Based on Chris Bohjalian’s novel of the same name, “The Flight Attendant” follows the impulsive title airline employee Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) as she suddenly finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery, unsure of where she fits into the picture. Reckless and rash, she’s forced on the run from both the authorities and her own alcoholism-fueled trauma, which keeps resurfacing as she struggles to make sense of how her life careened so far off the runway.
Initially conceived as a limited series, the Emmy-winning show — also starring Zosia Mamet, Rosie Perez, Griffin Matthews and Deniz Akdeniz — will be back with a second season on April 21. Joining Season 2 as a new cast member is Sharon Stone, who will play Cassie’s estranged mother. In store is a new murder mystery with Cassie, now a civilian asset for the CIA, at its center. Below, we recap all of the mess — more specifically, the murder, mayhem and memory loss — of Season 1.
“In Case of Emergency”
A series of montages and split frames set to “Good Time Girl” by Sofi Tukker effectively establishes our anti-heroine Cassie as a jet-setting, hard-partying flight attendant, which is just really a nice way of saying that she’s almost certainly a complete mess.
On one fateful flight to Bangkok, she befriends and flirts with a handsome business class passenger named Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman). And no, she’s totally not going to hook up with him, she tells her coworkers Megan (Perez) and Shane (Matthews), but, also, yeah, she’s so totally going to hook up with him. And no one can blame her for this — that is, until she wakes up in a hotel room the following morning next to his dead body.
In a rush of panic so visceral as to send every audience member into a tizzy (not unlike one experienced after extreme turbulence), she haphazardly cleans up the crime scene (bad) and very conspicuously flees the hotel (worse) in attire that can only be described as “I’m clearly running from the authorities” meets “Hollywood’s Golden Age” chic (the worst).
Soon enough the FBI is notified of Alex’s murder, leading special agents Kim (Merle Dandridge) and Van (Nolan Gerard Funk) to interview Cassie and her flight attendant crew as soon as they land in New York City. In another horrible decision that will inevitably lend itself to future horrible decisions yet to be made, Cassie attempts to run away from FBI questioning. While lying through her teeth (or at least, trying her best to do so) during the interrogation, she recalls that another woman had joined her and Alex’s festivities that night.
As can be expected, Cassie is extremely unwell. Nearing a mental breakdown, she alternates between vivid hallucinations of Alex in the hotel room, who is guiding her through possible whodunnit clues, and her childhood, which is colored by a tumultuous memory of hunting rabbits with her father. While disorienting, these substance-fueled PTSD flashback-cum-hallucinations prove useful as she stumbles through a vast, unraveling criminal conspiracy.
Enlisting the help of her corporate lawyer friend Ani (Mamet), she attempts to knock herself out of the running as the Prime Suspect. Not even remotely sticking to the plan, she lets the FBI know about Miranda (Michelle Gomez), the other woman with Alex, begging them to look into her instead.
Meanwhile, she’s been doing some extralegal sleuthing herself, heading to Alex’s workplace, Unisphere Asset Management, to inquire about Miranda (this time armed with a pseudonym as a poor method of disguising herself — hey, she has range!). While the receptionist there, Sabrina (Stephanie Koenig), is less than eager to give her answers upon hearing Miranda’s name, Cassie later forces her to open up between drinks at a bar. According to her, Miranda is Alex’s violent stalker ex. Convinced that Miranda is the killer, Cassie leaves the bar, unaware that she’s being followed by Miranda herself.
Against all sense and reason, Cassie attends Alex’s funeral, dragging an unwitting Shane along with her. Despite Ani’s assurance that she should let her handle the situation as her lawyer, Cassie pokes around further, especially after learning that Sabrina is now claiming to have never heard of Miranda.
While at the memorial service, it’s revealed that the Sokolovs are involved in shady business dealings, as evidenced by a reference to shredded Lionfish files, which Cassie — having ignored Ani’s phone call warnings all evening — barely manages to confiscate before getting caught. She’s rescued after Ani pulls strings with a criminal (possibly mob-related) client of hers to bail Cassie out of the situation.
The funeral also stokes long-buried memories of Cassie’s father’s own funeral and forces her to begin confronting her alcoholism, which began as a pre-teen. Entrenched in her own chaos, she also starts realizing just how incognizant she’s been of her loved ones’ lives, failing to keep her commitments with her older brother Davey (Knight), missing out on Ani new label-free relationship with Max (Akdeniz) and not following up on Megan’s personal life (of corporate espionage, more on that later).
To make matters worse, the end of Episode 3 sees her once again confronted by Miranda — this time on a moving train.
Once again escaping from Miranda’s clutches, Cassie enlists Max’s help to untangle the mystery of Lionfish. As it turns out, Alex served on the company’s board and was involved in what appears to be a rocket launcher smuggling operation via an airline called Minute Jets (try saying that five times fast).
In her downtime — you know, between piecing together backdoor corporate transactions and avoiding certain death vis-a-vis Miranda’s switchblade — Cassie connects with Davey, along with his husband and children at the aquarium. When she sidesteps his wishes and secretly gifts them toys, the two have a fight featuring an appearance from all the skeletons hiding in their respective (and resentful) closets: Davey claims Cassie romanticizes her relationship with their alcoholic, anti-gay father, alleging he called her the “son he never had,” and she accuses him of abandoning her as soon as he turned 18. A later flashback reveals Davey’s version of events is accurate; in the memory, their father drunkenly makes a scene at a local event after pushing Davey to the ground, with Cassie defending his actions and further belittling Davey.
Burying those uncomfortable, resurfaced memories, she pursues a date with Buckley (Colin Woodell), a man she hooked up with earlier in Episode 2. Before they can get very far into their evening, she seeks out Sabrina once more at Buckley’s behest, not knowing that Miranda is already paying her a visit at her apartment. Upon realizing the gravity of the situation, she bolts outside to dial 911, only for Sabrina to plummet to her death right next to her.
“Other People’s Houses”
Desperate for clear answers (and to clear her name), Cassie blabs to the FBI everything she knows about the Sokolovs — including that the family is involved in a money laundering scheme. As Ani deals with the fallout of bailing out Cassie, risking disbarment, the latter enlists Max’s help to hack into Lionfish servers; the duo discover a slew of IDs belonging to now-deceased individuals, along with Miranda’s (listed as “Elena King”) and Cassie’s, both marked “pending.” (Not worrisome at all.)
Before Max and Cassie can finish transferring the files to their handy-dandy Hello Kitty flash drive, an error message pops up alerting them that they’ve been traced. They race out of the building toward a dark alley, where a speeding car crashes into Max, who had pushed Cassie out of the way to take the brunt of the hit.
With Max in the hospital gravely injured but recovering, Ani drops Cassie as her client and friend, telling her she’s had enough of her mess and is tired of helping her (later, Ani also tenders her resignation). Turning to her regular scheduled programming of alcohol and avoidance, Cassie agrees to meet up with Buckley (because no one else will return her call) for a series of extremely questionable escapades.
However, resolving to smooth matters over with Ani, Buckley and Cassie crash her apartment, which results in an even worse blowout: Ani says their friendship only works because they’re not honest to each other about the fact that she is a liar and that Cassie is a drunk, adding that she no longer has the emotional bandwidth to fight with her. Cassie retorts that Ani will be sorry when she winds up dead.
Having hit rock bottom, Cassie and Buckley decide to steal a chained-up baby pink mechanical pony, only to be caught by the police and put in jail for the petty (and pathetic) misdemeanor attempt. Reevaluating her life, Cassie confronts her memories of her childhood with accuracy, seeing the true nature of her father’s abuse toward her brother and herself, and how his addiction traumatized them all. She uses her one phone call to make amends with her brother, apologizing for her past denial and finally confronting the gaps in her past.
Cassie — having unexpectedly posted bail — is no longer able to outrun Miranda, coming face-to-face with her (and her gun) outside of jail.
Turns out, Miranda’s good people! Funny story — Miranda was initially convinced that Cassie was more than just a flight attendant and had, in fact, murdered Alex. Whew, crisis averted! Except, not really.
Miranda reveals that she met Alex only weeks earlier over drinks, where she complained about her boss, the mysterious Victor (Ritchie Coster). It was only then, when she had revealed too much about a smuggling operation, that Alex first found out about his parents’ shady side business. Trying to play the hero, he stole back some of his clients’ money and flew to Bangkok, unaware that his actions would lead to certain death via assassination.
Now teamed up, Cassie and Miranda pay a visit to Ani, who resolves her feud with the former and promises to come up with a plan. Miranda, not one for playing a sitting duck, resolves to flee to Canada to escape Victor’s assassin, Feliks, who is surely on his way to kill them both. Before that, she arranges to meet with a contact of hers at a local church. While there, Cassie has a vivid flashback of her father’s death, who was killed in a drunk driving accident with her in the car. In a hallucination with Alex, Cassie reveals that she hasn’t told anyone that she blames herself for her father’s death, especially given that she was his “drinking buddy” at a young age. No longer wanting to run from her problems, Cassie decides to stay.
Eventually, Cassie realizes that the encrypted account numbers with the hidden money were scribbled in Alex’s “Crime and Punishment” novel, which is back at Ani’s apartment. The unlikely duo head there to retrieve it, only to be stopped in their tracks by Feliks attempting to break down the door. On the run, they lose the book, and Miranda laments their impending death at the hands of the psychopathic killer, who she says is ruthless enough to have strung up dead cats on trees. The comment once again triggers Cassie’s memory, who recalls Buckley telling her of a neighbor who did exactly that. From their hiding spot, she spots Feliks, who is — drum roll, please — actually Buckley. Swallowing her shock, Cassie hatches a plan to use her upcoming flight (and upper-hand knowledge of Buckley’s identity) to Rome to lure Feliks/Buckley to his death.
Cassie and Miranda head to Rome, only for the latter to scrap the plan to deal with Victor, whom she eventually shoots. While on the flight, Cassie — now on her own to take down Feliks — nervously hoards alcohol bottles, which causes already tense relations between her and Megan to flare up. Once they land in Italy, Megan helps break up a confrontation between Cassie and Buckley. Later, the two reconcile and Megan unloads the entirety of her situation — that she sorta unwittingly engaged in corporate espionage for North Korea against her husband, Bill, who works for a tech company that does government contracts. Cassie also clues Megan into her whirlwind life as of late.
In Rome, Cassie manages to secure a gun from a friend of hers, and travels back into the recesses of her memory to assure her younger self that she’s not at fault for her father’s death. She also ends her flashback trysts with a bloodied Alex, choosing to remember him prior to his slit throat, and the two share a kiss before she returns to reality.
Freshening up in her hotel bathroom, she notices something off in the bathtub. Pulling back the curtain, Cassie sees an unconscious Miranda before noticing Feliks, who grabs her before she can escape. A fight ensues, during which Feliks admits he killed Alex (and Sabrina and FBI agent Chavez) and has been following Cassie around in various disguises. While Cassie manages to let out a shot that grazes his leg, Shane unexpectedly arrives on the scene and incapacitates Feliks with a clean shot, revealing that he’s a CIA agent who was tasked with monitoring Megan’s illicit activities. Cassie asks if Miranda is OK, but Shane tells her that no one else was found in the room. Buckley and Cassie’s friend, who foolishly tried to come to her rescue amid the fight, are both wheeled out on stretchers.
Back in the U.S., Cassie reconciles with her older brother and Ani, with whom she grabs breakfast to air out their grievances. Ani jokes that they can collect unemployment checks together and one day will laugh about this time in their lives over drinks. At this, Cassie reveals that the FBI cleared up her situation with Imperial Atlantic and she has a flight the next day; more importantly, she holds up an AA chip, saying that she’s trying to quit drinking.
Reaching for a wallet to pay for their meal, Cassie unearths the elusive “Crime and Punishment” book. She discovers the page with the account numbers is missing, with a note from Miranda saying she took the money but believed Cassie should keep the book. Cassie races outside, but Miranda is nowhere to be found. Elsewhere, Megan — running from the government — tearfully instructs her son, Eli, to the location of several rolls of hundred-dollar bills stashed in the house and promises she will fix everything.
The following day, Cassie boards her flight and is surprised to find Shane there, who cryptically assures her that he’s there for work. He adds that his boss may be in touch with her regarding the CIA’s human asset program. Finally in the clear, Cassie journeys into the depths of her mind one last time, turning off the lights in the Bangkok hotel room, signifying that she’s putting the whole traumatic affair to bed.