Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Flight Attendant (Pilot)

Just when flight attendants thought they had finally lived down the naughty fictionalized memoir Coffee, Tea, or Me, hard-partying Cassie Bowden comes along to give everyone the wrong idea again. However, she will regret her ways when she wakes up next to a dead body in creator Steve Yockey’s The Flight Attendant, based on Chris Bohjalian’s novel, which premieres this Thursday on HBO Max—with the pilot episode currently sneak-peaking on YouTube.

Bowden can be flaky, but her crewmates don’t mind. At least her work bestie Megan Briscoe keeps forgiving her—the others are starting to run out of patience. She really pushes it hooking-up with 1
st class passenger Alex Sokoluv mid-flight and then doubles-down on protocol violations by spending a wild night with him in Bangkok. Rather inconveniently, the fun comes to a screeching halt when he wakes up the next morning next to Sokoluv, whose throat has been cut.

Savvy enough to distrust the Thai justice system, Bowden does her best to tidy up after herself and sneak back to her hotel. She shortsightedly thinks she has made it once her flight lifts off, but then she starts having visions of Sokoluv guilt-tripping her for her disappearing act. Meanwhile, the body will be discovered.

Kaley Cuoco is definitely a spectacularly irresponsible mess as Bowden. It is terrific portrayal of shallow excess, but the character will have to start growing up, for us to spend four more episodes with her. Fortunately, getting mixed up with a murder can have that effect on a person.

Likewise, Michiel Huisman is aptly roguish as Sokoluv, a role that will obviously continue, despite the character’s untimely demise. He and Cuoco are already showing some interesting chemistry, with Huisman representing her subconscious nearly as much as Sokoluv’s persona. Cuoco also gets consistent laughs snarking and bantering with Briscoe (played by Rosie Perez) and the rest of the flight crew. Although she enters late in the pilot, Merle Dandridge impressively kicks up the energy and attitude as Special Agent Kim Hammond—in fact, viewers might very well start rooting for her to bust Bowden.

So far,
The Flight Attendant is slick in the right ways, particularly the super-stylish retro animated opening titles, the use of Thomas Crown Affair-like split screens, and Blake Neely’s propulsively upbeat score. The pilot (simply titled “The Flight Attendant”) is fun and the mystery is intriguing. The obvious question remains: how much of Bowden’s terrible decision-making can we take before we lose interest? At least one more episode, hopefully more. Recommended for its style and pacing, the pilot episode of The Flight Attendant is currently available on YouTube, prior to its HBO Max premiere (with additional episodes 11/26).