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‘The Flight Attendant’ Review: HBO Max Soars to New Heights with Their New Pulpy Thriller

Looking to bulk up some of their original shows, HBO Max recently added a new miniseries called The Flight Attendant to their lineup, serving as a jazzy new mystery that’s got some enticing pull. 

Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, the series follows Cassie (Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory) – a young flight attendant whose alcoholic tendencies and partying lifestyles tend to get her into some strange situations. After meeting a man named Alex (Michiel Huisman, Haunting of Hill House) on one of her flights to Bangkok though, Cassie ends up in her most dangerous situation yet. Although their night of hard partying, drinking, and erotic antics was great, Cassie wakes up to find Alex with his throat slit. Horrified by all of the blood and how the situation looks, Cassie cleans up the evidence as best she can before fleeing back to her flight attendant duties. However, with this incident bringing up past trauma in her life and two FBI agents hot on her trail, Cassie must piece together the events of that night to figure out who really killed Alex. 

Simply within its description, it’s easy to feel like The Flight Attendant is just another murder-mystery – party because…it is. The whole who-dun-it aspect hits all the mysterious beats viewers would expect and Cassie’s panic and one-night of closeness with Alex obviously makes her look more like a suspect than anyone else. Even the way it hides information about Alex’s professional life that likely got him killed is so typical that when Cassie runs into a wall of suspicious looks and ominous reactions it’s almost instinctive to go “yeah, yeah, yeah, move on.” At face-value, The Flight Attendant definitely treads some familiar territory that makes it feel like your run of the mill mystery. However, it’s actually surprising how fresh it ends up feeling through its style, strong performances, and oddly compelling character driven narrative. 

One of the things that immediately made the series visually refreshing is the editing style that’s used as it’s rarely seen. There’s a lot of splitting the frame to show two planes of action that allow more to be happening on-screen and showcase a bunch of different perspectives. For instance, there’s a moment where Annie (Zosia Mamet, Girls), Cassie’s lawyer friend, is talking to Van White (Nolan Gerard Funk, Awkward), one of the FBI agents on the hunt for Cassie, while also getting some information from her FBI agent over the phone. Rather than constantly cutting around to different perspectives, it’s all just split within the frame making it easier to process visually and drawing you into the moment more. It’s an editing choice that’s really only seen in spy movies or the Ocean’s series, but it is actually very well-utilized here and ends up making some of the more familiar beats fresh. There’s also this great art-style used in the opening credits and an incredibly jazzy score from Blake Neely gives off Archer and Catch Me If You Can vibes that are oddly delightful and put you into the right mood. 

Between all the growing drama and mystery, The Flight Attendant also treads some new territory with how Cassie still communicates with Alex long after he’s gone. Although Alex’s throat is slit pretty early in the first episode, Cassie isn’t able to forget about him and now not only receives flashes of her night with Alex that piece together what really happened, but zones out into a part of her subconscious where a still living Alex attempts to motivate her to catch his killer. It’s another fresh aspect of this series that brings out the detective, mystery solving nature of the series and allows for some solid character moments with Alex and Cassie as we get to know them better in these moments. The genuine connection they have is on full display and makes you care more about finding the true killer. Not to mention, Alex sometimes taunting Cassie’s panicked behavior that just makes her look guiltier adds in some pretty funny moments. 

The series, produced by Cuoco and created by Supernatural’s Steve Yockey, has a great mix of drama, mystery, and humor due in no small part to how its setup and some of its personalities are littered throughout the cast – which makes a perfect place for Cuoco to deliver some of her best work. As Cassie, Cuoco is not only able to bring the strong humorous charm that she’s known for but is also able to tread new ground with the emotional vulnerability she brings to make Cassie’s trauma feel real. From the way she uses alcohol to cope with her problems to how she’s still traumatized from her father’s death, Cassie isn’t the perfect partying queen she appears to be and this experience of trying to figure out who killed Alex feels life-altering on multiple levels and Cuoco does a great job bringing that out. Admittedly, it’s hard to say how life-altering these things will be and what exactly happened with her family, specifically her father’s death, since we’re still too early for the show to reveal that, but there’s definitely some potential for some great character growth and for Cuoco to continue showing her range. 

Cuoco isn’t the only strong performer here, though, as the whole cast helps add some fun personalities to the mix. Huisman is great as both a taunting motivator for Cassie and a strong centerpiece to this whole mystery; Mamet is a strong force in Cassie’s corner that’s incredibly funny at times and absolutely delightful with how she doesn’t take crap from anyone; and Funk’s Van White has some great chemistry with his partner Kim Hammond (Merle Dandridge, Greenleaf). It’s even great to see the likes of Rosie Perez (Birds of Prey) show up as fellow flight attendant Megan, bringing some funny jabs at Cassie’s drunken behavior as well as hiding some secrets of her own. 

The Flight Attendant ultimately sheds its familiar skin to deliver a fun and enticing mystery that HBO Max subscribers will delightfully eat up and shows a wider range to Cuoco’s talents. Like I said before, it’s a little too early to see if everything holds together and lives up to the potential that’s been set-up, but there’s definitely something there that makes you want to put your detective cap on to see what’s in store.

The Flight Attendant is currently streaming on HBO MAX.


Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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