The next time you take a flight (you know, whenever that may be), maybe you should keep a closer eyes on the flight attendant as they bring you a fluffy blanket and serve you a vodka soda. HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant takes us on a slick, amusing jaunt thanks to the untapped talents of its leading lady.
Kaley Cuoco stars as Cassandra Bowden, a flight attendant barely hanging onto her job because she’s dependably tossing back mini bottles of vodka when no one is looking. Well, when people are looking too. On a routine trip to Thailand, she makes a connection with Alex, a passenger played by Michiel Huisman. Let’s face it. If you had a (literally) jet setting career, you’d make drunken, horrible decisions too, and Huisman is a gorgeous Dutch distraction. When Cass wakes up in Alex’s hotel room, she’s hung over and laying next to Alex’s bloody, throat-slit body.
Since Cass is an expert at making bad decisions, she cleans up the crime scene and bolts without thinking of calling the cops (‘Don’t get arrested there…the laws are byzantine,’ her friend Annie tells her). She tries to piece the events of her lost night together, but she’s continually pulled back to the crime scene to have full conversations with Alex. It’s like she’s trapped in a bloody escape room and her host is a hunky Ghost of Murdered Past.
Cuoco is in the unenviable position of building a career after one of the most successful sitcoms of the last twenty years. There’s an odd connection between her Penny Hofstadter and Cass Bowden since we spent 12 seasons hearing jokes about her drinking and partying ways. Here, however, Cuoco gives Cass tragic weight as she explores her own personal trauma from her childhood. She does this all the while never losing her expert comedic delivery. On The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco was the gorgeous straight man, but she was never given the proper credit that she deserved. There is a sad loneliness to her character but she never loses that winking edge that makes Cass (and Cuoco) so fascinating to watch–her performance in The Flight Attendant is reminiscent of the sexy charm of Goldie Hawn.
The Flight Attendant walks a fine line of tricky tones. Developed by Steve Yockey and executive produced by Greg Berlanti and Susanna Fogel (who wrote Booksmart and directed 2 episodes of Amazon’s Utopia), this series fills part of the void left by Desperate Housewives with its high-stakes espionage mixed with personal demons and secrets. At only six episodes, it gets in and out faster than a drunk woman who thinks the rules don’t apply to her when boarding her flight. It’s like USA’s The Sinner with a sense of humor and cast with actors with great sensibilities.
Okay, I’ll stop.
There are really colorful flourishes in the costume and production designs. There is a love of the 1960’s in its pacing and editing with split screens and musical cues. The whacky, animated opening credits is bonkers and a serious contender for Main Title Design.
With a great supporting cast–including Rosie Perez, TR Knight, Zosia Mamet, and Griffin Matthews–The Flight Attendant is like being a little too drunk on an international flight. It’s fun, boozy, and little dangerous.
The Flight Attendant debuts on HBO Max on November 26.