I was never a fan of “The Big Bang Theory” which limited my exposure to Kaley Cuoco significantly. Reading she was the lead of a new HBO Max series based on Vermonter Chris Bohjalian’s novel, I was surprised and skeptical. However within minutes of starting the series, I was immediately impressed with her emotional range, bravery for taking on such a challenging character and forward-thinking to option the rights for and executive produce such a bold series.
Fasten your seatbelts
“The Flight Attendant” follows Cassie Bowden, an alcoholic flight attendant who meets a handsome stranger in seat C3 named Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman of “Game of Thrones” and “The Haunting of Hill House”). After a very rough night of sex and booze, she wakes up in a trashed hotel room, glass all over the floor, and a bleeding hand. None too surprised to find herself injured after such an evening, she futzes around the room, cleaning herself up and trying to get her bearings. Then she finds Alex. Throat cut, blood EVERYWHERE, very much deceased.
Panicking, she cleans up the room and boards the next leg of her route before heading back to the States. Upon her arrival, the FBI have some questions regarding the death of the passenger in seat C3. Unable to remember what happened, she panics further and begins to seek out the truth of what happened to Alex – and how she didn’t know it happened – before she’s arrested, or worse.
A brilliant device of the story is Cassie’s “mind palace” for lack of a better phrase. She retreats into her own mind to work things out, usually with the help of Alex, now speaking as her subconscious. It’s brilliant because she’ll ask him questions he obviously can’t answer because he’s an extension of her own mind. Instead, he offers a new perspective or asks different questions to help unlock parts of her memory. This also leads to her unlocking years of trauma from her childhood surrounding her troublesome relationship with her father and his death.
But the show doesn’t stop there
There’s the relationship with her brother Davey (TR Knight from “Grey’s Anatomy”) who is always waiting for the inevitable next disaster in her life, and her friend and co-worker Megan (Rosie Perez of “Birds of Prey” and “Pineapple Express” among other great performances) who is mixed up in corporate espionage because she feels overlooked and invisible in her own life. Add on her best friend and lawyer Ani (Zosia Mamet from “Girls”) who tries to help while somehow is mixed up with the mob through her firm, and also Cassie’s new fling Buckley (Colin Woodell of “The Originals”) who not only embraces her wild side but actively encourages it. All the while Miranda (Michele Gomez of “Doctor Who”) is actively pursuing her with her handy-dandy butterfly knife and “no bullshit” attitude.
Back to Cuoco for a moment. Man oh man, she goes from zero to 60 to 100 to 10 to 80 to 5 in a single scene. The trauma she relives over the eight episodes would keep a psychologist employed for decades and put all their kids through college. And she gives every moment the pain, anger, agony, and heartbreak it deserves, even while battling even more imminent threats at the exact same time. Her breakdowns are visceral and honest. You feel her anguish and guilt, her resentment and denial.
The bumbling hero
The plot reminded me of a lesser Bill Murray film, “The Man Who Knew Too Little”. Cassie is in way over her head, but the circumstances being what they are make her a prime suspect: she’s a frequent international traveler, she’s been all over the world and has many contacts therein, she has multiple passports, and is known to be flighty and unreliable due to her party-girl lifestyle. She’s always one fuck up away from blowing it and she doesn’t know how to get out of her own way.
It’s an action-filled whodunit that keeps you guessing from the jump. I thought about it every day between viewings. It’s beautifully shot and directed, the costuming is great, and all of the performances are nomination-worthy.
Watch it immediately on HBO Max and get back to me with your thoughts.
Is it too soon for me to watch it again…?
5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in New York. He’s web series SESSION ZERO: A Dungeons & Dragons Conversation is now available in podcast format everywhere podcasts are gotten.