Unpacking Season 1 of The Flight Attendant - Episode 1

This is Part 1 of a blog series about The Flight Attendant. I will be posting my response to each episode after watching, and doing a bit of 'on the fly' analysis after each initial viewing. Be warned: since the plot will be discussed, there are spoilers ahead!

The Flight Attendant - Episode 1 - 'In Case of Emergency'

Creator: Steve Yockey

Director: Susanna Fogel

I went into The Flight Attendant with very little prior knowledge of what it is about. I was aware that it stars Kaley Cuoco, knowing her from 8 Simple Rules but mainly her role as Penny on The Big Bang Theory - much like the rest of the world, I imagine. I had seen stills (like the one above) but no other promotional material like trailers or official posters. I hadn't even read the brief description on Now TV. The opening sequence of episode one of The Flight Attendant had me under the impression that the show was going to be a romp around the world with Kaley as she hopped from country to country with her job - like a multi-city rom com drama, or Sex and the City but in the air. How wrong I was!

With a title sequence clearly inspired by Mad Men, its central motif of a falling silhouette surrounded by menacing eyes points to a much more sinister fall from grace for the main character, Cassie Bowden. There is a very sudden shift in the first episode from Cassie's promiscuous lifestyle, to the seriousness of waking up to a dead man. Alcohol features prominently throughout, and the impact of partying in different time zones is never hidden from the viewer - in one of the first scenes Cassie wakes up on the subway and comes home to a man in her bed whose name she can't remember. There are also constant digs from her cabin crew workmates. However, never so grave is the moment that she wakes up to her date, Alex Sokolov, in his swanky Bangkok hotel with a slit throat surrounded by his blood.

The episode is tonally interesting; as mentioned above, there are lots of shifts between Cassie's chipper 'date ready' countenance as she bounds around another city in between flight shifts, and despair as she struggles to comprehend her predicament and how to deal with it. There are daydream sequences where Cassie steps outside of reality and back to the hotel room to the scene of the crime, as well as surrealist moments from the protagonist's perspective with a moving shrimp canvas and dead man waking to converse with her, post-death.

Stylistically, the episode makes several bold choices. It regularly uses a split screen to show the same location from two or more angles/viewpoints. The score is equally as distinctive with frenetic high pitched piano as its main feature, echoing the chaos and pace of the lead character's life. The symbolic codes of the costuming are equally as intriguing, with an asymmetric panel design for the cabin crew, which reinforces the 'split' nature of the character, or perhaps simply the double life she leads in terms of professional expectations and the discordant reality.

Zosia Mamet plays Ani Mouradian, a friend of Cassie's who she speaks to on the phone. I loved her in HBO's Girls so I'm looking forward to seeing more of her in this. My prediction is that she gets wrapped up in the 'case', or helps Cassie to cover her tracks given her legal know-how. Ani is the first person Cassie speaks to when she wakes up in the hotel room, and she gives her hypothetical advice and it made me consider what I might do in that situation, especially considering the complications that dealing with police in another country may bring.

At the end of this first episode, I am definitely hooked on The Flight Attendant. The central character is compelling to watch and the narrative has been set up with plenty for the audience to start speculating over. I'm not sure which sub-genre of TV drama I would place it in yet either: it has elements of crime and comedy which work together successfully. The fact that Season 1 is only eight episodes is even more of a bonus - it's a moderate commitment to make for any TV buff! I will aim to watch one episode a day, but if you really wanted to, you could easily binge this series in a day.

What questions do I have at the end of episode one? Who is the woman in the red dress? Why introduce the childhood flashbacks? Did Cassie's dad encourage the drinking of alchohol at an early age?

What predictions do I have at the end of episode one? Cassie has a personality disorder or could be bi-polar (this is strongly mirrored in the technical codes like the split screen technique mentioned above) - this could be a long term effect of her alcoholism.


You can stream The Flight Attendant on Now TV or HBO Max now.

Read Part 2 of the blog series here: Unpacking Season 1 of The Flight Attendant - Episode 2.

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