Unpacking Season 1 of The Flight Attendant - Episode 6
This is Part 6 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 6 - 'After Dark'
Creator: Steve Hockey
Director: Batan Silva
Darkness dominates this episode, and we will get to how and why later, but first just a moment to appreciate Zosia Mamet's performance as Ani Mouradian, especially in the hospital scenes in this episode (Max is in surgery so he's not dead!). The composure she maintains opposite Cuoco's instability, while also demonstrating distress in her own way with a short outburst is truly brilliant. She embodies a friend who has been pushed beyond their limits despite years of patience and trying and plays the role so convincingly.
Near the start of the episode, the split screen divides into six and Cassie's inner dialogue with Alex feels like more of a burden than a help. She can't escape the room they're in and the whole frame tilts 90 degrees in a shot not a million miles removed from Nolan's rotating Inception hallway scene. The previous episode foreshadowed the idea of Cassie being unable to escape herself with the mirror shot below, but in this episode she is faced with a bigger version of this with a mirrored hallway which has no end in sight. The visual metaphors become even more intense as these disturbing thoughts are interspersed with desaturated memories of childhood. When combined in this way, the implication is that Cassie's trauma doesn't just stem from the events in Bangkok (or even the last week), but from a guilt ignited early in her childhood.
In her desperation, Cassie meets up with Buckley who provides the perfect companion for day drinking, starting with bottomless brunch. This sounds glamorous à la Sex and the City, but immediately becomes sordid when it ends with Buckley removing his trousers and them being asked to leave. He is so into her that he sees past the tragedy and goes along with anything she wants to do - he isn't able to acknowledge the self-torment and appears to interpret the rashness as fun and free spirit. It's a shame because in any other version of Cassie's life, they both could have been having innocent, genuine fun but at the moment he is fulfilling his role as her 'play thing', as Ani calls him. His 'support' of Cassie is sweet but unfortunately very misguided.
Dolly Parton's aptly named 'Here You Come Again' plays after the bartender sees that Cassie is in his bar and she immediately begins to dance along to it. For those listening to the lyrics, "Here you come again / Just when I've begun to get myself together / You waltz right in the door / Just like you've done before / And wrap my heart 'round your little finger," the first verse could relate to a number of people: Alex Sokolov, Cassie's dad, Cassie herself. It's a very interesting choice of track. Inside the bar, as Cassie and Buckley continue to drink, the colour palette has developed from last episode's bright neons to a more sinister emphasis on red: a strip of lights lines the wall along the booths in the bar, a red tea light candle provides a tint of red on their faces, and, as predicted, there is more blood in this episode at the hands of Miranda. Cassie, too, is more of a danger to herself than ever. Besides the questionable actions and destroyed relationships, her look is more dishevelled than we've seen before; she sports a loose pony tail and colourless clothing. Gone is the sparkly gold dress and in is the oversized grey cardigan. It may be a surface level connotation, but these choices say a lot about the psyche of the character.
Cassie and Buckley end up in jail after 'freeing' a chained children's horse (made of plastic). The manic episode that she has while in the holding cell is a recollection of memories that lead to a epiphany of sorts. For the audience, it is confirmed that Cassie's father is indeed abusive - not just as a bully of his son and for giving his young daughter beer as a reward, but there is evidence of physical and emotional abuse, severe neglect and hate speech towards his own son. This stint in jail is a far cry from the glamour of being a flight attendant in the first episode and could be seen as Cassie officially hitting rock bottom, and yet it also provides a moment of repentance, realisation and solace.
The emotional blockage that Cassie has been plugging with alcohol for most of her life finally makes sense and she has confirmation from her brother that she doesn't need to blame herself for how her father treated him. There is a sense of loss in the episode: a loss of friends, loss of the final shreds of self-respect and dignity, but also a loss of baggage, which must make Cassie feel a whole lot lighter. It's a very sombre episode in comparison to some of the scenes that make light of Cassie's chaotic approach to life, but necessary given the mounting hurt and knock on effect that abuse and alcoholism was having.
Working through all of this unexpectedly after such a massive bender and without any sleep must have been exhausting enough, so when Miranda appears at the end of the episode and holds Cassie at gunpoint, you can't help but wonder how she is going to fathom the strength and energy to deal with it.
What questions do I have at the end of episode six? Can Cassie fix her relationships? How is she going to get out of the conflict with Miranda now that they are face to face?
What predictions do I have at the end of episode six? Cassie proved her intelligence and ability to recall key information while drunk so if she has realised that she needs to stop drinking, she should be unstoppable in the final two episodes. People will likely underestimate her. On a cynical note, I previously mentioned how unreliable Cassie is as a character recalling the events in the hotel because she was drunk at the time, and has been intermittently drunk to varying degrees ever since. This episode has confirmed that she used alcohol to help her forget about something traumatic before, and as a result she misremembered her family dynamic. What's to say she has been drinking more heavily during this period of her life as a way of self-preserving her supposed innocence because, in truth, she is guilty?
Read Part 7 in this blog series here: Unpacking Season 1 of The Flight Attendant - Episode 7.