Review: ‘The Flight Attendant’ Season 2 Does Better With Sobriety Than Spycraft

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant Season 2
Review
Julia Terjung/HBO Max

Different city, same Cassie. For those who gobbled up Season 1 of HBO Max’s comedic thriller The Flight Attendant, Season 2 keeps the same manic tone and breakneck pace as we once again dive into the adventures surrounding chaotic flight attendant Cassie Bowden (a captivating Kaley Cuoco). For Cassie, it’s been a year since the events of Season 1. She’s moved to LA, she’s one year sober, oh and she’s a civilian asset for the CIA. But for anyone worried that Cassie has her life perfectly put together, which would make for very boring television, have no fear. This is Cassie, which means that her life is sure to be a very entertaining mess.

Cassie’s new side job as a CIA asset is a perfect lead-in to a twisty new mystery, but unlike last season, which had very clear stakes – Cassie woke up next to a dead body in a foreign country and had to solve her one-night-stand’s murder — this season’s mystery is unfortunately far more confusing. When following a mark in Berlin goes wrong, weird things start happening, primarily someone pretending to be Cassie — stealing her luggage, checking out of her room for her — and this person may very well have nefarious intentions for our girl, including getting her in hot water with the CIA. It’s unclear, however, exactly what this means. Trouble with Cassie’s friend Megan (Rosie Perez), who went on the lam at the end of last season after selling U.S. intelligence to the North Koreans, also complicates matters. Whether the two situations have anything to do with each other is fuzzy, and being able to separate them is difficult. It would be better if we had a more straightforward understanding of what Cassie is dealing with.

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What’s far stronger than the wonky plot, though, is the characters. Cassie still has hallucinations where she has conversations with people in her mind. Last season, it was used to express her response to trauma, as she imagined talking to the dead Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman). This time it conveys to great effect Cassie’s struggle to not consume alcohol. The people who appear inside her head are different versions of herself — fun party girl Cassie, strung-out drunk Cassie, teenage drunk Cassie, picture-perfect flight attendant Cassie — all egging her on to drink, and telling her the worst things that she thinks about herself. The constant question of will Cassie drink is just as nail-biting as any of the spy action, if not more.

While Cassie’s flying around the world, getting into trouble, the series excels whenever it slows down enough for Cassie to actually deal with her feelings. Shohreh Aghdashloo is wonderful as the dryly funny and supportive Brenda, Cassie’s sober sponsor. The show doesn’t use her nearly enough, but when she and Cassie do finally get to have a serious talk about her recovery, it is so worth it — definitely one of the many scenes that made me cry, in the best possible way. The other scenes where I cried mostly include the sweet and sensitive T.R. Knight, returning as Cassie’s brother Davey, as the two delve into their family issues.

Cassie’s best friend Annie (the amazing Zosia Mamet) and her significant other Max (Deniz Akdeniz) are also back as they, of course, just happen to be visiting Cassie in L.A. when all of this goes down. Annie has an interesting arc as the old confident Annie of Season 1 is gone, and she’s trying to figure out who she is now that she’s no longer a mob lawyer. This new insecure Annie seems determined to blow up her life (she and Cassie have that in common this season) as she nervously contemplates a job opportunity, and stresses over her relationship with Max getting more serious. Where she’s consistent is in her unconditional love for Cassie, and her determination to do anything to help her friend, which in many ways is a big part of the bedrock of this show.

One new character out of place, though, is Cassie’s charming new boyfriend Marco (Santiago Cabrera). The show never fleshes him out as a character, and he seems to only function as a metaphor for how Cassie’s life is perfect on paper but is rapidly rotting beneath the surface. He has very little screen time, we only learn so much about him, and he and Cassie don’t have the raw chemistry that Annie and Max do.

Zosia Mamet and Deniz Akdeniz in The Flight Attendant

Jennifer Rose Clasen/HBO Max

Despite the convoluted espionage storyline, The Flight Attendant Season 2 is doing A+ emotional work with its characters. It never lets Cassie off the hook for a second — every moment is devoted to unraveling what’s really going on with her, even as she tries so hard to keep the messier stuff compartmentalized. Having only seen the first six episodes (the final two episodes of the season were not released to the press), I don’t know where the end of the season will take us. But for now, I feel I can say that the investment in the characters, plus the fun globe-trotting action should keep viewers riveted. And hopefully, they’ll come up with a better crazy scheme for Cassie to be caught up in next season.

The Flight Attendant, Season 2 Premiere, Thursday, April 21, HBO Max