TV Review : THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

NOV. 22, 2020 - Kaley Cuoco stars in “The Flight Attendant,” premiering Thursday on HBO Max.
NOV. 22, 2020 – Kaley Cuoco stars in “The Flight Attendant,” premiering Thursday on HBO Max.

HBO Max began a new miniseries this week entitled THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT. It’s about a – you guessed it! – flight attendant, who works on international flights. On layover in Bangkok (pun intended), the titular airline employee hooks up with an attractive passenger. The next morning, she wakes up to find him clearly murdered in the bed beside her. She panics, cleans up the room, flees, and soon finds herself in a spiraling bad situation as the FBI, among others, closes in on her, even as she can’t remember all the events of the fateful night.

Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) produces and stars as Cassie Bowden, the attendant in question. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an actress I’ve only seen in sitcoms. And while I’m not sure she’s doing more than she did in her previous work, this role is very well suited to her, and she plays it beautifully. Cuoco has the right amount of charm and magnetism to pull off making a character who, on paper, isn’t completely likeable and making you root for her. She is a natural and fitting lead here.

I like very much that THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT isn’t just about a person in the wrong circumstance. That’s part of the equation, sure, but Cassie’s continued poor judgment and destructive coping mechanisms (with a backstory slowly teasing out why she is this way) continue to make the situation worse as the episodes play out. Unlike in some similar works, the agents following her are far from incompetent, and suspect her pretty much right away, her bad behavior not going unnoticed. It’s the specifics of the situation that draw out the plot and keep things murky, not people who don’t know how to do their jobs, or a protagonist that is preternaturally smart.

The plot moves very quickly, with twists coming fast, but not too fast. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT takes plenty of time to dwell on Cassie’s misfortune. A lot of moving parts and layers to the story keep the pacing moving, though, in a good way.

There are quite a few subplots and supporting players in THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT. Cassie’s best friend, lawyer Annie (Zosia Mamet, Girls), has a non-boyfriend who appears conveniently in the third hour. Her brother, Davey (T.R. Knight, Grey’s Anatomy), provides a bit of a ticking clock with an impending visit and his concern about her alcoholism around his children. Needy co-worker Megan (Rosie Perez, Rise) is involved in illegal activities of her own, which will surely come into play at some point. Federal agents Van (Nolan Gerard Funk, Glee) and Kim (Merle Dandridge, Greenleaf) have an interesting chemistry that seems effective. The dead passenger, Alex (Michiel Huisman, The Haunting of Hill House), haunts Cassie from beyond the grave, while his business partner, Miranda (Michelle Gomez, Doctor Who), closes in on her in reality.

All of this should be more than enough to sustain the eight-episode miniseries, even as it rushes along, and I’m intrigued by each piece of the puzzle. Solid direction, great acting, an eye-catching, globe-hopping setting, and more keep THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT entertaining and mysterious.

My only complaint about the show is its misuse of music, the dark, heavy themes distracting from the action itself, hurting rather than helping the story along. I also would have preferred to be able to binge the whole thing at once; as soon as I began the first of three initially-released episodes, I couldn’t stop.

Those gripes are relatively minor, though, and I look forward to finishing the series over the next three weeks. This one is a lot of fun, so make sure you catch it, too. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT episodes one through three are available now on HBO Max.

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