With old fashioned espionage, and psychological segues packed into season 2 of The Flight Attendant, audiences should lap it up.
This second outing for the Sky original series, which airs from 26 May, is once again headlined by Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco on solid form as Cassie Bowden — an airline hostess with more than passenger safety and light refreshments on her mind.
Kicking off in the shadow of season one, audiences encounter an AA-attending Cassie who has sworn off alcohol, but continues to carry out covert activities for her CIA handler Ben (Mo McRae).
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With new boyfriend Marco (Santiago Cabrera), old friend Annie (Zosia Mamet) and fiancée Max (Deniz Akdeniz) all in tow, this series hits the ground running.
From the outset Kaley Cuoco imbues her creation with an awkward charisma which keeps those more outlandish elements grounded. Not only making her more relatable, but allowing audiences to buy into the plot driven psychological segues which prove so crucial. Which in turn adds more fuel to the fire dramatically, as various versions of Cassie take shape simultaneously.
The self-same technique which elevated The Flight Attendant in its first run, also challenges Cuoco this time round to play out different facets of Cassie’s sub-conscious. Leaning into some serious Hitchcock homage in the process, while embracing split screen framing, Sixties incidental music and a central premise straight from classic film noirs.
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What also becomes apparent, is how many thematic threads creator Steve Yockey and his team of writers are juggling this time round. Either those playing out in exotic far flung destinations, or others closer to home which all revolve around Cassie and her mild bouts of schizophrenia.
Having been placed in an impossible predicament for season one, by waking up alongside a dead man, this second run needed to up the ante. Either by increasing the fear factor or expanding on established plot threads from that first outing. A feat, which in the first two episodes at least, The Flight Attendant rarely achieves despite some extremely frenetic pacing.
If anything, that need to keep things moving at an almost breakneck speed, never allows Cassie to really slow down long enough for audiences to engage. Although Cuoco has obviously made this role her own and delivers a fine performance, that need to use every facet of this world to create crisis makes it feel cluttered.
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For that reason, this thinly written ensemble never has a chance to make an impression as car bombs, doppelgängers and domestic issues all jockey for attention at once. Meaning that, as a whole, this second go round walks a precarious line between style over substance, despite the darker sub-plots centred on long term sobriety. That being said, based on this evidence a third season might be on the cards, even if the road to get there feels contrived.
In many ways The Flight Attendant harks back to a simpler time of character driven espionage thrillers, when subterfuge and secrets were worth trading in. This is what the show does best, recalling a heyday of globetrotting shenanigans, when resourceful agents brought down evil empires.
Whether the momentum of those opening episodes can be maintained long enough to keep audiences interested is another question. Since Cassie is now a fully-fledged CIA civilian asset, whether she is able to balance her personal and professional life is an overarching question which dominates proceedings.
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However, season two remains engaging because creator Steve Yockey and his writers really embrace the thriller elements of this story, by maintaining a balance between her various psychological states. Even if on occasion, that means the story requires graph paper and a pen to follow.
Unfortunately, every other plot line is given short thrift, including an ill-served Rosie Perez as Megan Briscoe, who features fleetingly in early episodes. Meaning that any plaudits this second season garners will not only rest squarely on Kaley Cuoco, but rely upon her popularity with audiences worldwide.
Thankfully, The Flight Attendant remains an entertaining thriller because of that, proving she can flourish outside of The Big Bang Theory. She possesses a natural on-screen presence which is able to capture comedy and exploit dramatic nuance without feeling stereotypical.
Beyond that, if audiences can forgive the flaws and foibles of this second season, then The Flight Attendant still has much to offer.
It might not reinvent the wheel when it comes to long form espionage thrillers, but Kaley Cuoco proves yet again, to be an actor of innate versatility. Not only delivering a performance with dramatic range, but lacing that with comedic touches which hark back to her sitcom roots with affection.
The Flight Attendant season 2 launches on Sky and NOW from 26 May. Watch a trailer below.