I have not been backward about coming forward about my utter love for the second and final series of BBC’s Fleabag, which aired on BBC Three and BBC1 earlier this week. I’ve called it the best drama in the history of the medium and I am not backing down from that. I was thankfully able to download the final episode and take it to France with me…
I’ve talked at length about the utterly mesmerizing use of fourth-wall breaking moments, and how it took a narrative stance in the first season and weaponised it in the second, to make us complicit in Fleabag’s transgressions, but also brought us closer as confidants, then rejected when she felt we were too intrusive or no longer on her side. It was an extraordinary narrative device that saw her both embrace and reject the audience, often with nothing more than a dropped smile, a wrinkle of the nose and in the final frames a wave goodbye as she strides down the street. It gained even more strength when the Priest was able to invade those moments, or rather, notice Fleabag going somewhere else, trying to invade it himself, unnerving Fleabag beyond measure and also freaking us out as well. There has been nothing comparable to this on-screen drama, and it is the natural progression of Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s stage work, finding new ways to address the audience and manipulate them. And I loved it.
She is a master of the form, while pushing it to breaking point, alongside the likes of Spike Milligan, David Lynch, Chris Morris, Terry Gilliam and Alan Bleasdale. She is a true auteur and everything she touches will draw attention. I hope she fails in as much as she succeeds, in that this means she will be moving things on in a way no one else can yet see.
But this also means surrounding herself with people she trusts, people who can see her vision, and work with her to achieve it.
And one of those people is Gary Dollner. An editor, you may have seen his work on Veep and Wanderlust as well as Fleabag and Phoebe’s other hit show Killing Eve. There’s an Edgar Wright-like obsession it seems with making every moment count, tell its own story, add to the tapestry. In Fleabag he reached the pinnacle of his career, with certain standout moments being very on the nose. Fleabag’s step-mother announcing, of the priest she had invited to the dinner ‘and his mothers a lesb…’ crash cutting to Fleabag outside the restaurant smoking, back to the wall, an exhale and then crash back into the dinner party. It said so much about both characters with nothing more than a cut between these scenes. That was Fleabag editing at its most obvious, less obvious may have been the choices of different takes in the therapy scene to find the ones that break down the relationship between Fleabag and her audience more. With the flicking back between Fleabag and the therapist – or not – also saying so much about both.
Gags, character insight and development, all down to timing, choices and delivery. An editor can only work with what they’ve got, In Fleabag, Gavin was given the riches of the Sultan, but he polished them up and put them on display at just the right angle that the light from the noonday sun made every gem dazzle just so.
And in the final episode, he even got a shout out for his efforts. Fleabag waiting for a bus, looking up for how long it would take.
And since this is Gary Dollner – and Fleabag’s – final episode, the followup was fitting.
Congratulations, Gary. Do let us know where you end up heading off to…