Phoebe Waller-Bridge has the write stuff to win an Emmy for ‘Fleabag’s’ season 2 opener

For a show that barely made a dent in the consciousness of American TV viewers when it first streamed on Amazon in 2016, “Fleabag” certainly made an impression on Emmy voters when its second season landed in May. Sure, the second coming of reigning comedy series champ “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” along with HBO’s season 2 of “Barry” and final helping of “Veep,” are strong rivals. But did those shows cause a knock-out black jumpsuit with an eye-catching slit in the front manufactured by London-based label Love to sell out?

Similarly, “Fleabag” captured more viewers’ eyes this time around, especially those who are members of the TV academy. As a result, the show collected 11 nominations in hotly contested races in almost all the main comedy series categories.

The female genius who is responsible for this dark and proudly smutty comedy about a young-ish outgoing British woman who voraciously relies on casual sex as a release from her family issues, her own outrageous character flaws and especially her guilt and grief over the death of a friend is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. As her Fleabag tells a therapist (Fiona Shaw), “I spent most of my adult life using sex as a way to deflect from the screaming void inside my empty heart.” With her strong jaw, saucer-sized brown eyes and 5-foot-1o stature, she makes quite of an impression as an actress as she continually breaks the fourth wall with asides and glancing looks to her audience with abundant flair and soul-searing honesty.

Waller-Bridge herself could win four Emmys in the 2019 race, split between her two Amazon creations. As a producer, she is up for a trophy as part of the creative teams behind both “Fleabag” and drama series “Killing Eve.” The multi-hyphenate is also vying in the lead comedy actress category, currently placed No.  2 against “Veep” favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus at No. 1. But according to our combined Emmy odds chart, Waller-Bridge is way out in front to win as a comedy series writer.

The episode in question is Season 2’s family-dinner-from-hell opening episode, which was submitted for Emmy consideration. When we first see the titular character, she is washing off the bloody residue from an apparent punch in the nose. She turns away from a elegant public bathroom mirror and says to us, “This is a love story.” The awkward gathering is supposed to celebrate the pending nuptials of Fleabag’s stuffy widower Dad (Bill Paterson) to her opportunistic passive-aggressive Godmother (Olivia Colman), but the patriarch hems and haws his way through a not quite coherent toast to his loved ones. Warm and fuzzy, these people are not. Then Fleabag realizes the handsome stranger in attendance is the Priest (Andrew Scott) — “a cool, sweary priest” — who will preside over the wedding and eventually ends up falling for our spiky protagonist.

Also in attendance is her horrid brother-in-law, Martin (Brett Gelman), who once tried to kiss her, and her sister Claire (Sian Clifford), who is so introverted that her family basically ignores her. In fact, they don’t even know she works in finance. When Claire suddenly rushes off to the ladies’ room, her concerned sister goes after her. Turns out, it is a serious medical matter. The dinner then dissolves into ugly fisticuffs thanks in part to some over-imbibing of alcohol and results in several bloody noses. But at least the sisters are reunited after as Fleabag insists Claire goes to the hospital. And they both agree on at least one thing — the Priest is hot.

Prickly female personalities in comedies have been in vogue for at least the past decade, including “Sex and the City,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Girls,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and, yes, “Veep.” But “Fleabag” feels more like a stage piece than episodic TV, partly because it is based on Waller-Bridge’s one-woman play. But also because her character speaks directly to us — a habit that takes a marvelous turn in the sixth and final second season episode.

Whatever happens at the Emmys, Waller-Bridge’s career is going places. She is the co-creator  of the upcoming HBO series “Run,” starring Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”) who regrets her humdrum existence until she receives a text inviting her to take trip with her oldest flame. Domhnall Gleeson is a life guru from a rich Irish family who is constantly hungry for approval. Waller-Bridge herself will pop up as a recurring character called Flick. She is also contributing to the screenplay for the untitled “Bond 25” adventure.

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