I made it through This Way Up in a handful of days; it’s only six episodes, and they’re just around half an hour each with commercials, so it was hardly the biggest time commitment. I suspect that I would’ve run through it just as quickly no matter what, though. What was initially introduced to me as “Fleabag, but more traditional,” ended up being one of the kinder things I’ve watched all year.
What made the show so enjoyable to me — beyond the fact that it’s very funny, obviously, with the joke about the song that isn’t really about a ghost being one of my favorite jokes in anything I’ve seen lately — is that it’s something that refuses to go big.
It’s a show that looks as if it’s about something big — Aine (creator/writer Aisling Bea) is recovering from a nervous breakdown and suicide attempt, and attempting to return to her everyday life — but that’s misdirection. All of that is background to a story that’s really about loneliness and the need to connect with people you love. (The need to find people you love, too.) And all of that happens on a wonderfully small scale.
What really reinforced how much I loved the show was the final episode, which looked as if it was going to be exactly what the audience expects from a sitcom like this, an episode where the plots come together in an overwhelming manner, prompting the one big dramatic moment that has felt like Chekhov’s Gun the entire series… and then it goes off and does something else instead, more in keeping with everything that had come before.
It’s not Fleabag, beyond the fact that it’s created by and starring a woman in her mid-thirties and about someone who is complex and has a sister. They’re different stories, and coming from different places. But both do share a belief that kindness and empathy are what can save us, and there’s always space for stories like that.