The Flight Attendant is a New York Times best seller from novelist, Chris A. Bohjalian. It is also the latest original to stream on HBO Max. Kaley Cuoco executive produces and stars in the limited series about a stewardess that finds herself in way over her head after an overnight stay in Bangkok.
Cuoco plays Cassie Bowden, a young woman who takes full advantage of the fast lifestyle of her job as an air hostess by partying at exotic locales throughout the world. During one of her trips, a passenger named Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman) takes her out on a date in the popular Thai destination. Cassie, who has a tendency to become black out drunk, wakes the next morning with Alex dead beside her with no recollection of what happened the previous night.
The flight attendant struggles with keeping herself together as she manages this new predicament to the point where she regularly hallucinates Alex speaking with her as she plans her next moves. Though she’s able to make it back to her home in New York City, her erratic behavior puts her on the FBI’s radar as a possible suspect. Cassie takes it upon herself to investigate the murder in order to prove her innocence.
Much like Anna Kendrick in HBO Max’s Love Life, Cuoco carries the series as the lead. She hits all the notes including the frantic paranoia, the moments of levity, and surprisingly, keen investigative skills. Cassie is a hot mess for most of the first three episodes and makes some questionable decisions out of panic. However, she shows signs of real detective chops spotting her FBI tail and securing vital shredded document evidence. Cassie is a complicated character and we see via flashback how previous childhood trauma shaped who she is and sparked her alcohol dependance. We even see early signs of growth where a more reflective Cassie passes on a hook up opportunity.
The rest of the cast of The Flight Attendant are all likeable. Rosie Perez plays coworker, Megan, who has shady business of her own. Griffin Matthews and Zosia Mamet are supportive friends, Shane and Annie, who aren’t afraid to call Cassie out on her antics. Annie in particular, is one of the few who knows the graveness of the situation as Cassie’s lawyer and has a boss scene inquiring the FBI about her client at two ends simultaneously.
The show’s filming style recreates the on the go, jet-setting feeling with split screen shots of the local scenery at different international locations. The same split screen shots along with the soundtrack also evoke a frenetic paranoia of Cassie’s mental state.
The story plays as an enthralling suspenseful murder mystery. There’s a sense of danger as Cassie continues her pursuit to clear her name and the combination of her investigation and the gradual return of her memory are effective ways to introduce the reveals. All the different plot points are finely crafted into an interwoven narrative that are nicely linked together into a bigger conspiracy.
Elements of humor help ease The Flight Attendant’s tension. Cassie’s ineptness as a detective generates laughs and forehead slapping but also enhance the times she is successful and finds breakthroughs. Her interactions with a deceased Alex provide an amusing look at her psyche and is a nice way to keep Huisman involved despite dying in the first episode. Especially as the show progresses, it seems as though the pair made a real connection, which could also be a motivation factor.
The first three episodes establish an entertaining murder mystery that is equal parts suspense and dark comedy. Kaley Cuoco plays an endearing lead that you want to follow on the case as the truth becomes revealed.
Episodes of The Flight Attendant drop Thursdays, on HBO Max.
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