Like an expert bartender mixing the perfect drink, everything about The Flight Attendant seems specifically crafted to draw you in.
A drama all about a reckless, drunken flight attendant waking up with a dead body in her bed? And that drunken mess being played by Kaley Cuoco, TV’s queen of relatable messes? Yes, please.
But it’s the series’ awareness of its own craziness that makes HBO Max’s new original, which hits streaming locally on Binge on November 26, such a triumph. The Flight Attendant knows that it’s an addictive cocktail of a show, and it never overstays its drama-riddled welcome.
Developed by Steve Yockey and executive produced by Cuoco and Greg Berlanti, the miniseries is based on the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian.
Both the series and the novel follow Cassandra Bowden, a booze-soaked heap of a person who loves to party and travel. Her life spent clubbing around the world is something she takes pride in until one morning when she wakes up in Bangkok, hungover, and laying next to the bloody corpse of her latest hook-up. As Cassie flees the scene she has to figure out what really happened during her blacked out haze to clear her name – and along the way she’ll also have to question her relationship with her favourite vice, drinking.
It’s a story that’s practically made for the episodic world of television, but it’s Cuoco’s performance that truly sells the show.
It was always a running joke that The Big Bang Theory’s Penny was a messy party girl, but the sitcom only showed the network version of that trope. In The Flight Attendant, Cuoco completely lets loose, and the result is an absolute joy to watch.
Cuoco commits to Cassie’s constantly terrible ideas fully, flinging herself from cleaning up a crime scene to having a panic attack in an aeroplane bathroom. Every one of Cassie’s decisions is dumber than the last, yet Cuoco sells her unending desperation so well you can’t help feeling sorry for her, just as you’re screaming for her to stop.
Part of that has to do with the demons Cuoco’s performance so expertly hides. In the first moments of The Flight Attendant, Cassie’s hard drinking and constantly partying ways feel like something that can be shrugged off with a laugh. Downing a shot while serving customers at work? That’s just Cassie.
Yet as she dives deeper into this murder it becomes more and more difficult to brush off Cassie’s constant need for a bottle. This woman undoubtedly has a drinking problem, yet Cuoco does an excellent job of using her charm to cover up that dark truth just enough so that you always fall under Cassie’s spell, just like everyone else in her life.
Those others speak to another one of The Flight Attendant’s strengths – its supporting cast. Rosie Perez co-stars as Cassie’s work best friend Megan, and Zosia Mamet plays her real best friend, Ani the lawyer.
Perez has always been one of those actors who delivers, and yet is criminally underutilised in Hollywood. As Megan, Perez is charmingly bumbling enough to make you love her while somehow always feeling like an unpredictable threat. And Mamet serves the spoonful of Girls’ sass this series desperately needs. As the frank, sarcastic, and millennial chic Ani, Mamet consistently adds fun back into the series’ most stressful moments.
Now more than ever we need shows that are all-consuming and addicting while also being fun and light. On every count The Flight Attendant excels. Like a night plastered at your favourite bar, it may not be the most important or essential show this year. But, god, is it a blast.
The Flight Attendant drops on Binge on November 26.
This story originally appeared on Decider and is republished here with permission.