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Pop Culture Advent Calendar, Day 18: The Moment The Penny Drops In 'Fleabag'

Alas, Poor Yorick: Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Amazon series <em>Fleabag</em>.
Luke Varley
Alas, Poor Yorick: Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Amazon series Fleabag.

Once a day, until Dec. 25, we'll be highlighting a specific small, good thing that happened in popular culture this year. And we do mean small: a moment or image from a film or TV show, a panel from a comic, a brief exchange from a podcast, or a passage from a book.

There's a jaggedness to British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge's performance in her brilliantly bawdy six-episode series Fleabag. Her unnamed narrator/protagonist — a London woman who's thrown herself into a series of sexual encounters — keeps turning to us to comment on the people in her life.

She's sly, withering, and very, very funny — but as the series goes on, we become aware that she's not simply confiding in us as a friend would. No, she's working through something, slowly, painfully, and she desperately needs us to listen.

In the final episode of the season, she is struck by a sudden realization, and once again turns to the camera, as she has countless times before.

But the steel trap that's been lurking just below the surface of this hilarious, humanist series has finally been sprung. And it's too much. It can't be quipped away, or dismissed with a waggled eyebrow.

She turns to us, and begins to say something — to confess, we now realize — but she can't. The words don't, can't, come. She turns away from us, ashamed.

It's a huge, deeply affecting moment that the series has been setting up from its very start, now finally and fully and wondrously earned.

Previous Pop Culture Advent Calendar Entries

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.

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