The Flight Attendant
- Brian Donaldson
- 19 March 2021
Hitchcock meets slapstick as a US sitcom star breaks out into hyper-hectic comedy-drama territory
After starring in one of the biggest sitcoms of modern times, Kaley Cuoco's admirers wondered what she should do next. Life after The Big Bang Theory could have gone in various directions, and for her first major live-action show she has avoided typecasting while also not opting for the 'complete departure' angle. The Flight Attendant has enough seriousness to make it almost qualify for drama (there's a whole heap of blood and guts and stabbings and shootings allied to a large dose of swearing) with the comedy still making a decent fist of things. Though the latter is, believe it or don't, not as subtle as The Big Bang Theory as she displays her slapstick side by smashing things, tripping over, bumping around and endlessly having to apologise for her awkward clumsiness.
This nervy propensity for accidents comes down to two things: her character Cassie's lifelong dependency on alcohol (in flashbacks, we see her dypso dad introducing her to the demon drink and enabling her teenage addiction) and the fact that she may have viciously killed Alex (Michiel Huisman) in bed after a one-night stand in Bangkok. Of course, a booze-based blackout means she is unable to recall much of anything, but the victim is kind enough to communicate with her on a regular basis giving her life advice though weirdly not revealing exactly what happened on that hazy, fateful night. Asides from the ghostly apparitions, this set-up nods heavily towards a particular film director's oeuvre, with the penultimate episode adding fuel to that feeling with its title: 'Hitchcock Double'.
Cassie, a functional alcoholic who jaunts around the world as a flight attendant, throws herself into one deep hole after another, accompanied by a theme tune that aims for a speeded-up Mission Impossible vibe but merely threatens the viewer with an instant migraine. Meanwhile, the animated Mad Men-esque title sequence suggests that Cassie is plummeting through life to an inevitable drink-influenced doom. Cuoco is perfectly fine as the soused stewardess caught in a spiralling nightmare, but it's hard to shake the notion that her wildly erratic behaviour in front of already suspicious detectives would have had her detained immediately.
Instead, she is able to hop around attempting to uncover the truth while being pursued herself by a dastardly assassin Miranda (Michelle Gomez) and aided by her drily humorous friend and lawyer Annie (Zosia Mamet, once again more or less the best thing in whatever programme she is appearing in). While it's possible to get infuriated by much of The Flight Attendant's whirlwind antics, there's enough enjoyment here to keep things simmering as the narrative cascades towards its hyperactive conclusion. As chaotic as Cassie's life is, could she really be responsible for such a gruesome murder? We've all seen enough comedy-dramas to know pretty much where this is headed.