In The Flight Attendant, a major portion of the narrative happens inside the protagonist’s head. She talks to dead people and replays haunting memories because she isn’t able to curb the guilt that created them in the first place. Her character is a perfect blend of internal and external conflicts, who is shaken by a sudden murder where she is the only suspect. Hence, it’s a flawed hero on the run, acted by Kaley Cuoco. She portrays Cassie Bowden, the flight attendant in the story.
The series is based on the novel of the same name written by Chris Bohjalian and the teleplay is developed by Steve Yockey. The creators manage to upheld the curiosity of the viewers through tight drama and thrills. The first season The Flight Attendant consists of 8 episodes of 40 minutes each, which brilliantly showcases the life and recklessness of Cassie Bowden.
‘The Flight Attendant’ Season 1 Summary
Cassie Bowden is a reckless flight attendant in an American airline. From the very first scene itself, the makers structure her skin telling the audience she doesn’t remember anything after she drinks, and she drinks a lot. Hence, she is in-attentive and believes in being in the moment rather than living it. On a flight bound for Bangkok, Cassie meets a rich stranger, Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman). Alex is very much interested in Cassie and invites her to roam around Bangkok with him. Cassie denies the offer at first but when she lands in Bangkok, they both spend a happening night together.
The next day, when Cassie wakes up in a hotel suite with Alex, she finds blood dripping from her hands. The expansion of the visual further brings into focus Alex’s dead body with his throat slashed. Cassie panics and leaves the hotel room, tampering with the evidence. She leaves Bangkok from her work flight but the visions of Alex keep haunting her and talking to her. She can’t take off the visuals of the murder scene from her mind, but she also can’t remember what happened with Alex before they started drinking.
Cassie is called by the FBI for the investigation of the murder as Alex belongs to a very wealthy family in the US. Cassie tries to recollect the events of the night in order to find the murderer before the authorities declare her the culprit. The series further explores Cassie’s struggle with this mysterious murder case, while fighting her own internal battles of guilt and alcohol addiction.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Visions and Guilt
Cassie Bowden is not an alcoholic because she likes to drink. She is addicted and much more than that she is trying to curb her haunting past. Mostly, people use substances to satiate their addictive desires and hold back their evocative thoughts, which includes the feeling of guilt, remorse, and criminality. With Cassie, each of those emotions is at its peak after the mysterious murder of Alex.
Through Cassie, the narrative interestingly moves in two different directions. In Cassie’s future happening in real-time and Cassie’s past which she is trying to suppress. Hallucinations of Alex in Cassie’s mind acts as the viewer or the audience of those past events which the story reveals slowly, defining Cassie’s reckless behavior. It is a great way to showcase the character’s back story which helps the audience to build an image of the character in their mind, from their first breath to the last (symbolically).
Cassie’s flaw is that she is reckless and selfish, but the realization hits her harder after Alex’s murder. Unable to share this secret with anyone she gets very lonely. She plunges into her past and we realize it is not the first murder/accident she is hiding behind this image she has been portraying. She doesn’t hook up with strangers because she likes it, but basically because if she gets close to someone, she might spill her secrets out, which is something she is avoiding herself from doing.
This particular layer is explored brilliantly at the end when Cassie tells Alex’s illusion that she finds herself the reason for her father’s death as well because it is only with her, he used to drink recklessly and joyfully. On one such drinking spree, while traveling through the road, they met with a dreadful accident, killing her father instantly. Cassie holds herself accountable for the whole incident and it was the start of alcohol abuse and trauma. While Cassie’s skin is brilliant and brilliantly performed, I felt, the scenario or the plot in which the character is placed, is cliched, repetitive, and nothing unusual. If the drama was tight as the character’s skin, they both could have supplemented each other magically.
Crime and Punishment
Cassie is the character and Alex is the plot, the messy plot, literally and narratively. Alex is a rich-bred businessman who had some differences with his family. When he first meets Cassie on the plane, he is holding Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The instant interaction about the book is not about the story but the female character in it, which Alex defines as messy. Cassie relates to the statement and quotes, “What’s wrong with messy.” It is the establishment of the symbolism of the book, Crime, and Punishment, which is explored or integrated into the narrative of The Flight Attendant.
Crime and Punishment is about an ex-student who plans to kill for money, which he thinks he will use for liberating himself and performing social deeds. In The Flight Attendant, Alex’s family, the Sokolov are dangerous people involved in many illegal businesses, where money laundering is one. Alex, like the protagonist of Crime and Punishment, hides some of this illegal money and flies to Bangkok but is killed over the issue of stolen money there. Now, this is the most simplified version of the messy narrative, I could come up with. In the series, there is a lot of stuff happening, like the nukes, the Koreans, the Russians, illegal drugs, passports of dead people and there is lots of stuff. The problem is not with “the lots of stuff”, the problem is that this information has not been integrated properly in the narrative. They sometimes overshadow the interesting character of Cassie they have built. It is because of this plethora of information that Alex’s character fails to thrive on screen.
Another detail attached to Crime and Punishment is that the money that Alex steals is encrypted. These passcodes are written in a book which is the book we are talking about and this is the exact book Cassie puts in her bag without telling Alex, with the only intention of reading it. Thus, the book holds millions and trillions of dollars, and that is why all the contract killers are running after Cassie, in which the woman named Miranda is the key character.
‘The Flight Attendant’ Ending Explained
When Cassie tries too hard to remember the date night with Alex, she gets a blurry vision of another woman, whom she thinks is Alex’s girlfriend. After an intensive exploration and investigation, Cassie comes around a shady woman, Miranda, who is a hired gun, assigned by people from whom Alex stole money from. Cassie suspects that it was Miranda who killed Alex. Miranda did kill a lot of people but not Alex. When Miranda is attacked by another contract killer hired by her own contractors, she starts fighting against them. An enemy’s enemy is a friend and that is how she helps Cassie. Miranda helps Cassie to clean her name and also protects her from an unknown assassin, Buckley Ware. Cassie hooks up with Buckley but is unaware that he is keeping an eye on her to get hold of Alex’s book which has encryption keys. In the end, Buckley tries to kill Cassie but is saved by another undercover agent, Shane Evans, who works with Cassie as a flight attendant. Charmed by her skills and courage, Shane tells Cassie that the CIA is interested in hiring her as a human asset. Cassie boards the flight and puts an end to all her hauntings of the past.
The Flight Attendant Season 2, which has already been renewed will explore the story further, as Cassie will work as a CIA undercover agent and solve new crimes. I am hopeful, the upcoming storyline is more interesting than its predecessor.
The Flight Attendant is a mix of both interesting and dull moments. It has interesting characters but not an equally interesting plot. Cassie’s illusions of Alex and some intercut shots/montages throughout the series are a visual treat, unique to the series. With time, many contemporary series are showcasing upgraded cinematography and background scores, and The Flight Attendant incorporates both. The background score and pop music used in it, are pleasing to the ears and creates an emotional connection with the characters. If you want to binge-watch a comical mystery thriller, then you can give a chance to this series. It isn’t much of a disappointment.
“The Flight Attendant” is streaming on HBO Max.