Phoebe Waller-Bridge seems to be the writer/actress of the moment: three TV series made, a role in Star Wars and now contracted to write for James Bond. She has also “broken America” where “Fleabag” has apparently been a big success (it’s also 5/5 and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). While it’s great to have a new and fresh voice on our screens and while I enjoy her daring with subject matter, some great characters and lively humour, I do see a major flaw in her writing: her handling of story. (Spoiler alerts) Fleabag suffers from too many contrived “situations” - they go to a silent retreat (for no reason I can discern apart from trying to extract comedy from it) where coincidentally another character is at the same time. This then leads to a toe-curlingly unconvincing outbreak of sincerity from the other character as well as the protagonist herself. Up until that moment (Episode 4 of series 1) I had been swept along the pace of the show and its brazen unwillingness to be “sincere”. It’s at these points where the story stops and characters explain themselves and their life philosophy, that all the energy of the show drained away for me. Unfortunately this tendency increased in series two: Fleabag’s sister, who was estranged from her at the end of series one gives an unconvincing volte-face (she was jealous, apparently - whatever - the sister stuff is great and we need to get them together somehow) and now IS talking to her sister and wants her to serve canapés at a work do - cue more set piece hilarity. We are also in Series 2 rapidly introduced to a woman in her late fifties (played Kristin Scott Thomas) whose character also indulged this writerly tendency to explain themselves in a long monologue, even though we had barely got to know her. Worst of all was the sexy priest character (I admit to not being able to see the appeal at all) who served for embarrassing and static philosophical musings between him and Fleabag, which I ended up scrolling past as fast as I could.
I actually struggled to get through the whole of series 2 of Fleabag, and (still impressed by aspects of the writing) decided to give Killing Eve a go. Unfortunately the same tendency to contrive situations despite any character or real-life feasibility was even more in evidence. Our main character, Eve Polastri, was initially presented as super-bright, undervalued and seeing conspiracy theories everywhere, yet she inexplicably decides to go to where the serial killer made her last kill (Berlin) despite the killer having discovered her identity and communicated this to the world. She has no protection (even though the killer has left bodies everywhere - why isn’t the whole world after this maniac??) and when her suitcase is stolen in Berlin (sooo contrived) is not the least suspicious or worried. Her assistant, who is later killed, only realises the killer’s identity too late, despite it being obvious it could be her. In fact the whole series, while fun, is riddled with character inconsistency (why is Eve suddenly so stupid??) and unbelievable turns of events. So far there haven’t been too many moments as in Fleabag when the action stops and characters have contrived scenes where they philosophise and “connect”, but I fear they will come….