This weekend, I inhaled the entirety of the Amazon/BBC show Fleabag, created by (and written by, and starring) Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also developed and wrote Killing Eve for television and was the voice/body model for L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story. In the midst of the firestorm of Game of Thrones finale tweets, small, other corners of the internet lit up with people who had just, like me, finished inhaling all of Fleabag in one sitting, and needed to talk to someone about it, like I need to talk about it now. [If you have not seen Fleabag, I will keep things fairly non-spoiler-y here, but also go and run and watch it immediately. Unless you are a child, in which case wait a few to several to many years. There’s quite a bit of sex, but there’s also just some of the grief and world weariness of adulthood, which you deserve to know nothing about for some time yet!]
What I find compelling about Fleabag is it’s an examination of guilt and grief, and how those things can shape a person. American television shows, like Americans in general, are pretty terrible with grief. Characters die on television all the time, and other characters set out to avenge the deaths of those characters, or solve the mysteries of their murders, or characters find out they’re dying and enact elaborate schemes to provide for their loved ones or go on some spiritual journey-disguised-as-road-trip, but very rarely do we see people spending extended periods of time in the aching, anxious, lonely periods of grief. There’s sometimes a Very Special Episode, a lot of times with the soundtrack dropping away, but silent spaces make television producers and Americans alike nervous. Fleabag in its first season is made almost entirely of a silent space with one character rattling around in its center, occasionally bouncing off other characters; it’s a portrait of the way guilt and grief can color the choices we make, and the way that grief leaks out, both in tiny, nearly imperceptible ways, and large, life-and-relationship-defining ones.
Fleabag in its second, and final, season is still about guilt and grief, but it also becomes about faith and hope, and because it’s very irreverent (and yet still somehow deeply reverent of its characters), that crisis of faith is bound up in a character simply called The Priest, but whom the internet has taken to calling Hot Priest. Beyond the physical jam of two people who are emotionally and spiritually unavailable to each other, there’s a greater character conflict here, between Fleabag’s atheism and nihilism (“worm food”) and the Priest’s worldview, as informed by his faith (“why believe in something awful when you can believe in something wonderful?” he demands at the top of his lungs, raising his hands to the green bustle of a picturesque London street), to which Fleabag replies, only half-joking: “Don’t make me an optimist. You will ruin my life.”
Today, watching the Mariners succumb to the Rangers as they fell behind 5-0 in the first inning—down already 1-0 with two pitches thrown in the game and two hits, and it would get worse from there; they trailed 7-0 after the fourth—it felt comfortable to put on that old nihilist nightgown and have an early turn-in. The grief over another losing baseball season is something Mariners fans know well; the IV bag of sadness will eventually empty, the only question is how long it will take. In some ways, there’s a numbing comfort in having the bad parts got over with quickly, the belief in something awful to make itself apparent immediately. Mike Leake allowed 11 hits and seven earned runs. At times it felt like he might not ever get an out. Worm food.
Meanwhile, the Reno Aces clobbered the Tacoma Rainiers today, 25-8. The only Rainiers pitcher to give up less than five runs was the position player who pitched the eighth inning. The West Virginia Power lost, as well, again unable to come up with a single run, and top prospect Jarred Kelenic went hitless as he remains mired in a mini-slump. In Arkansas, prized pitching prospect Justin Dunn had his outing cut short when he was ejected in the 5th after protesting a play where the runner was originally called out, later overturned to a HBP (which also killed the original idea for this recap, which was to do a present/future side-by-side comparison). Both present and future Mariners struggled across the board today. It was a faith-testing sort of day.
The Mariners would scrape across a couple of runs of their own only to have Ryan Garton and Parker Markel give all them back, and more, in the next inning. Then in the 8th, the Mariners would come back again and load the bases in order for Tim Beckham to do this:
But the deficit was still 10-6. As delicious as a grand salami is, it’s not a ringing bell, painting falling, clear sign from the universe sort of thing, at least not in this context:
In the top of the 9th, Edwin Encarnacion would drive in Mitch Haniger to inch one run closer—still not believing, I’ll take the Nihilism meal, and supersize it—and then Daniel Vogelbach came up, replacing Ryon Healy, who had two Ks and a sac fly on the day.
Could he? It seemed foolish to believe. Pinch-hitting is hard, coming in cold off the bench to a windy stadium; plus who in their right mind would throw Daniel Vogelbach anything even within the vicinity of—
There are some people who are agents of happiness, who seem to live in a place grief can’t touch, bordered around by sunlight, where lovely, fragrant flowers grow all the time, and the bedsheets don’t require constant re-tucking and pants always fit perfectly, at a flattering length without needing hemming. I am not sure how to get there, but I am sure Daniel Vogelbach is from there, and I’m happy to have him among us.
It wasn’t enough, of course; at some point clapping for Tinkerbell doesn’t work. Tim Beckham would make the third out on a groundout to end the game right after this. I don’t think I ever really had true faith in my heart that the team would win this game, and in the grand scheme of things, I suppose it doesn’t matter. This season is worm food. But right after Vogey’s home run there was a small moment, an uptick of faith, a chance to believe in something wonderful, and maybe that’s all that’s necessary: not to be forced into optimism, but at least to be given a chance to ruin our lives with it.