When the HBO Max series “The Flight Attendant” premiered in the fall of 2020, it did so as a “limited series” based on the 2018 Chris Bohjalian novel of the same name. One-part spy thriller, one-part millennial comedy and one-part (surprisingly, as the season progressed) character study, the Steve Yockey-developed show ended in a way that managed to both wrap up the main mystery (and technically “fix” the main character as she finally confronted her issues with alcohol and their origins) and pave the way for a follow-up season, even with the limited series descriptor still hanging over it.
Of course, the day after the finale dropped, HBO Max announced that “The Flight Attendant” Season 2 was cleared for takeoff. Considering past mixed results of expanding limited series into multi-season shows (looking at you, “Big Little Lies”), trepidation was understandable. But based on the first six episodes of “The Flight Attendant” Season 2 (there are eight in total), it’s clear that the right choice was made in extending this series’ stay.
Season 2 works overtime to avoid the sophomore slump, as the story begins a year after the events of Season 1, with Kaley Cuoco’s Cassie Bowden now nearly a year sober, living in Los Angeles and in a pretty good relationship with a photographer named Marco (Santiago Cabrera). She also did take her fellow flight attendant-slash-CIA agent Shane (Griffin Matthews) up on the opportunity to become a civilian asset for CIA, which sets the stage for the troubles that follow as the season begins.
It takes a bit of adjusting to get used to the lighter aesthetic of Season 2 as reflected in the move from New York City Los Angeles, but the shift towards a sunnier disposition coincides with Cassie’s goal for this season: “I’m trying to be a better person. I’m trying to be different and new and make better decisions.”
“The Flight Attendant” is clearly a show that wishes the best for its lead character and wants the audience to root for her and her success, but it’s also pretty honest (as the first season showed as it revealed Cassie’s backstory) with the fact that Cassie has a long way to truly being well, even if she seemingly does everything right.
Whether the move (as well as Cassie’s sobriety) actually allows for that to truly happen or not is what the season is constantly interrogating. And “Seeing Double” is the type of premiere episode where, with the changes, the audience has to interrogate whether or not the show still has “it.”
The Hitchcockian influence has not changed with the switch from limited to full-fledged series. Cassie Bowden is still the show’s warped, contemporary depiction of a “Hitchcock Blonde,” and where the first season was primarily a story of wrongful accusation, this second season, naturally, is a Hitchcockian story of mistaken identity and doubles. And the fugitive component is also still strong in this season, as Megan (Rosie Perez) remains on the run for treason.
This season truly hinges on the doubles aspect, not just in the main and even side plots but within Cassie’s “mind palace.” The mental space that was previously occupied by the deceased Alex (Michiel Huisman) in the first season is now occupied by various versions of Cassie, none of whom the present version of Cassie wants to think about.
Season 2 isn’t without its hiccups. The Megan plot provides openings for great work from Perez, Cuoco, and others, but the story was already the weakest of the first season, and that trend continues in Season 2. The season also introduces a criminal couple known as the Diazes (played by Callie Hernandez and J.J. Soria) who unintentionally come across as more bumbling than intimidating. And while Cassie’s close friendships with Annie (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Deniz Akdeniz) continue to be a highlight of the series — both as the season provides some insight into how Cassie and Annie’s friendship is slightly different with a sober Cassie, and as the season allows Annie and Max to continue to actually be useful for spycraft — there are also moments where it’s clear that maintaining the lightness of those friendships in a pretty dark show will remain a struggle.
It’s not that “The Flight Attendant’ has reached an “Alias” place where it can’t properly balance Cassie’s spy storylines and personal life, but there are moments where the tone feels off considering all that’s happening. And in “The Flight Attendant” Season 2, a lot is happening.
The first two episodes of “The Flight Attendant” Season 2 are now streaming on HBO Max, with new episodes released every Thursday.