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Unhappier times.

"I have a horrible feeling that I'm a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman..."
Fleabag
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Fleabag is a 2016 Brit Com created by, written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the dry-witted proprietor of an unsuccessful London cafe and Lovable Sex Maniac, struggling to cope with her Dysfunctional Family and the death of her best friend Boo.

Originally an award-winning play for the Edinburgh Fringe, the show was commissioned by BBC Three as an iPlayer-only exclusive before being picked up by Amazon Originals for international distribution, with US distribution being handled through Prime Video. A second series began airing on BBC Three in March 2019.


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Fleabag provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Claire breaks out into an uncharacteristic guffaw at the silent retreat in response to one of Fleabag's jokes.
  • A-Cup Angst: A running theme for our antiheroine. Arsehole Guy appears to have something of a fetish for this.
  • Adapted Out: Most of what's in the play survived to the TV series in one form or another, but regular cafe customer Joenote  was cut, with some of his dialogue being given to Belinda in Series 2 instead. The play also hints that Boo knew it was Fleabag who slept with her boyfriend, which the series doesn't.
    • In the play the guinea pig doesn't make it; it gets seriously injured when Tube Rodent (as he is in the play) mistakes it for a rat, and eventually Fleabag kills it in the middle of her finale breakdown
  • Adaptation Expansion: As the series was adpated from a one-hour, one-woman stage play, which concentrates more on the cafe and Fleabag's sexual encounters, and not so much on her family, naturally a lot of extra content was added. In particular:
    • Godmother is only mentioned in passing in the play so everything involving her was added for the series, including the statuette subplot and the sexhibition.
    • Claire is quite an important character in the play but it's suggested she and Fleabag don't really get along. The TV series softens and expands their relationship considerably.
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  • Adaptational Nationality: Martin is Scottish (with the implication of being a Violent Glaswegian) in the play but American in the series.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Several times in series 1, including memorably to a Barack Obama speech.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Martin drinks far too much far too regularly, and is wildly inappropriate along with it. People don't mind because he's funny.
    • Implied: The Priest is frequently seen drinking and offering drinks at all hours of the day, and hides bottles. His parents were alcoholic, and he's baffled by Martin & Claire's decision to quit.
  • An Aesop: People make mistakes. That's why they put rubbers on the end of pencils.
  • Anti-Heroine: Fleabag herself, in the Classical Anti-Hero mould.
  • Artifact Title: The lead character calls herself Fleabag in the original stage play. Although the TV show keeps the title, the character herself is never called anything at all. A real-life artefact no less; Fleabag is Phoebe's childhood family nickname.
  • Ascended Extra: Godmother is only mentioned in passing in the original play and has no part in the plot. In the TV series, she's a major recurring character and played by one of the most popular and acclaimed actors on British TV, Olivia Colman.
  • Aside Comment: A stalwart of the shows' theatrical roots along with the...
  • Aside Glance: Fleabag is exceedingly good at these, see also Facial Dialogue below.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In S01E06, there is a set-up which appears to be leading to the protagonist committing suicide in the same way as Boo. She doesn't.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Harry's statue at the "sexibition", much to his concern.
    Harry: I don't... I don't know why she... where's my penis?
    Fleabag: *points to wall of penises* Oh, it's on the wall over there. Second from the left.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Godmother, by the bucketload. She's relentlessly condescending, rude or overtly offensive towards Fleabag, but almost never drops her chipper demeanour.
  • Bi the Way: When Belinda asks Fleabag if she's a lesbian, Fleabag replies "Not strictly." Later, when Belinda has urged her to go and flirt with someone, Fleabag kisses her twice, and is clearly very attracted to her, but Belinda says "I wish you were my type."
  • Bittersweet Ending: To series 1. Although it's a Surprisingly Happy Ending for the protagonist, it's not so much for anyone else. Both Claire and her father are still in relationships with truly horrible people, Claire has turned down her dream job, Martin has turned Claire against her sister, and the Fourth Wall that went up between us and the protagonist during the final episode is still in place. The last at least is undone by the start of series 2.
    • Series 2 ends similarly. Fleabag and the Priest break up, but say "I love you" first. Fleabag walks away from the audience, showing less reliance on us. Claire chases after Klare. Dad and Godmother get married, but Fleabag's pre-wedding conversation with Dad has brought them closer.
  • Bookends: The first and last epsiodes feature Fleabag breaking up with a partner, being told by Dad that she takes after her mother, and stealing Godmother's statuette.
  • Black Comedy: Used frequently both in the show and in-universe.
    • The end of the first episode has a drunken Fleabag cackling away to her cabbie about how Boo killed herself. He doesn't see the funny side.
    • Fleabag dressing up as a masked attacker and jumping on Harry in the shower with a knife. "Surprise!"
  • British Brevity: Two six-episode long seasons, each thirty minutes.
  • Brick Joke: In the fourth episode, the leader of the silent retreat tells those gathered that they can use a blackboard at the front of the room if they really need to communicate something. The next scene, a woman runs afoul of a wasp's nest, and in the scene after that the blackboard reads "I've been stung by a wasp" in the background.
  • Call-Back: Series 2 episode 5 references the first scene of Fleabag: our protagonist waiting at her front door in her black coat, waiting for a booty call to show up, describing the elaborate and insecure preparations she's made so she appears cool to her partner. Then the Priest turns up before the booty call.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The apparent One-Scene Wonder bank manager turns out to be this.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The Priest in series 2 is a Catholic, and of course there is a Confessional scene, though we do also see a Quaker meeting.
  • Continuity Nod: The first episodes of series 1 and 2 both end with Fleabag in the back of a cab, smiling at the camera at the end of a Wham Scene. The series 2 premiere also contains several shots that echo shots in the series 1 finale, such as Fleabag's confrontation with Martin and the long walk away from a disastrous family gathering (with her make-up running in the S1 finale, and a nosebleed in the S2 premiere).
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The main character's "World of Cardboard" Speech in the final scene manages to use the F word as noun, verb, adjective and interjection.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Claire has one in Season 2, Episode 1, as she seems to want to leave Martin and is becoming more and more unhappy in her marriage, she loses her pregnancy in a restaurant toilet.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Boo turns into a variant of this trope after Fleabag buys her a guinea pig as a present, and she proceeds to decorate the café accordingly. Martin points out how the café resembles a Room Full of Crazy.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Fleabag makes a beeline for this towards the end of the final episode of series 1.
  • Destructive Romance: Between Harry and Fleabag. Harry's trying to be a kind and oconscientious partner but Fleabag is in the middle of a slow-motion nervous breakdown and ends up treating him as an Extreme Doormat. Eventually he snaps out of the self-destructive cycle and decides Why Would Anyone Take Her Back?
    Harry: Don't make me hate you. Loving you's painful enough.
  • Dinner and a Show: The basis for the S2 premiere. All of Fleabag's family, plus the priest who is to marry Dad and Godmother, get together to celebrate the announcement of the wedding. That's the plan, anyway. By the end of the meal, everybody at the table has managed to drop at least one bombshell.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Fleabag and the bank manager. At first glance they couldn't seem more different, but both are dealing with the same crippling problems and guilt in their personal lives brought on by their own sexual impropriety. Their mutual acknowledgement of this helps them both Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Harry, in spades, even though he's already going out with Fleabag she seems to have little emotional involvement with him.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Not only Fleabag herself but literally every member of her extended family is seriously messed-up in some way.
    • The priest's family seem to be this as well according to his descriptions of them.
  • Emotion Suppression: Claire comes out with this corker:
    Claire: Positive energy takes work! In the last six months I've excelled. I take all the negative emotions and just bottle them and bury them and they never come out.
    • In Season Two, we see where this comes from: in a flashback to the day of Fleabag's mum's funeral, she's been putting on a brave face all day but then she finds her dad sitting on the bed looking lost. She sits next to him:
      Fleabag: I just... [She starts to cry] I don't know what to...
      Dad: [patting her hand] I know. Buck up. Smile. Charm. [He stands up.] Off we go.
      Fleabag: [looking at him and realising that crying isn't allowed] ...I'll follow you.
  • Facial Dialogue: Fleabag would be a very different show were it not for Phoebe Waller-Bridge's talent for this.
    • Given a disturbing twist in the second episode of season two, when her counsellor challenges her on her claim that she has no friends.
      Fleabag: I have friends. [winks at the camera and does a little tongue-click]
  • Fascinating Eyebrow / Eye Take: If the entries under Aside Glance and Facial Dialogue hadn't clued you in yet, Fleabag also gets a lot of use out of these tropes.
  • Foreign Remake: a French one, with the setting being transfered to Paris and the main character played by Camille Cottin.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: The protagonist is the only character who breaks the fourth wall, but she does it all the time.
    • The Priest is seemingly able to observe Fleabag talking to the fourth wall, although perhaps only when tipsy. It's not clear what he sees; it may just be an awareness of her briefly zoning out, but at one point he glances in confusion in the same direction as her own Aside Glance.
    • At the end of the penultimate episode, Fleabag actually forces a Sexy Discretion Shot by reaching out and tilting the camera.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: For a series with so much discussion of sex and so many sex scenes, "bits" are never really exposed. But take a close look at the newspaper the protagonist is reading when she first meets Bus Rodent, and you'll see it has an advert on the front page with a definitely Not Safe for Work image. Apparently, it's selling mortgages.
  • Friends with Benefits: Arsehole Guy.
  • Funny Background Event: A woman at the silent retreat in episode 4 is seen frantically attempting to shoo away a wasp without making any noise.
    • Gets a call back in the following scene; someone has written "I've been stung by a wasp!" on the blackboard.
  • Gag Haircut: Claire gets a bad haircut which leaves her traumatised and leads to Fleabag and Claire marching into the hairdresser's shop to demand compensation. When the hairdresser shows them the reference photo he was working from, it turns out that the style was actually exactly what she asked for - it just looks terrible on her. Subverted when it turns out that the colleagues she was trying to impress actually like it anyway.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Claire's Finnish counterpart and love interest, Klare. It is a female name, but Klare is male. It leads to him being one of the nominees for the "Women in Business" award.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: When Fleabag and the Priest finally have sex, it's the first time sex is shown as intimate and emotionally charged on the show, lacking the usual comedy of the show's sex scenes. Plus Fleabag refuses to let the audience see it, showing she thinks it's special and refusing the normal voyeuristic element.
  • Good-Times Montage: Nobody else is getting any good times in this show, so the one character who gets a Good Times Montage is Hilary the guinea pig.
  • Granola Girl: Claire has shades of this.
    Claire: Do you have rye bread?
    Fleabag: No, but we've got normal bread you can puke up later.
  • Happy Flashback: All of the scenes with Boo.
  • How We Got Here:
    • Something of a meta-example, with the main image used by Amazon to promote the show in the US (and subsequently chosen for the front of the UK DVD) being a striking still of Fleabag with her make-up running, which is from the last third of the last episode. It's not really a spoiler because it tells you nothing specific about the show, but does mean that the whole series is effectively leading up to the reveal of what that image is about.
    • The second series begins with Fleabag tending a bloodied nose in a restaurant toilet and we're then treated to the Dinner and a Show leading up to it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: In finest Brit Com tradition, almost all of the people appearing in the show are, to a greater or lesser degree, irredeemably horrible. Only Boo, Fleabag and the Bank Manager seem to show any sign of having the potential to be good.
    • In Season Two, Fleabag is trying to be a better person. Claire also becomes nicer, and the Priest seems to be a genuinely nice guy. Martin has, if anything, become much worse.
  • It's All About Me: About half of the recurring characters. But by the end of series 1, at least the main character and the bank manager are getting better.
    • And Fleabag isn't even the worst. That dishonour has to go to Godmother:
    Godmother: I've taken a photo of my naked body every year for the past 30 years.
    Fleabag: Why?
    Godmother: Well, I think it's important for women of all ages to see how my body has changed over the years. I think they have to have a healthy perspective on my body, don't they?
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Claire has given up booze in order to show solidarity with her husband who's trying to quit, but after the evening descends into chaos she hits the bottle. She also wasn't drinking because she was pregnant, but suffers a miscarriage. She needs the drink.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Phoebe Waller-Bridge played a major supporting character in Broadchurch, in which Olivia Colman was one of the leads. The two had also appeared on stage together.
    • Maddy Rice, who plays the needy waitress in S02E01, played Fleabag in the touring version of the stage play.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: For the protagonist, Boo, Harry, Claire, and you, the viewer all serve(d) as living emotional crutches. In series two she seems (initially) determined not to let the Priest fill the same role.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Fleabag finds dad in the attic before his wedding, he tells her "I can't get out, I can't! It's a trap, I'm stuck!". Fleabag assumes he's talking about the wedding and assures him "everyone will understand" if he calls it off. But he's literally got his foot stuck in a mousetrap. To what extent he subconciously feels the same way about the wedding is open to interpretation.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: The lead character, in spades. Or at least, that's the persona she tries to present to us.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Fleabag is tall, bawdy, and emotionally repressed, while Harry is shorter, more fond of romance, and prone to fits of tears and histrionic displays.
  • Meaningful Echo: As Dad and Fleabag prepare to meet mourners after Mum's funeral, he tells her "Buck up. Smile. Charm." Fleabag uses the same line back to him as she helps him out of the attic before his wedding to Godmother.
  • Medium Awareness: The main character gives asides to camera all the time. At least, until matters come to a head halfway through episode six. Then she stops talking to us and starts giving looks of resentment that we're watching her, and after the confrontation with Claire and Martin she is actively trying to escape our gaze. After that the fourth wall goes up and stays up for the rest of the episode.
    • In Season Two, she's still giving asides to camera. This is the first sign that she's backslid, somewhat, since the end of Season One. Then, towards the end of episode three, this happens while she and the Priest are having a friendly conversation in the grounds of his church:
      Fleabag: [to camera] We'll last a week.
      The Priest: [to her] What was that?
      Fleabag: ...What?
      The Priest: Where did... Where did you just go?
      Fleabag: What?
      The Priest: You just went somewhere.
      Fleabag: [glances at the camera]
      The Priest: There! There. Where did you just go?
      Fleabag: ...Nowhere.
      The Priest: [raises eyebrows; letting it drop] Okay.
      [Fleabag looks at the camera again, seriously spooked]
  • Missing Mum: "Dad's way of coping with two motherless daughters was to buy us tickets to feminist lectures, start fucking our godmother and eventually stop calling".
  • Mood Whiplash: As a gleefully cynical Black Comedy, this should be expected.
    • The opening of the second series lets us know we’re back in Fleabag territory with several of these in short order: showing our protagonist looking into a mirror in a glamorous outfit and setting, then revealing that she’s nursing a massive nosebleed; then revealing the other woman slumped, also bleeding, next to her; then Fleabag’s attention snaps to the camera, her expression suddenly shifts from rueful preoccupation to smirking glee and she tells us "This is a love story."
    • What appears to be a Potty Emergency for Claire is actually a miscarriage.
  • Morality Pet: One of the main reasons the lead character is lost without Boo is that Boo fulfilled this role for her. This is largely the fault of the protagonist and Boo's boyfriend sleeping together.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Fleabag accidentally instigated the death of her best friend and moral compass whilst Bank Manager destroyed his marriage over a drunken clinch. Neither have half a clue on how to make amends.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The waitress at the restaurant is very annoying but everyone at the table tries to remain polite towards her even after she's punched in the face.
  • No Name Given:
    • The protagonist is never named. Although the publicity calls her "Fleabag", even the nickname is never used in-universe and the credits simply say "Starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge" without referring to the character by any name at all.
    • Several other major characters; "Dad", "Godmother", "Bank Manager", "The Priest", and recurring love interests "Bus Rodent" and "Arsehole Guy".
    • Lampshaded in the final episode when Godmother is introducing her friends to Dad, struggles because she can't bring his name to mind, and ends up saying "well, I always call you 'Darling', don't I?".
  • Not Good with Rejection: Boo. She may have been the Only Sane Woman in Fleabag's life, but walking out into traffic as a deliberate act of Self-Harm in order to guilt-trip your unfaithful boyfriend into coming back to you? That's really not a good way of dealing with the situation.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After running to make her meeting with the bank manager, a hot and flustered Fleabag removes her top... only to reveal nothing but underwear underneath. Given the bank's recent brush with a sexual harassment lawsuit, she's immediately asked to leave.
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: What Claire's "job in Finland" entails is so vague that her family all incorrectly assume she's a lawyer, because she's employed by a law firm.
  • Opposites Attract: In S2. Athiest recovering sex maniac, meet celibate priest.
  • Overly Long Gag: We spend nearly a minute watching as a freeloading "customer" in the cafe takes various electronic devices and adaptors from his bag and plugs them into the wall.
  • Parent with New Paramour: There is a great deal of friction between Fleabag, her dad and her stepmother due to this.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The "Women In Business Award" trophy, which Claire warns Fleabag not to touch as it's very expensive. As soon as Claire is out of the room, Fleabag takes it out of its box to look at it, and immediately drops it on the glass table. The table is undamaged, while the trophy shatters into hundreds of tiny pieces.
  • Posthumous Character: Boo is only seen in flashback.
  • Precision C Strike:
    • "She's not an evil stepmother. She's just a cunt."
    • The bank manager's reflexive "Slut!" probably counts as a Precision S Strike.
    • Godmother shrieks "What. A. CUNT!" after the Priest withdraws from officiating her wedding.
  • Race for Your Love: Discussed in the S2 finale, ultimately leading to Claire doing this (offscreen) for Klare.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The cafe gets away with charging ridiculous amounts for sandwiches, and everyone just puts it down to London prices.
  • Rewatch Bonus: It takes a second viewing to pick up on all the ways the lead character is using her Fourth-Wall Observer status to lie to us and herself.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: We see nothing that would corroborate our narrator's belief that Martin watches extreme porn - she's probably just projecting her faults onto him. And she does have selfish, financial reasons for wanting Claire to take the Finland job. But ultimately she's right about Martin stifling Claire's ambitions.
  • Saying Too Much: Boo seems to have been frequently guilty of this.
    • After trying out some clothes in a shop, Boo rails in disgust at Fleabag's horrible dress. Fleabag points out she's been wearing it all day.
    • When discussing what about themselves they'd change...
      Fleabag: Well you know I've always been insecure about my face...
      Boo: There's nothing wrong with your nose!
  • Sensitivity Training: The "Better Man" course in episode 4, where men learn how not to treat their female co-workers.
    Workshop Leader: Now, Patricia has just earned a promotion at work, beating over six other candidates. She's the youngest person to ever achieve this role. What should we not say when we meet her?
    Attendee 1: Clever little munchkin?
    Workshop Leader: Excellent.
    Attendee 2: Who'd you blow to get that job?
    Workshop Leader: OK.
    Attendee 3: Slut. You fucking stupid slut!
  • Sex for Solace: A major theme of series 1.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: The first shot of series 2 shows Fleabag wearing one of these, and a front shot shows the same dress also features some Absolute Cleavage. The effect is somewhat spoilt by the profusely bloody nose however.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The show's sex scenes are tastefully done but when Fleabag and The Priest have sex for the first time, Fleabag forces a discretion shot by reaching out and tilting the camera away. Not only does this show that there's something special about this relationship, it also indicates that Fleabag is at last learning to have some control over her fourth wall breaking.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Andrew Scott plays a very handsome and charming but particularly foul-mouthed priest.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse / Distracted by My Own Sexy: Arsehole Guy is referred to as either "good-looking", "very good-looking", "really good-looking" or "almost too good looking" by everyone and is unashamedly aware of the fact. He has a huge photo of himself hanging on his bedroom wall.
    Fleabag: When did you realise you were so good looking?
    Arsehole Guy: I knew I was different when I was about 9... but shit got real around 11. Aunts got... weird.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • When The BBC commissioned the series, one condition was that unlike the original stage play, the series couldn't kill off Hilary the guinea pig at the end (though there's a Bait-and-Switch moment for those who've seen the play and think they know what's going to happen). Waller-Bridge admits this was probably a good call.
    • The cafe itself. The play follows the last three days leading up to the cafe closing, and has a Framing Device of the newly unemployed Fleabag attending a job interview after this has happened. In the series, the job interview was replaced with the loan application interview (with largely the same dialogue), allowing the cafe to be rescued after all.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Boo, though she was only trying to injure herself.
  • Stealth Insult: Almost everything that comes out of Godmother's mouth.
  • Stepford Smiler: Our narrator is gradually revealed as this.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending
  • Survivor Guilt: The main character and her father both have heavy doses of this. The former over Boo's accident-suicide, the latter over his wife's death from cancer.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The bank manager in the first episode makes repeated suspiciously specific denials about his history of sexual harrassment.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in series 2, where Fleabag is given a voucher for therapy by her dad and attends a couple of sessions after initially intending to ask for a cash exchange.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Evident in the long walk back from the disastrous art exhibition. A still of this was the main image used by Amazon to promote the show.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The guinea pig pictures that adorn the walls of the cafe are tragic keepsakes of Boo. As is the actual guinea pig.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: What happened to Boo is gradually revealed through a series of these.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Claire's creepy stepson Jake. Even his father Martin lampshades it.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Fleabag, Claire and the delicious aroma of some canapés.
  • Unreliable Narrator: What she doesn't tell us is as important as what she does.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: At first Fleabag seems like a perky, quirky and somewhat brazen young lady, but quickly surges into this trope. In her defence, many of her friends and family turn out to be worse, and with even less self-awareness about it.
  • Visual Pun: Stepmother excuses her real fur handbag saying it's OK because the animal had a stroke... whilst stroking it.
  • Wham Episode: Things fall apart in a spectacularly rapid fashion in the final episode of series 1.
  • Wham Line:
    • Claire drops one in the Series 2 premiere:
    Claire:"it's not a period it's a fucking miscarriage, OK?"
    • In Season 2, when the Priest first seems to briefly notice Fleabag breaking the fourth wall.
    Fleabag: (To the audience) We'll last a week.
    Priest: What was that? Where did you just go?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Several of the men Fleabag dates act as if they're a protagonist in a more straight-forward romance, or a Rom Com, justifying their self-involved behaviour.


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