Blake Neely’s poppy, bouncy theme tune marks the return of one of television’s more unexpected hits from 2020. Season one of The Flight Attendant was a surprisingly fresh and engrossing mystery thriller, mashing together wacky dark comedy with heady themes of conspiracy and addiction across eight fast-paced episodes.
Season two more or less continues that good form, although with perhaps a modicum less freshness. This is not a case of second-season blues though, as some entertaining performances and a fairly engaging central mystery keep the energy high and the audience guessing. It’s an easy watch in the best possible terms.
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Kaley Cuoco stars as the jet-setting Cassie, the titular New York flight attendant with a history of heavy drinking, who finds herself drawn for a second time into a globe-trotting conspiracy. Since the first season she’s moved to Los Angeles, got a new and seemingly perfect boyfriend, and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous. Alongside this, she’s picked up a side gig as a civilian CIA asset, as you do, and uses her many international trips to ‘discreetly’ surveil her marks – to varying degrees of success.
So all in all a fairly upbeat setup, and things start in a considerably better place than where the first season left off for Cassie. The catch? She finds herself facing off against someone who appears to be a duplicate of herself – a blonde-haired woman going around murdering people, and leaving clues that points directly to Cassie herself.
The act of being framed would prove distressing for anyone, let alone someone with such extensive trauma as Cassie – which makes her predicament all the more enthralling. Luckily, Cuoco’s relatable, everywoman performance makes it very easy to care for the character even as she repeatedly gets herself into trouble. The picture-perfect setup – new house, new boyfriend, new life – conceals a secret, of course: her down-in-the-dumps relapse in episode five is revealed to be third such relapse in the year she apparently went sober.
There’s a raft of people in her life facing their own demons. Best friend Annie (Zosia Mamet), once a star lawyer, now fails job interviews, struggles to deal with newfound feelings of inadequacy and is dragging her feet when it comes to committing to an engagement with boyfriend Max (Deniz Akdeniz). Cassie’s other friend and fellow flight attendant Megan (Rosie Perez) has started a new life in Iceland after selling confidential files to North Korea in an act of treason – and as a result hasn’t seen her family in a year. And the presence of Cassie’s brother (T.R. Knight) complicates matters further as a frosty meeting with their mother pries open family wounds perhaps better left untouched.
The fast and funny writing is matched by an impressive comedic timing from all the actors – Mamet being a standout – and the show does not sit around on its laurels for long before unveiling a new twist or change in setting. Which is decidedly A Good Thing – any more than eight episodes would prove excessive for a show such as this. The episodes pass by in a breeze.
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The off-kilter tone won’t be for everyone, but the series’ bouncy energy has a lot going for it. But that’s not to say the show avoids asking tough questions; the middle episodes in particular delve heavily into distressing notions of suicide, self-harm and familial abuse, and so if those topics are likely to distress anyone, keep an eye out for potential triggers.
The Flight Attendant is one part light and breezy, and one part genuinely saddening and emotional. As it so often does in reality, this humour conceals a deeper darkness.
The Flight Attendant is streaming on Sky Max and NOW in the UK.