Length: 8 x episodes (42-48 minutes each)
The life of a flight attendant must be a wild and crazy adventure, at times. Jetting off to foreign locales, exploring exotic cultures and getting blotto in different timezones: it all sounds deeply enviable.
Of course, there’s also cleaning children’s vomit off your shoes and convincing drunk tourists to put that freaking tray table back in the upright position, but every job has its downside.
For flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco), it’s the perfect gig for her lifestyle. Unfortunately, her lifestyle is that of a high-functioning alcoholic. But hey, nobody’s perfect.
On a flight to Thailand, Cassie “bonds” (ie: briskly shags in the toilets) with the dishy passenger in seat 3C, Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman), and surprises herself by wanting to spend more time with the bloke after they’ve landed.
So begins a booze-soaked and sex-filled odyssey through Bangkok that would be a night to remember if only Cassie hadn’t blacked out and forgotten most of it. When she eventually wakes up, she’s in bed with Alex, in his hotel room. Oh, and his throat has been slit, he’s covered in blood, and is extremely, horrifyingly dead.
The above all happens before the opening credits in the first episode. It’s a hell of an introduction to the story, and something of a mission statement for the series as a whole.
The Flight Attendant has the fast-paced style and compulsive plotting of a trashy but extremely compelling airport novel. Which is fairly appropriate, really.
Where The Flight Attendant sets itself apart from the rest of the pack is with its cast and stylistic choices.
After escaping the gilded cage of all 7,349 seasons of The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco really needed to prove she had acting chops beyond pretending to find the word “bazinga” the height of hilarity.
Well, she fully commits here, providing superb comic timing and genuine vulnerability as needed and provides a deeply flawed but likable heroine you can’t help but root for.
Kaley’s capably backed by a support cast that includes the criminally underutilised Rosie Perez as her air bestie, Megan, Zosia Mamet as her terra firma lawyer pal, Annie, and a chilling turn from the always scene-stealing Michelle Gomez as snarky baddie, Miranda.
However, the juiciest role goes to Huisman, who despite being extremely dead, basically acts as Cassie’s inner confidante, even if he occasionally forces her into uncovering memories she’d rather remained buried.
The Flight Attendant also contains an uncommonly nuanced portrayal of alcoholism, with the extent of Cassie’s drinking problem revealed slowly, and in ways that feel true to life.
Whether it’s her brother Davey (T.R. Knight) and his growing exasperation with her, or the disturbing flashbacks to her destructive relationship with her drunken, manipulative dad, Cassie’s problems are treated as complex and genuine, and not just a plot device or excuse for mawkish melodrama.
On the downside, the writing can be a little inconsistent. Cassie’s decision making ranges from pragmatic to so stupid at times it defies belief, even allowing for the fact she’s necked a few voddies. You may well find yourself facepalming with disbelief as she wombles from one disaster to the next, often making her situation worse, in ways that feel contrived rather than natural to the story.
There are also probably two too many dangling subplots that detract from the main narrative, particularly in the second half of the season.
Still, stylish direction with Brian DePalma-esque flourishes, a rock-solid cast all of whom get a chance to shine and a central mystery that intrigues as much as it entertains: there’s a lot to like about The Flight Attendant.
And if a frothy, breathless, intriguing adventure is what you seek, there’s every chance you should make The Flight Attendant your final destination.
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