When The Flight Attendant dropped on HBO Max in 2020, it was Kaley Cuoco’s first major project since The Big Bang Theory went off the air a year prior. With the role of Cassie, she earned her first Emmy nomination 20 years into her career and reached new heights of creative involvement — she’s involved in all aspects of the show, from optioning to producing to fronting the show in a lead role that allows her to meld her comedic chops with a more dramatic edge.
“Was I able to reinvent myself overnight, and they’ve totally forgotten about everything else?” she told Variety. “If they’re willing to see me like that, I’m just laughing in the corner.”
This underestimation perhaps worked in Cuoco’s favor, with few really expecting her move from lowbrow sitcom girl to the heroine of a drama-comedy-thriller series. It mirrored her character’s journey, and she knocked it out of the park. Now, The Flight Attendant is back, and season 2 is pushing Cassie’s story even further.
Who is behind The Flight Attendant season 2?
Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, The Flight Attendant was optioned by Cuoco’s own production company, Yes, Norman Productions, in 2017 prior to the book’s publication.
“One night, I was swiping through upcoming books on Amazon and saw The Flight Attendant,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I read one sentence and called my attorney: ‘Have you heard of this book? And, if you have, did Reese Witherspoon get the rights?’”
Photo: Julia Terjung/HBO Max
Producer Greg Berlanti (Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, to name a few of his projects) came on board in 2019, along with Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me, Booksmart), who directed the pilot.
Originally conceived as a limited series, the runaway success of the first season — which premiered Thanksgiving weekend 2020 and sustained many of us through the first bleak pandemic winter — led producers to explore a possible second season. Season 2 (which was quickly ordered after the first season finale) departs from the source material, which the first season hewed pretty closely to.
Joining first-season showrunner Steve Yockey (Awkward, Supernatural) is Natalie Chaidez (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, showrunner of Queen of the South) after the departures of season 1 co-showrunners Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin. “They had only signed on for a year, not realizing exactly how insane it was going to get with COVID and the pandemic pause in production, as they like to call it at the studio,” Yockey told The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top Five podcast.
What’s it about?
The first season kicks off with a bang: Cassie wakes up in a Bangkok hotel next to the dead body of Alex (Michiel Huisman), a guy she’d partied with the night before. Not remembering what happened and what role she might have played in his death, she cleans up the crime scene and hops on a plane out of there and back to work — before getting embroiled in an international spy caper.
At the start of season 2, she’s a year sober, has a loving photographer boyfriend Marco (Star Trek Picard’s Santiago Cabrera), a supportive sponsor Brenda (Shohreh Aghdashloo of The Expanse), and her brother Davey (T.R. Knight) and friends Annie (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Deniz Akdeniz) come to visit her in the Golden State … all while she’s also moonlighting as a CIA informant (because of course she is).
Though she seems happy and settled to those around her, espionage work isn’t done putting her through the wringer. Someone is impersonating her, and her former flight attendant colleague and friend Megan (Rosie Perez) is on the run and in danger. Plus Sharon Stone is there as Cassie’s caustic, estranged mother. What fun!
What’s it really about?
With the Alex storyline seemingly resolved and Cassie getting sober, it was always going to be interesting to see how the mind palace, a crucial plot element which Alex was at the center of, transitioned into the second season.
I’m happy to say the plot device manages to reach new heights, using different versions of Cassie throughout her life — traumatized teen Cassie; season 1 Cassie in her gold dress from that life-changing night in Bangkok; rock-bottom Cassie; living-her-best-life Cassie, etc. — in place of Alex, who acted as a guide for a real and clueless Cassie. Now that she’s a bit more sure of herself and her spy side hustle (at least outwardly), she takes steps towards realizing that it was in her all along.
Photo: Julia Terjung/HBO Max
These doppelgängers seem to function as a form of therapy for Cassie, while also reflecting the actual doppelgängers Cassie is faced with in the real world. The Orphan Black of it all results in a kind of identity crisis for Cassie. She’s always been good at masquerading a life other people think is glamorous — after all, what got Megan into trouble in the first place was wanting to be more like Cassie. Cassie thought she could escape it all by moving to a new city where everyone looks shiny and happy on the outside, but there’s a dark underbelly lurking beneath. As the season often reminds us, things aren’t always as they seem on the surface.
Is it good?
It’s really fun to watch Cassie get her international woman of mystery on as she flits between Los Angeles, Berlin, and Reykjavík trying to figure out who’s impersonating her and to what end. The fashions, too, are on point, melding LA cool while still finding use for Cassie’s impeccable coats from season 1.
But what this season excels at is Cuoco’s character work as Cassie — not only as all the alternate versions of her in the mind palace, but also as the real-world version of her, who’s working through her trauma, addiction, and self-sabotaging tendencies.
Season 1 spent plenty of time focusing on Cassie’s destructive, alcoholic father and how her upbringing influenced her actions. With the introduction of Cassie’s mom this season, who appears to be doing just fine without Cassie in her life, Cassie gets another glimpse into how her life could play out: nothing fancy, but having reached a level of contentment by eliminating toxic people (like her daughter) from her life.
Photo: Jennifer Rose Clasen/HBO Max
Photo: Jennifer Rose Clasen/HBO Max
Cassie’s journey is intercontinental, yes, but it’s also one of self-discovery and healing. She does some truly reprehensible things (not quite as bad as season 1, but it’s Cassie, so take that with a grain of salt); however, Cuoco plays her so empathetically that it’s hard not to sympathize with her as she tries to get her shit together. The actor’s two-plus decades of experience in the industry are on display here, as she effortlessly flits between the drama of burning her personal life down and the more traditional comedy elements when the reality of just how wild her life has become hits her. The multiple versions of Cassie in the mind palace grant the character more dimension than we might’ve otherwise seen, but no matter where you pause an episode, you’re likely to see Cuoco’s expressive face perfectly hamming it up.
Should I binge The Flight Attendant?
Given the way season 1 snowballed into a hit, is it worth it to stay on top of every Flight Attendant twist from week to week?
HBO Max seems to be of two minds about the binge-or-follow theory itself, dropping double episodes for the first two weeks to get viewers hooked, then transitioning into a weekly rollout for the remaining four episodes. I’m a fan of the binge, having consumed the first season over Christmas after everyone else was talking about it, and binged all of the episodes made available for review (which crucially didn’t include the last two). I guess I’ll be forced to see how the follow model works out for me and, indeed, The Flight Attendant, when the final two episodes of season 2 drop on May 19 and May 26, respectively.
So far it appears to be a frothy mystery that the viewer doesn’t ever really have to think too hard about. Returning favorites like Annie, Max, and Megan ground the series in what originally drew viewers to it, while new characters (with an honorable mention to the always-enjoyable Alanna Ubach, who is really experiencing a renaissance right now) shake things up, making The Flight Attendant season 2 an enjoyable weekend afternoon binge. That way you won’t have to wait as long for the answers to Cassie’s mystery.
Where can I watch The Flight Attendant season 2?
The Flight Attendant season 2 premieres on HBO Max on April 21. New episodes drop every Thursday.