When the new episode of HBO Max’s wacky comic book thriller The flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) has traded her Manhattan shoebox for an LA bungalow with retro-chic appliances, her imaginary tête-à-tête with a dead one-night stand for a sexy, supportive boyfriend, and her nips of vodka for Alcoholics Anonymous.
A little less than a year has passed since the stylized season one finale, in which Cassie cleared her name for the murder of a first-class passenger, while impressing the agents who monitored her every move. In season two, she is a flight attendant working as a CIA operative on the far-flung destinations served by the fictional Imperial Atlantic Airlines.
Aside from Cuoco’s perfect screwball performance, the electric delight of season one was its pace: a methodically planned crime thriller that bounced between storylines at the speed of our protagonist’s manic energy. Season two sticks to the same formula, revealing the truth of Cassie’s reinvented life almost as soon as it’s established. First comes her sobriety. Cassie attends AA, yes, but violates one of her basic rules of recovery: no major life changes in the first year.
In fact, breaking rules is a recurring problem. In her CIA work, Cassie constantly exaggerates and flatters herself with the leads she’s only supposed to watch. Her disregard for authority was excusable if not commendable as she fought for her life in season one. But in season two, Cassie’s defiance is revealed for what it is: a compulsion to keep moving in every direction and somehow escape past accidents. She’s replaced alcohol with sheer recklessness, plus hot tamales to curb her sugar cravings.
The mystery at the heart of Season 2 takes the same basic shape as Season 1, only shakier. Cassie is framed again, this time by a striking double. But it’s their personal struggles that are driving the action now. Still suffering from PTSD-induced hallucinations, Cassie’s fragmented subconscious locks her in a room with versions of her past selves; party Cassie, who was so screwed she fell asleep next to a dead body, the teen Cassie, who watched her father drive himself to death drunk, and the depressed Cassie, who saw no way out. Watching the Cassies force each other to make bad decisions brings new depth to the old character. She’s still going under, but with no alcohol to distract her, we see how exhausting it is to be both the storm and the sailboat.
Most of the supporting characters from season one return for the second appearance. Zosia Mamets shy Annie and her resourceful hacker boyfriend (Deniz Akdeniz). TR Knight as Davey, the brother who forces Cassie to deal with ongoing family issues. Rosie Perez and Griffin Matthews are both back, but just like season one, neither of them get screen time commensurate with their attractiveness. And while the new season may be loaded with subplots, it’s hard to wish away from Shohreh Aghdashloo, charming as Cassie’s AA sponsor, or Sharon Stone as her icy, estranged mother.
“I’m still flying,” Cassie tells an AA meet-up in the new season’s first episode. She means as a flight attendant, but the pun is the point of her explanation. Like all shows with such efficient first seasons, the second installment of The flight attendant walks the tightrope of humble reinvention and finds more ground in moving away from espionage toward character study. The result is a less concise crime thriller, but something that stays best as Cassie complicates her own life, redoubling mistakes while struggling to convince herself and everyone around her that she’s just cruising.
The Flight Attendant arrives on Sky Max in the UK on May 26th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/the-flight-attendant-season-2-review-kaley-cuoco-b2087988.html The Flight Attendant Season Two Recap: Kaley Cuoco continues to shine in this wonderfully shaky comedy