The Flight Attendant (2021) Season 1 Review: It’s a first class murder mystery

The life of air hostesses or flight attendants has always been of interest. From reel life in movies like Garam Masala and Anjaam to real life where Monica Bedi was spotted and offered a film, their jet setting life has enamored quite a lot of people. But no one has actually got down to understanding their daily routine and how they beat jetlag, as they change flights and move from city to city. The series based on booky by same name authored by Chris Bohjalian, tries to throw some light on this profession.

Cassie Bowden, our protagonist, is a flight attendant on course to Bangkok. Within first few minutes they show the camaraderie that she shares with co-attendants Megan & Shane. On the flight is Alex Sokolov, a suave gentleman who occupies seat 3C, and Cassie shows special attention to him. Soon, we see Cassie downing vodka shots while on duty, and approaching Alex in a flirtatious manner.

Her lifestyle and after work relaxation is all about getting high and finding a night cap. And Alex seems to be the perfect gentleman, with whom she can spend the evening. Despite this being unethical, she goes ahead with that plan. Very soon, we realise that this is a character trait of Cassie, where she goes beyond the line, but more on that, later.

Cassie gets drunk, spends the night, wakes up with a hangover, only to find Alex murdered, right next to her, in his hotel room. His throat is slit and blood is spilt all over the bedsheet. She does the first thing that occurs to her, dressing up the scene, discarding the bottles and making a run for her life, lest they incriminate her. In between, she calls up her best pal, Annie, who also happens to be a lawyer in a reputed firm. Cassie does not reveal anything to her, but casually discusses Amanda Knox, an American who spent a lifetime in jail on murder charges, in foreign land. And she definitely does not want that!

Even with all that huffing and puffing, feeling scared and exasperated, she just wishes to reach the shores of US, so she can escape getting detained in Bangkok. But once she reaches home, her problems increase as the case reaches FBI and they begin investigating it.

Cassie needs to prove her innocence before FBI gets to her. She is pretty certain that she could not have killed Alex, but then who did? Who else had the opportunity and the motive to do it? Whoever that is, but at the moment, Cassie is in the dock. And in this haste to find the murderer, she breaks many a rule, and goes beyond conventional wisdom. Cassie shows up at the memorial service of Alex, along with Shane, only to discover that his family is part of some clandestine underground operations and they could be dangerous people.

Apart from Annie & Shane, helping Cassie to find the killer, is her subconscious mind which pieces together critical information which provides hints for her to follow. But this subconsciousness is a clever deus-ex-machina, which guides her by asking pointed questions and shows the path. Ironically, Alex was carrying around a book “Crime & Punishment” which is now is possession of Cassie.

In a parallel track, Annie is grappling with consequences which was a direct result of trying to help Cassie. She finds herself in a soup, that she cannot get out of it, because of the bonding she shares with Cassie, as they have been best friends for years. Also, Megan puts herself in some sort of danger, when she unwittingly ends up as a conduit in a corporate espionage by sharing info from her husband’s laptop. She has her reasons, and is caught up in her own struggles, that she is barely able to indulge Cassie.

Coming to Cassie, she is a classic case of a raging alcoholic who cannot do a thing without downing a few drinks. Vodka gives her courage, support, will power and way to forget and/or reshape the past. She heavily relies on drinks to get through the day, so much so that, she even puts her own relationship with her elder brother, Davey, on the burner. She has a very uneasy relationship with Davey, which has mostly to do with the past and how their childhood influenced their upbringing.

The eight episode series is a fast paced thriller, tackling many parallel threads, simultaneously. Cassie needs to mend her relationship with Davey, she needs to win Annie over after antagonizing her, she has to console Megan and be there for her, and amidst all this, she has to find the killer and prover her innocence.

Alex, played by Michiel Huisman, despite the shortcoming of the role, does well and looks the part of a business tycoon muddled in nefarious activities but comes off as an innocent looking bystander, as the proceeding take place around him. Zosia Mamet, as Annie, plays a good solid friend, who is always by Cassie’s side, despite all her trespassing and goof-ups. Her frustration shows, in just the right amount, where she can never fully detach herself from Cassie, but is also angry with her for causing all that pain.

But the show belongs to Cassie. Kaley Cuoco, as Cassie, is just superb. Her 300+ minutes of Cassie makes you forget the 12 seasons as Penny in The Big Bang Theory. Kaley has been given a canvas, and she makes the most of it, to fill it with all the emotions that she has bottled within herself. Her unidimensional Penny is forgotten in a wisp, as Cassie frowns, flounders, floats, feels flabbergasted and is full of fluff, all in one series.

As is the trend these days, any series tries to pack in as many genres as possible, to appeal to the wide audience of varying tastes. So also, this series is dark at times with lots of funny moments and tragicomic at times. There is some romance thrown in, with candle light dinners and wine pouring, and some heart pounding moments when Cassie is close to unveiling the truth. The flight attendant manages to strike the right balance, and despite some mid-series turbulence, it does a smooth landing.

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