Breaking The Scene (Fleabag — Seducing A Priest)
Here’s another scene analysis from Fleabag, this time emerging from a Season Two episode.
Written By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Scene Comes From: Fleabag, Season 2, Episode 4
Fleabag is trying to seduce the Hot Priest. He’s been able to notice when she breaks the fourth wall, and is planning to officiate the wedding between her father and Godmother. They’re in Fleabag’s cafe, which she opened with her now-dead friend, Boo.
- Hot Priest wants to know Fleabag on a personal level.
- Fleabag doesn’t want to share about herself.
- Hot Priest asks why the cafe is Guinea Pig themed.
- FLASH to a quick memory of Boo. In present, Fleabag says she just wanted a unique theme.
- Hot Priest asks more about Guinea Pigs. Fleabag lightly jokes with him.
- Hot Priest says he needs help writing his speech for the upcoming wedding. Asks Fleabag what she knows about her Godmother.
- Fleabag says barely anything about Godmother. Hot Priest persists. Fleabag admits Godmother used to be her (now-deceased) mother’s student.
- Fleabag asks Hot Priest a question. He answers simply, then asks if it’s weird that her Godmother is dating her dad. Fleabag lies, says she doesn’t think about it.
- Both try to ask each other a question. Hot Priest wins out, asks if Fleabag runs the cafe alone. Fleabag struggles to answer, not willing to talk about Boo.
- Fleabag turns to the camera, says Hot Priest is getting annoying. Hot Priest notices, asks where she’s “going off to”.
- He persists. Fleabag tells him to stop being judgy. He says he just wants to know who she is. Fleabag says she doesn’t want that.
- Hot Priest says he’s just trying to help her. Offended, Fleabag says she needs to get to work. Tells Hot Priest to “get back to God.” Hot Priest leaves.
Why It Works:
Question vs. Question: A fun but effective trick to spice up dialogue-based scenes is to have the characters plainly avoid answering a question by pivoting into another question. Not only does this force each character to try harder to get what they want- it also makes the scene flow in a manner which is this wonderful mix of natural yet abrupt. What makes this technique especially intriguing in this scene is how each person’s questions are being utilized to entirely different goal. Whereas the Hot Priest’s questions emerge as a form of him trying to break down her walls, Fleabag’s questions emerge from her trying to maintain those walls. Thus, the tone and intent of each question contrasts, further allowing the scene to feel vibrant and exciting.
Twist Tied to Theme: One of the many attractions of this series is how the fourth wall breaks are so cleanly implemented. They’re not at all obtrusive and, more often than not, enhance the already well-developed scenes which they exist within. Similarly, the fourth wall breaks give the viewer a much closer intimacy to Fleabag, and it’s this exact level of intimacy which develops a theme tied to this premise. Fleabag is a show simply about a woman who wants to find a connection with someone. The fact that she turns away from the world to speak to an audience not only highlights her narcissism, but similarly relays the sad fact that she seems to be the only one who exists in her world. So when the Hot Priest is able to recognize Fleabag “going off” to this other world, he’s seeing her for her true self! This prompts the scene’s key turning point, and a massive turning point within the series- suddenly, these fourth wall breaks are no longer intimate between us and her. Now, she’s going to have to share this part of her life with another! This, obviously frightens her, thus prompting her next reaction.
Give Up to Protect Self: When confronted with vulnerability, Fleabag pushes away. Because she’s been so hurt by those she was once meant to trust, it makes sense for her to be so unwilling to open herself up around anyone, even the Hot Priest. As he gets closer and closer to opening Fleabag up, she’s forced to either allow him entry, or shut him off completely. Here, she shuts him off completely, thus giving this scene the brutal sucker-punch ending the show is known for.
Inventive Cutaways: The cutaway gag has lost a lot of credibility thanks to shows like Family Guy, which often use the jump in time to cram in yet another (often crude and unrelated) joke. And though Fleabag will often use cutaways, they aren’t done in this often offensive manner. Rather, they’re not used at all to service the comedy. In fact, in this scene, the cutaways we get of her relationship with Boo cut from the comedy to give us a moment of dramatic tension. Not only do these moments succeed in putting us in the protagonist’s mind-state, but they also succeed in balancing the fluctuating comedy/drama tone of the scene.
This scene, similar to the scene I analyzed last week, does an amazing job of being funny and tragic simultaneously. On top of this, the scene utilizes a smart, question-based scene structure that allows for the characters to expose themselves in manners which are unique and creative.