TV Viewpoint: St. Patrick’s Day and The Flight Attendant

Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened; Sky One’s new comedy-thriller is one bumpy ride

LAST week was one of those most disorienting collection of random days. Having a mini-weekend slap bang in the middle of the working week was most welcome, but it also induced a Christmas-like discombobulation; I know I woke up with that Monday feeling on Thursday and it took the whole weekend to re-set.

It didn’t help that if you switched on RTE One after the news and weather to watch the Late, Late on Friday, you were instead met with a low-rated adventure movie starring Kate Winslet. Tubs had instead set up shop on Wednesday (are you still with me?) to host the show in honour of our national saint’s day.

With nowhere to go on St. Patrick’s Day evening, sure what else would you have been doing? It all kicked off with the NYPD band, playing the iconic theme tune from New York, before escalating into a jaunty tune to which members of the Irish diaspora contributed from the far reaches of the globe.

Not going to lie, that kind of thing gets me every time, and this was no exception. From fiddle to flute, Berlin to the Great Wall of China, people played their chosen instruments individually before they were sliced together to form a whole. It was a nice reminder that no matter where we are, we’re connected, and a day like St. Patrick’s Day can serve that purpose in a lovely, inclusive way.

Speaking about jetting off around the globe, we got to live vicariously through Kaley Cuoco’s cabin crew character in The Flight Attendant, Sky One’s new buzzed about comedy/drama/thriller that began last Friday night.

Having flirted on a flight from New York to Bangkok, a first-class passenger and flight attendant feel sparks fly. A consequent night of wining and dining results not in a romance for the ages, however, but in grizzly murder, and, with no memory of what happened, a panicked escape from the blood-strewn hotel room for our titular heroine.

Kaley Cuoco plays Cassie, the hard-partying air stewardess, with a spark and talent for darker introspection not exactly evidenced before in her most famous role, that of Penny in The Big Bang Theory. She’s really rather good, striking a fine balance between comedy and drama, which is just as well considering she is very much the central character, and on screen about 90% of the time.

Capably supported by a cast that includes Rosie Perez as Cassie’s friend and colleague with secrets of her own, Ani (Zosia Mamet), her lawyer friend and Michiel Huisman as the murdered love interest, who continues to recur in jolting flashback fantasies; a ghost of sorts, on hand to help Cassie put together the puzzle of the lost night.

She decides to embark on her own investigation, and along the way starts to come to terms with childhood trauma and her increasingly worrying dependency on alcohol. The show isn’t afraid to go to dark places, tinged with a bit of very dark humour, so be wary if you’re of a disposition that is triggered easily.

There are surreal moments, including the sometimes dream-like, often more nightmarish conversations with the dead guy, and flashbacks to Cassie and her brother’s childhood, meaning the audience is very much in Cassie’s head much of the time.

Side stories are worked in, such as the official FBI investigation into the death, and her co-worker’s own slightly shady plotline, but it’s mostly very much the Cassie show, which could have been a problem in less capable hands.

After an absence of a few years, opening title credits seem to be having a resurgence, and those for The Flight Attendant are great; an animated sequence set against 60s style spy-movie music, they reveal numerous clues as to what to look out for.

There’s a recurring theme of rabbits, of dreams and out-of-body disassociating. There’s also a smart investigation into the nature of memory, especially shared memories and their often-differing recollections, and those skewed by the effects of a hard night’s drinking.

The Flight Attendant is ultimately quite the caper, and while it deals with hefty topics it’s also very funny. All of the parts make a really cohesive whole, that pay off into a thrilling and engaging hour’s worth of television.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 24.03.21

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