You can tell that the dark, international thrills of The Flight Attendant – complete with glamorous locations, ruthless assassins, and a mostly female cast – is HBO Max’s hopeful attempt at a Killing Eve-like success. This latest production from the new American streaming service has come to Sky, who are clearly not too convinced: swerving Sky Atlantic and Sky Comedy to place the series in the less respected schedules of Sky One instead.
But there’s much to enjoy in Steve Yockey’s silly, pulpy murder-mystery. It follows the alcoholic flight attendant Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) who spends the night in Bangkok with an attractive passenger, Alex (Michiel Huisman), and wakes up next to his murdered body the morning after.
It’s the kind of catalytic premise that rarely delivers its promise, but the series enjoyably weaves a complicated series of Hitchcockian consequences. Cassie is hopefully the Wrong Woman, running away from the severity of the situation (easy, considering her job) but that only exacerbates the evidence against her.
She also can’t remember anything from the night before, memories blacked out from all the vodka (her favourite). She occasionally recalls the pleasant times with Alex: seeing the sights and flirting over Russian literature.
Cassie finds help from her numerous friends and lovers, using them to either prove her innocence or make her forget for a few hours. Ani (snappily and caringly played by Zosia Mamet) is an inspiring best friend, despite being a lawyer with dodgy clients.
Alex (Michiel Huisman) with Cassie (Kaley Cuoco). Photo: Sky
The various plot threads twist into many ridiculous directions, often escaping charm and crossing the point of irritation – especially as Cassie makes so many patently stupid decisions. There’s some anxious entertainment value in being constantly on edge like this, like the chaos of Howard in Uncut Gems. The overlapping dialogue, the sporadic split-screens, and the agitated, pianistic soundtrack from Blake Neely shake those nerves even more.
But you wonder why anyone would like to be Cassie's friend, considering the disaster zone that surrounds her. She’s saved, thankfully, by an elegant, analytic backstory – told in progressive flashes with CGI rabbits. She examines traumas buried in her mind, discussing them with a posthumous form of Alex, and therapeutically roots out the reasons for her behaviour. These sequences are the most curious and inventive of the series, providing an entrancing, idiosyncratic appeal.
With the fast plot and pressured introspection, the series also shows a new side to The Big Bang Theory actor Kaley Cuoco. Like many comedy actors turning to darker roles, she secures herself within the drama and anxiety, while leaving the perfect amount of room for hilarious timing. Her tears, in particular, drop at such precise moments – encapsulating The Flight Attendant’s tragicomic tone.
None of this removes from how annoying Cassie is, even with her upsetting past, but you're still happy to chase her to the very end.
The Flight Attendant airs on Friday 19 March at 9pm on Sky One
|What||The Flight Attendant, Sky One review|
19 Mar 21 – 19 Mar 22, ON SKY ONE
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