If you haven’t seen Fleabag, then you’re wasting precious time reading Cracked articles instead of watching the most innovative and compelling comedy show of the last decade. Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote and starred in the series that seamlessly blended black comedy, cringe humor, and deeply moving drama over a complicated, unflinching, and anarchic two seasons while racking up a half-dozen Emmys in the process. Fleabag was a completely singular show that was carried by the thoughtfulness of Waller-Bridge’s writing as well as the fearlessness of her performance.
But what made Fleabag so interesting from a narrative standpoint was that the climactic events of the main character’s life happened before the start of the series. Fleabag wasn’t about Waller-Bridge going on an adventure or overcoming obstacles, it was about her picking up the pieces of a life that we, the audience, never knew. The exposition was given to us almost entirely in subtext. The flashbacks only offered us small glimpses of the past – rarely did Fleabag allow us to see the whole picture.
Contrast that with the storytelling techniques used by Marvel – the only times we’re introduced to new superheroes without half an hour of expository dialogue and origin story explanation is with characters like Spider-Man, a hero whose background is already so ubiquitously known that another iteration of “with great power comes great responsibility” would be completely redundant.
The humor of Fleabag comes mostly from the sheer shamelessness of its title character – Fleabag lies, curses, starts fights, ruins dinners, and wrecks her life as best she can in the most absurdly believable manner. She’s not a hero. She’s not even an anti-hero. She’s just Fleabag. She is an impulsive, aimless, often selfish, deeply flawed, and outrageously funny trainwreck of a human being. Great comedy comes from truth, and Fleabag bombards you with both of those things in droves. Fleabag’s flaws expose her humanity, and Waller-Bridge allows her to sink to unthinkable lows in order to draw out that honesty.