the Thorn Birds, here’s Fleabag (BBC Three)The penultimate episode of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s astounding tragicomedy saw the eponymous heroine finally sleep with her priest.

We rejoined Fleabag (Waller-Bridge) on a date with her lawyer, aka the Hot Misogynist (Ray Fearon) who we met in episode two. Rapid-fire flirtatious dialogue and arch asides to camera gave this scene the feel of the self-destructive first series.

After a night of sex (“I’m really good at it” “He won’t be… He is. Nine times!”), she did a panda-eyed walk of shame to Dad’s house, where preparations were underway for the following day’s wedding.

Here she found the Priest (Andrew Scott) in the middle of breaking the news that he could no longer officiate at the ceremony due to a "family emergency".

The monstrous Godmother (Olivia Colman) made all the right sympathetic noises until he left, at which point she exploded with fury and barked at ineffectual Dad (Bill Paterson) to “send them away”, referring to her stepdaughters.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Credit:  Luke Varley
Phoebe Waller-Bridge Credit: Luke Varley

Obviously, his brother’s fabricated “lorry accident” was an excuse and the Priest was really pulling out due to that transgressive kiss in the confessional last week. “Please don’t come to the church again,” he told Fleabag. “I mean that as the greatest of compliments.”

Though the flips between heartbreak and comedy occur in every episode, they remain as exhilarating as ever. As Fleabag swallowed her longing for the Priest, she was called to help her highly strung sister Claire (Sian Clifford) in the middle of a crisis: a bad haircut.

“I’ve got two important meetings and I look like a pencil,” she said in a panic. In Fleabag's righteous rant at the dismissive hairdresser she managed to sum up a rarely-spoken of facet of the female experience: “Hair is everything! We wish it wasn’t, so we could actually think about something else occasionally, but it is. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day. We’re meant to think its a symbol of power and fertility. Some people are exploited for it. And it pays your f---ing bills. Hair is everything.”

Ray Fearon as the Hot Misogynist - Credit: BBC
Ray Fearon as the Hot Misogynist Credit: BBC

They’re nothing if not British, however, so ended up apologising. And in the sweet sisterly scene that followed, they finally discussed episode one’s cathartic miscarriage, with Claire admitting: “I just felt relief. I didn’t want my husband’s baby. Isn’t that awful?”

Fleabag soon gave a proud smile as she sent Claire off with the other Klare (Christian Hollborg), her besotted Finnish business partner. Of course, he loved the hair: “It’s cute, edgy and cool, like superstar pop star, yes?”

Proceedings finally descended into bedroom farce when both Hot Priest and Hot Misogynist arrived at Fleabag’s flat. Having sent the Misogynist away with “My priest is here and he really needs some guidance”, the moment finally arrived.

The Priest told Fleabag: “I can’t have sex with you because I’ll fall in love with you.” And then, after some conversational ballet and crackling chemistry: “We’re going to have sex, aren’t we?” She nodded.

The episode ended on a brief flash of bare flesh before Fleabag uncharacteristically pushed the camera away. Last week’s priest-on-parishioner clinch felt uncomfortably imbalanced but now it was on her turf and her terms.

This episode packed in so much – confrontations, consummations, returns for familiar faces – it felt like a feature film. Waller-Bridge’s writing simply sang, with nary a line wasted.

Performances were uniformly superb. It was stylishly steered by director Harry Bradbeer, while Phoebe’s sister Isobel Waller-Bridge’s bombastic choral soundtrack ramped up the epic emotional turmoil.

This was bravura television: thrilling, electric and gasp-inducing, as much drama as comedy. It’s as if Waller-Bridge has trampled down the boundary between the two and invented a whole new genre all of her own.

What did you make of episode 5 of Fleabag? What are your predictions for the final episode of the series?

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