Photo: ‘The Flight Attendant’
Character Above All Else
When looking back at the past 20ish years of prestige TV, at the heart of every great series be it ‘Mad Men’, ‘The Sopranos’ ‘The Wire’ or ‘Breaking Bad’ is a compelling if not tremendously flawed protagonist. Cuoco, as the flight attendant Cassie Bowden, is certainly no different. When we meet Cassie in the first season of the show, she is struggling mightily with alcoholism. A classic case study, as she thinks she is just the fun party person, when in reality her addiction is ripping apart all meaningful relationships in her life and even leads her to wake up from a blackout in bed with a recently murdered man thus kicking off the events of the first season and thriller that ensues as she attempts to not only clear her name but find the person responsible for the murder.
With all of that in mind, the writers were certainly in for a new challenge when it came to season 2 which just came out on HBO Max. As Cassie comes to terms with the fact and ultimately admits that she does indeed have a drinking problem at the end of the first season, we meet a whole new character at the beginning of the second season. She is in a loving relationship, is heavily involved in her AA meetings, and is a CIA asset… Wait what? One of those things is not like the others. This is where the team behind the show created a nice wrinkle to keep the show going with the current characters in place. While still employed as a flight attendant for the international airline she works for, Cassie is moonlighting by working for the CIA as a civilian.
Cuoco, after making a name for herself on the sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’, is incredibly solid in the role of Cassie. She is a legitimate bonafide actress, playing this complex character to perfection. A good deal of the second season thus far naturally centers around Cassie struggling with her newly found sobriety. Having such a talented and impressive actress as Cuoco in the role definitely helps the writing team to express the inner machinations of Cassie’s mind. A lot of the scenes feature Cassie’s inner thoughts, played out by Cuoco acting as the two different versions of Cassie. One version is the party girl with a drink in her hand and the other her now sober self, consistently at odds with one another as Cassie fights the temptation to have even just one drink in the face of the stress caused by her new side hustle.
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I really was blown away by Cuoco’s acting ability in the first season, and she is certainly back and even better in the second. While the Cassie character had her troubles with drinking in the first season, this new storyline is even more compelling. We really have the opportunity as the audience to dive in and grow with this character in a unique way I don’t remember having seen done so well. We are able to watch, feel and when necessary, hurt with the character and her friends and family with every decision and indecision she makes to further her journey. For that, Cuoco deserves all the praise she has coming her way for her performance as Cassie.
‘The Flight Attendant’ – Don’t Fix it if it Ain’t Broken
One of the more fun production aspects used in the first season that they kept for the second is the travel sequences for the airline crew. There are great scenes between Cassie and her fellow cabin mates on the flight attendant team, giving what feels like a nice peek behind the actual curtain. There’s fun banter and devastating as it is, feels super close to what really is in discussion back there behind the first-class curtain. So much of the tension and intrigue end up ultimately being built during these lulls for Cassie as she is able to spend too much time with her thoughts. Whereas previously she would shut the thoughts down with a nice vodka and soda, she is forced to confront them all while keeping her cool and still giving a strong customer service response.
A lot of these sequences are set up and built by using creative transitions frames, showing establishing shots of different monuments or sightseeing opportunities in different countries around the world. It helps to not only establish the setting for storytelling purposes, but also functions to show how high stakes and international the spy game that is new to Cassie is. While in the first season she was mainly focused on what city would have the best party or theme her night based on that country’s signature drink, now she is facing many different circumstances as she bounces from country to country.
A Protagonist is Only As Good As Their Supporting Cast
True for pretty much every great piece of written or filmed work, but this sentiment certainly rings true here. With a supporting cast featuring Rosie Perez, Zosia Mamet and Griffin Matthews Cassie has no shortage of interesting personalities running around throughout her life. Mamet plays Cassie’s best friend Ani, who functions almost as a placeholder for the audience in a lot of ways. Ani reacts to Cassie’s wild antics in the same way any normal person would whose friend is continually devolving into chaos. Constantly trying to be supportive, while also not afraid to smack her in the face with some reality and truth, Mamet is really fun in the role and helps to provide some comic relief when justified for the plot.
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Rosie Perez and Griffin Matthews are also stellar in the series, both serving as fellow flight attendants on Cassie’s crew. Spoilers aside, after having been established as fairly inconsequential characters, they both have an exciting twist that helps to launch Cassie on her newfound path working for the CIA. The two characters greatly embody the major theme of the show, which is no one is actually who they appear to be. The writers seem to be saying we are all just playing a part, wearing different masks for different groups and interactions depending on the situation.
Season 2 of ‘The Flight Attendant’ is streaming now on HBO Max and I encourage all to give it a whirl, and catch up on the first season as well if you have not yet!.
By Mark Raymond
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Mark Raymond is a writer and screenwriter who believes himself to be the only person desiring to work in film who originated in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles. Mark was inspired to write from a young age and has always desired to connect and uplift others through his work, as those that motivated him did for him. Mark feels very strongly that the world could use a lot more positivity and optimism, and is therefore very aligned to the mission of The Hollywood Insider to not spread hate or gossip, but instead to build each other up and shine a positive light on anyone bold enough to put their heart and soul into a piece of art. In his writing, Mark aims to use his signature wit to highlight the severity of the more serious and pressing issues of our time, to shine a beacon of light through the darkness. A devoted ally to all, he seeks to inspire and use his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and let his readers know that while everything may not be great right now, one day it can and will be.