The Flight Attendant– HBO Max Miniseries Review

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

An intense, thrilling, dark comedy of a murder mystery starring Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory fame. Taking a chance on a unique concept based on a book of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, HBO seems to have a hit on its hands. The first three episodes of the Flight Attendant is nothing short of must-watch content.

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant. Image Credit: HBO Max

We’re guided through an extraordinary story by a very ordinary, pleasure-seeking, flight attendant. From the moment Cassandra Bowden (played by Kaley Cuoco) wakes up next to the corpse of her lover Alex, Cassandra begins to uncover a mystery with more layers than anyone watching would expect. Cassandra Bowden (the titular flight attendant) sinks into the depths of paranoia and confusion as she bumbles through a murder right into corporate espionage and just a smidge of money laundering. And that’s just the start!.

Kaley Cuoco as The Flight Attendant. Image Credit: HBO Max

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With HBO set to release five more episodes by December 17th, there's no telling where this whodunnit mystery is headed. Though, judging by the first three episodes of The Flight Attendant, the next five episodes are going to be great. Rest assured, the first three episodes deserve a watch.


Cast

Kaley Cuoco has turned in a fantastic performance in the role of main character Cassandra Brown. The mystery the story presents will draw you in, but it is Cuoco’s performance that will keep you watching. This great performance comes as a surprise given that Cuoco’s past performances have left a lot to be desired. Turned into a superstar through her time playing the stereotypically ditzy blonde, Penny on The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco plays a more damaged, realistic version of that character.

Great Casting. Image Credit: HBO Max

We’re initially introduced to Cassandra Brown as nothing but a pleasure-seeking flight attendant with not a care in the world, a role reminiscent of the one Cuoco played on The Big Bang Theory. Though, the differences in Cuoco’s performance as Cassandra Brown come in Cuoco’s ability to show how Cassandra’s traumatic experience has affected and changed the character overall. But Cuoco’s Cassandra Brown isn’t just PTSD, panic, and regret. Somehow, while portraying the complexities of a traumatized, emotionally stunted character, Cuoco also finds a way to bring some levity to the role of Cassandra Brown.

Image Credit: HBO Max

The rest of the cast does a fantastic job as every character feels believable, with even the performances of supporting characters displaying good character depth. The mostly female cast are all fantastic in their roles. Other than Cuoco, Merle Dandridge, Zosia Mamet, and Rosie Perez turn in great performances. Dandridge, as an ambitious, by the books FBI agent, Mamet, as the savvy lawyer and put-upon best friend of the lead, and Perez, as the shrewd housewife who knows more than she lets on are all fantastic.


The Story

The lead spends a significant amount of time conversing with herself in her psyche. The way that The Flight Attendant visually expresses Cassandra’s psyche and her working through the mystery is thoroughly entertaining having tons of droll humor.

Image Credit: HBO Max

Cassandra Brown wakes up one morning after a night of fun and heavy drinking in Bangkok to find her lover from the night before dead in the same bed. After three episodes, that’s all that the audience knows for sure. The Flight Attendant is a classic, by the numbers, whodunnit mystery with twist after twist delivered in each episode.


Being three episodes into the series, the only thing the story has for us at this point is a lot of questions with almost no answers. The risk that comes with mysteries like The Flight Attendant is always the payoff. If the reveal at the end of the series is disappointing the whole series will feel disappointing, and that's what makes it difficult to judge the quality of the story. So, if The Flight Attendant can maintain the level of storytelling quality it showed over its first three episodes the reveal at the end should be great.


Cinematography

The cinematographers and directors of The Flight Attendant do a great job using close-up camera angles to make the audience feel as panicked and nervous as the characters in each scene. The scenes where the characters are put under pressure and stress - low, tight camera angles change the entire tone of the scene that, otherwise, may have been just mundane conversations.

Tense Moments depicted well

These scenes are stitched together with smooth editing combined with static, wide camera angles for scenes that are humorous, or moments of levity meant to put the audience at ease. It may not be something that people always pay attention to but the way that this series uses camera angles, and differences in editing to play with the emotions of their audiences should be commended.


What Could Be Better (Spoiler Alert)

Again, only three episodes into a series with eight means there won’t be much that I can criticize. But, for as much praise as I, and everyone else, have been giving The Flight Attendant there is one big flaw that could hamper the series going forward. This flaw is the backstory of Cassandra Brown, particularly dealing with her father. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with exploring the backstory of your characters, but it should serve some purpose in the larger narrative. This is the problem with exploring the relationship between the main character and her father.


The flashbacks to Cassandra’s time with her father and as a child slow down the story and take away from a great mystery. More than anything else exploring why our main character is the way she just seems unnecessary. At this point in the story, it is hard to understand why the audience needs to learn why Cassandra is an alcoholic. If you were to remove the flashbacks to Cassandra’s childhood from The Flight Attendant completely it wouldn’t change anything about the story.


The only thing that would change if you removed these flashbacks is the run time of each episode. The hope is that as The Flight Attendant progresses, the exploration of Cassandra’s background will find some connection to the larger narrative.


Should I watch it? - Yes!

Have you seen this type of story before? Of course, you have. Though, you haven’t seen it presented the way that The Flight Attendant puts out its complex mystery. Without knowing where this mystery is headed it can be said that the first three episodes will have you glued to your screen and asking for more. So, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!


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©2021 by Yadav Venugopal.