Phoebe Waller-Bridge's BBC tragicomedy Fleabag has a long list of accolades to its name now: On Rotten Tomatoes it's one of a few shows with a 100% positive rating; the play it was based on won the Fringe First Award; it's been nominated for eleven Emmys; it's already won a BAFTA. People can't seem to laud it enough.
For our money, one of the best parts on Fleabag is Olivia Colman astonishingly hateful character, Godmother. While Colman often plays complex characters, some of whom would be easy to hate if encountered in real life, with Godmother she's really allowed to take petty cruelty to a new level. Here are the moments that make Godmother the absolute worst.
10 Creeping On A**hole Guy
At the end of season one, Fleabag brings the man she’s been seeing on and off—A**hole Guy—over to her Dad’s house for lunch. The next day, the two go to Godmother’s sexhibition together. Both times, Godmother flirts with A**hole Guy shamelessly. She seems floored by him, and can’t stop asking how he feels about being so attractive.
On top of being pretty gross—she is probably twice his age and he’s sleeping with her goddaughter—Godmother is also doing all of this in front of Dad. It’s hard to tell how he feels since he’s so downtrodden anyway, but this is one of several times in the show we want to shake her and ask, “What is wrong with you?!”
9 Moving In On Dad Before the Funeral Was Even Over
Speaking of shameless, we can pretty quickly see in the fourth episode of season 2 that Godmother moved in on Dad before his wife’s funeral was even over. She seeks him out during the service! Fleabag and Claire see what’s happening pretty quickly, but are basically powerless to stop her.
How long has she had her sights set on Dad? It doesn’t seem like she’s been married before. Was she just biding her time until their mom died? Did she think she’d be starting an affair with him if she didn’t die first? How long has Godmother been planning about this?
8 “God, how extraordinary, I just always call you ‘Darling’!”
Regardless of how long she’s been planning to make a move on Dad, on their wedding day she manages to forget his name. While introducing him to her stable of artists, she completely blanks and everyone watches her flounder until she tries to laugh it off.
Obviously, this joke is a nod to the audience as much as it is to characterize Godmother. We hardly know anyone’s name in this show, and it can be fun to watch how the truth stays hidden. It’s like Phoebe Waller-Bridge is winking at us. Still, no wonder Dad hides in the attic after this awkward moment.
7 Crashing Their Annual Memorial for Their Mother
To mark the anniversary of their mother’s death, every year the daughters get together with Dad to reminisce. Normally it’s just the three of them, but Godmother decides to crash the party. She is, of course, a nightmare the whole time.
First she leaves the flowers they brought Dad outside. The bouquet of freesias was their mother’s favorite, and after cooing at it Godmother sets it down on the porch and closes the door on them. After that she proclaims this a “sad, sad day,” but apparently it’s not sad enough for her to stop smiling when she continues, “I’ll get the champagne!”
6 “You know the most fascinating thing about Father here is that his mother was originally a lesbian!”
It doesn’t take long to realize that Godmother is fixated on sex and sexuality. What seems progressive and healthy at first glance took a turn for the uncomfortable with her sexhibition in season one. She hasn’t calmed down in the year between seasons though, as we see when she proclaims this tidbit early into the dinner when they introduce Priest to the daughters. There’s a lot of fascinating things about Priest, the least of which is his mother’s sexuality.
And, as with Arsehole Guy, Godmother spends the entire dinner shamelessly flirting with Priest while he sits across from Dad. Good thing he marries them later in the season. That’s not awkward at all.
5 Deliberately Interrupting Fleabag and Dad During Mother’s Wake
Since neither Fleabag nor Dad are particularly good at expressing emotion, it’s very precious the few times that they manage to. But since Godmother is already campaigning to replace their mother in Dad’s life by the funeral, she has to interrupt one of those few moments at the wake.
Fleabag and Dad sit on a bed talking quietly, facing away from the door. When Godmother passes and sees them, they can’t see her. It would be so easy for her to just keep walking, but instead she says “Excuse me,” to get their attention. She tries to invite herself into their moment, and it takes her way too long to realize she’s not welcome. After she leaves Dad says, “She’s a bit annoying.” All we want to know is, when did he stop thinking that and start dating her?
4 The Sexhibition
A lot of art explores sex and sexuality. That’s normal. What’s annoying is how self-important Godmother is about her art that explores sex and sexuality. “I think it’s important that [women] have a healthy perspective on my body,” she says during her long-winded explanation of what the exhibit is about.
Of course, the exhibit itself is a nightmare from start to finish. When Fleabag arrives, Godmother separates her from Arsehole Guy by conscripting her into serving drinks with the rest of the catering team. In her speech she looks right at Fleabag while saying that the art is about power, before drawing Dad in for a kiss in front of everyone. Got it, Godmother, you want all the power over Dad.
3 Her Constant Micro-Aggressions Toward Fleabag
A list of every one of Godmother’s micro-aggressions toward Fleabag would be long indeed. From asking Fleabag if she’s “found her father” on a wall of penises, to saying she’ll open Fleabag’s gift “over a bin” (trashcan), to saying, “You’ve got a lovely, thick neck,” Godmother just can’t stop needling Fleabag. A weaker person might crumble under the constant belittling, but Fleabag gives as well as she gets. Their vicious back and forth is what makes their relationship a horrifying delight to watch.
Occasionally, Godmother focuses her criticism on someone else, like when she exclaimed that she didn’t think Claire could get pregnant. But Fleabag certainly bears the brunt of it.
2 How She Talks About Daniel
Godmother invites several other artists to her wedding. She introduces each of them with a strange list of adjectives to go with them. It comes off as if she’s only befriended them to make sure her stable of acquaintances is diverse. This one’s bisexual, this one’s a refugee, this one’s deaf…
Her treatment of Daniel, an artist who is deaf, is particularly callous. She mentions that he’s deaf upfront, and says he “can’t hear a thing but is a fabulous physical communicator through hands and lips.” When he does try to communicate something with larger than life motions instead of sign language, she sort of giggles and wiggles her hands at him as if he’s an infant or puppy. It’s just one more time when she seems progressive but turns out to just be self-obsessed and unconcerned with anyone else’s feelings or needs.
1 The Statue
One of the best ongoing subplots in the show is the gold statue Godmother made. It inspires some of Fleabag’s funniest lines after she steals it in the very first episode. The statue ends up returned and re-stolen several more times throughout the show, but it’s Godmother’s final dig about it that makes this her absolute worst moment.
When Fleabag returns it in the final episode as a wedding gift, it’s an olive branch. She’s openly admitting to taking it, and also openly giving it back, symbolically apologizing and accepting Godmother’s rightful presence in their lives. Of course, Godmother can’t let things lie and has to express that she’s not surprised Fleabag liked that particular statue so much: “She was based on your mother. So good to have her back in the house.” Well, of course, Godmother can’t have both Dad and Fleabag’s mom, so the statue is stolen once again.