A job as a flight attendant is often seen as glamorous. From jetting across the globe to the colorful tailored outfits and perfectly coiffed hairdos, it’s an enviable and attractive career option.
In HBO’s new comedy-drama, The Flight Attendant (which aired on Sky One in the UK), hard-partying flight attendant, Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) certainly appears to be living the dream. Her life is a whirlwind of exotic destinations, handsome passengers, vodka, partying, vodka, more exotic destinations and, um, more vodka. When a passenger orders a drink, Cassie also helps herself to a tipple.
During a flight to Bangkok Cassie openly flirts with handsome (and stonkingly rich) passenger, Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman). The pair spend a night of excess together but when Cassie wakes, she finds her date dead beside her. His throat has been cut and she has no recollection of the night before. Cassie soon realizes that she’s a suspect and, in a moment of panic, cleans the crime scene before fleeing and boarding her return flight. When she arrives home, she is questioned with the rest of the cabin crew by FBI agents who have been informed of Sokolov’s brutal murder. Cassie tries to put the pieces together to figure out what happened, including finding out the identity of a mysterious third person. Predictably, absolute havoc ensues.
It’s a binge-worthy series packed with fast-action and pithy lines. Each of the eight episodes are slick and visually appealing. The narrative only slows when Cassie’s brother calls to check she is sober (her ringtone, Two of Hearts by Stacey Q, frequently cuts through the action and feels symbolic), when she is knocking back more alcohol or disappearing into a hallucinatory state to convene with the risen corpse of Alex Sokolov (yes, you read that correctly).
Cuoco gives an astonishing performance. Her comic timing (often unfairly overlooked during her role as Penny on the Big Bang Theory) is on point and she brings much-needed charm and wit to a character that could quite easily become just another clichéd millennial mess. Her co-stars, particularly Rosie Perez as Megan Briscoe, Cassie’s friend and co-worker (who has the most surprising subplot), bring warmth, humor and reality to a script that, because of its premise, could seem overdone. Special mention should also be given to Zosia Mamet who plays Cassie’s best friend and lawyer, Ani Mouradian, with a unique blend of awkwardness and daring.
From the concise, Marie Kondo-esque packing of a standard issue suitcase, to the authentic workplace conversations, The Flight Attendant feels relatively credible. Talking corpses and international espionage aside, of course. But then I’m more familiar with my feet firmly on solid ground. So, after consulting people who have a working knowledge of cruising at 30,000 feet, I was surprised that cabin crew didn’t seem to be tuning into the show. One former flight attendant even said that after experiencing redundancy due to cuts made at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she couldn’t face watching anything aviation-based until she returned to the skies.
The script is impressive, the acting is compelling (with Cuoco earning a nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy TV Series at this year’s Golden Globe Awards, alongside another nomination for her role as Executive Producer on the show) and the premise is just the right amount of bonkers to keep its audience captivated.
With a second season already announced, The Flight Attendant is certainly flying high.