Fleabag Season 1, Episode 2 – Ninja Surprise
The structure of the mischief gag proposed by Tom Gunning commencing with the preparatory action of the rascal; (Fleabags garb of the knife-wielding ninja surprise) resulting in the comedic effect (the naked and terrified Harry), is enacted in this scene. The structural level of breaking the fourth wall is a present bridge between Fleabag and the audience, which addresses the audience and inducts them into the gag. The mischief gag being a device of dual function through a process of embedding its structure within a narrative structure. Gunning states:
“in the later period of film comedy, when comedians were saddled with plots and characterization, gags appear in their films as attractions, momentary and hilarious distractions from the narrative aims of the plot.”
The gag acts as a hilarious attraction, in this seldom scene but it is embedded betwixt narrative which then blurs this scene as a moment of comedic relief from the narrative plot but it also functions as an insight into the character development (or regression) in Fleabags navigation of intimate relationships. Gunning states further:
“The rascal and victim are entirely defined by the actions they perform; we know little about what they think or feel, and care less.”
As a device of interruption, the mischief gag is an embedded structure within the larger narrative structure, the rascal and victim are known characters with a relationship dynamic which constitutes more laughter with knowledge of their relationship flaws, as well as the relationship between spectator and Fleabag in the structural level of breaking the fourth wall. Which redefines the rascal and victim relationship, in this context, not by a seldom display of performed action but a series of motivated actions based on, a moment of comedic reprieve encapsulated within a dysfunctional relationship, the mischief gag being the staple of dysfunction within a dysfunctional relationship.
Tom Gunning, “Crazy Machines in the Garden of Forking Paths: Mischief Gags and The Origins of American Film Comedy” in Classical Hollywood Comedy, edited by Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins, 87-105, New York: Routledge, 2013, 97.
Tom Gunning, “Crazy Machines”. 95.