Arts and Entertainment

“The Flight Attendant” Takes Off

A review of “The Flight Attendant,” a new take on mystery.

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HBO Max’s new mystery series, “The Flight Attendant,” began its gradual release on November 26, 2020. A show that follows the typical hallmarks of both crime and comedy simultaneously, it gives viewers the best of both worlds.

The series follows Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco), a disconnected flight attendant, who, after working on a flight to Bangkok, wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead man with no memory of what happened. Cassie’s immediate instinct is to clean up and flee the crime scene, eventually leading to her desperately trying to prove her innocence to the FBI. Her panic and grief over the incident pushes her to conduct her own investigation and leads her down a dark path with constant twists and grave consequences. “The Flight Attendant” puts a unique twist on the classic mystery story as Cassie frequently reflects on the night she spent with Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman), the man she woke up next to. She even asks him for advice throughout her investigation by imagining what he might say as she delves deeper into the ever more mysterious world of Alex.

“The Flight Attendant” makes the mystery even more appealing by candidly displaying the flaws and struggles of the characters, and of Cassie in particular. The toll that the murder and investigation take on Cassie and her relationships is not neglected, nor are Cassie’s alcoholic tendencies. Through the show’s exploration of personal issues, the characters are given layers and depth, which makes the story even more personal. Throughout the episodes, Cassie not only imagines herself back in the hotel room with Alex, but also remembers her childhood and goes on a mental journey to remember the reality of how certain childhood memories occurred (as her brother remembers), as opposed to the flawed versions she has carried with her. The style of storytelling puts viewers in the character’s head and allows them to see her thought process. There are no “Why would you do that?!” moments, no matter how stupid the decision might be.

Despite each episode being jam-packed with new cracks in the case, “The Flight Attendant” manages to not feel rushed. The pacing of the show leaves viewers wanting more (good news, the show has been renewed for a second season), as the urgency of the case is delicately balanced with a plot that progresses at a steady pace. The overlap of both personal and case-pertinent scenes makes each episode captivating and the entire season binge-worthy. “The Flight Attendant” is also well-balanced when it comes to humorous and serious moments, and the deadpan comedy makes the show a little less disturbing, providing enjoyable moments of friendship between the characters.

While most of the plot lines were well thought-out, there are two storylines involving Cassie’s friends—Ani Mouradian (Zosia Mamet), a lawyer, and Megan Briscoe (Rosie Perez), another flight attendant—that don’t seem to go anywhere. Ani is shown at one point smuggling something into a prison, and risks being disbarred (it’s not exactly clear for what, but it seems to be more than just smuggling). It’s never made clear why she is taking part in this illicit activity, and there doesn’t seem to be a future for the concept. Megan is shown several times talking with suspicious people over the phone, but it isn’t made clear why or what she is doing. “The Flight Attendant” still has a chance to resolve Megan’s plot holes in the second season, though.

Overall, if you’re looking for a generic, run-of-the-mill crime procedural, “The Flight Attendant” is not the place to find it. The first season is a good mix of both mystery, drama, and comedy, with none of the genres taking away from the others. The introspection of the protagonist is unique and results in greater viewer engagement. Above all, “The Flight Attendant” does a great job of balancing the disturbing, sad, and funny scenes, while maintaining the integrity of the investigative nature of the show.