The Flight Attendant is a comedy slash murder mystery thriller series that aired last fall on HBO Max. It’s that rare mix of serious and funny that manages to do both well, the show is genuinely suspenseful (and genuinely funny). I decided to binge this show because one of my favorite mystery novelists, Jessica Knoll, talked about how much she loved it on Instagram. She was right. Not only is Kaley Cuoco hilarious as the main character, but I got completely sucked in from the first episode and spent last weekend lovingly binging the entire show.
The show is based on the book of the same name by Chris Bohjalian and follows Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco), an alcoholic flight attendant with arrested development, after she wakes up in Bangkok after a night of drinking next to the dead body of a prominent businessman who she met on her flight the day before. Freaked out, Cassie calls her friend who is a lawyer who advises her that getting arrested for murder in Bangkok is not something she wants to do. Cassie cleans up the crime scene and manages to return to New York City, but under the watchful eye of the FBI. Cassie tries to solve the murder of the businessman, evade the FBI, evade the actual killer who is trying to clean up loose ends, and keep her life from falling apart. That’s a lot for a woman who couldn’t even show up for work on time!
I think Kaley Cuoco just makes this show. She is so fun to watch and her character is perfectly written. At one point Cassie says one of those most relatable lines of all time, “I’m ruining my life one person at a time.”
The rest of the cast is also awesome, Zosia Mamet needs her own spinoff as Cassie’s best friend and badass mafia lawyer Annie Mouradian (Zosia’s character on Mad Men also needs a spinoff, I will take every Zosia character spinoff show please). Rosie Perez as Megan Briscoe is another really interesting side character. And T.R. Knight always impresses me with his range since I am used to seeing him as the passive George character on Grey’s Anatomy, he is also incredible in the adaptation of Stephen King’s 11.22.63, FYI.
I also love that this series does not pass whatever the Bechdel test for men is. The men in this show are there to assist and support the women. Annie’s “he’s not my boyfriend” boyfriend Max is a genius computer hacker (and a SNACK), who mostly exists as a kind of gender bent Mary Sue to help the girls out when they’re stuck on a clue. The FBI agents investigating Cassie are led by a woman named Kim Hammond whose male partner, Van White, is less intelligent, less skilled, and pretty much just a liability to the investigation. Even lead character Alex Sokolov is dead most of the time and exists mostly as a personality-less avatar in Cassie’s memory. In general, I’d love to see all the characters fully flushed out, but centering women in this series made it feel fun and light, even though it’s a murder mystery. Cassie’s gay coworker Shane gets the honor of being the lone male character presented as sane, intelligent, and likable (he’s another contender for who should get a spinoff). It’s nice to see, for once, a series where the women are deep and intelligent and nuanced and the men are sex objects and love objects and objects to be presented for disposal in place of our damsel in distress.
The Flight Attendant was renewed for a second season which will air next spring. One plot point of the show was established at the end of season one (spoiler alert) when Cassie was told the CIA might be interested in recruiting her as an asset. Kaley Cuoco has said she wants to see Cassie’s emotional development continue in season 2, and we’ll likely see more of her struggles with addiction. Cuoco has also said that Alex Sokolov will probably not appear in the next season, as the telling of that story is complete.
The Flight Attendant is streaming on HBO Max.