The Flight Attendant Season-Premiere Recap: Lady in Red

The Flight Attendant

Seeing Double
Season 2 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

The Flight Attendant

Seeing Double
Season 2 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Jennifer Rose Clasen/HBO Max

Can we talk about the red coat? Yes, hi, The Flight Attendant is back for a second season of mayhem and mystery — and we’ll get to all that — but seriously? Who wears a scarlet-red coat with matching gloves while they’re tailing someone for the CIA?!

Cassie Bowden, that’s who.

As the second season of The Flight Attendant opens, we find Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) in a better place. After the tumultuous events of the previous season, she has moved to sunny Los Angeles and settled down in a cute bungalow, and she’s even regularly attending AA meetings. We find out she’s coming up on a year of sobriety. This is all excellent news … but it becomes quickly apparent that she hasn’t shifted any of her other destructive behavior patterns.

Cassie is sober and living her best L.A. life, but she’s also decided to take a side gig working for the CIA as a “human asset.” Her friend Shane (Griffin Matthews) said as much in the closing moments of the season-one finale, but we soon find out she’s taken the job and is already causing chaos. Her handler, the dapper and suave Benjamin Barry (Mo McRae), is consistently annoyed with her lack of professionalism and her complete and utter inability to be discreet.

Which brings us back to the red coat. As Cassie flits through the streets of Berlin on an assignment for the CIA in the premiere, the gorgeous garment is a glaring symbol of her flighty thought patterns and egocentric attitude. She’s a lovable moppet, to be sure, but she’s still living her life on tilt and seeking out thrills in places other than the bottom of a bottle. She’s basically just treating her new gig as a replacement addiction. And she knows it.

As Cassie races to follow a mystery man, she runs into an enthusiastic couple who distracts her with flattery while doing some weird technology-tracker thing to her phone. This won’t be a problem for her at all, right? (This is sarcasm.)

Cassie follows her mark into a lovely hotel bar, and the two strike up a conversation. Neither of them is drinking alcohol; they’re both in recovery. When the guy asks Cassie why she’s sitting at the bar anyway, she says, “I guess I just don’t want to miss out on anything.” This is also why she breaks the rules and continues to follow him even though Benjamin explicitly told her not to do so. Apparently, she has a pattern of getting too involved with her marks, and it’s a pattern that’s about to get her into huge trouble.

Cassie scoots around Berlin, trying to blend into crowds and hide behind stairwells like she’s not wearing the equivalent of a neon “Look at me” sign. She follows the mystery man to a very cool graffiti tower, where he’s handed a package, and then back to his hotel. Oddly, he’s not staying at the hotel where he met Cassie at the bar. This detail seems to escape Cassie, but it is odd that he wouldn’t just go to the bar at his own hotel to grab a Coke. Using her aw-shucks attitude and adorable face, Cassie wheedles her way into getting the room number of the mystery man at his hotel then pulls the same routine at her hotel, obtaining a key card to check out a corner suite facing the other hotel.

Looking at the other hotel, Cassie sees her mystery man having some sexy times with a woman who looks just like her. This chick has her same exact back tattoo and everything. Weird. Cassie is floored but doesn’t have a ton of time to process this because she catches the eye of a surveillance team directly above the mystery man’s room. The stern guy in charge of the operation glares at her before hastily drawing the blinds. Hello, people? You’re at a hotel facing a whole-ass other hotel! Draw your damn blinds! Especially if you’re engaging in top-secret activities! Or … maybe they wanted Cassie to see them for some reason?

At any rate, Cassie runs down to the street in hot pursuit, continuing to snoop when she is clearly not supposed to be snooping. Why would she stop when the chase is all activating those same thrilling neural pathways that her party-girl lifestyle used to provide her? The mystery man gets into a car, and boom! There’s a huge explosion. Cassie gets knocked to the ground, and suddenly, she’s back in her mind palace. Only this time, her dead lover Alex (Michiel Huisman) isn’t there. It’s a Greek chorus of Cassies, and they’re not taking any shit.

For a show that’s rollicking good fun, The Flight Attendant often takes the opportunity to showcase its intimate familiarity with the topics of addiction, addictive behaviors, mental health, and childhood trauma. Alongside the Netflix series Russian Doll, it’s perhaps one of the only current TV series to grapple with these topics in such a creative way. The Flight Attendant uses Cassie’s unique and deeply flawed perspective to tell the story; she’s an unreliable narrator, to be sure, but she’s also funny and entertaining. Yes, her behaviors are infuriating at times — we see this a lot through her interactions with her wonderful friends Annie (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Deniz Akdeniz) — but her imperfections make her someone worth rooting for. If the first season painted Cassie as a flawed individual who desperately wanted (and needed) to make changes in her life, the second season seems set to follow her as she realizes she’s still got a lot of progress to make.

Enter: the mind palace. It’s a no-holds-barred space where Cassie’s inner voices all congregate to chatter in her ears and help (or hinder) her decision-making processes. This development in and of itself is progress. Instead of a blissfully unaware hunk of a man, all these versions of Cassie know about the sorrows in Cassie’s past. However, the party-girl version of Cassie we see throughout this episode is very resistant to change and questions everything she’s doing every step of the way. In my life as an addiction therapist, I sometimes prompt my clients to write letters to their “addiction monsters,” and this golden goddess is most certainly Cassie’s raging monster within.

The reintroduction of the mind palace serves to indicate that Cassie isn’t done reckoning with her past and present personas. There’s a whole thorny forest of psychology to untangle in that sweet little head of hers, and this season will certainly put her to the test.

But Cassie also has to grapple with someone potentially impersonating her while they do crime. When she returns to her room from the stakeout, she finds that her key card doesn’t work. This isn’t that weird — who among us has this not happened to? — and she gets a kindly housekeeper to let her in. However, it turns out that some other woman checked out as her and stole her bag to boot. Eep!

Cassie doesn’t have a ton of time to worry about this development, however, because Max and Annie are already in L.A. As soon as she gets home, she flips out about Annie’s gorgeous nonengagement ring (marry him already, Annie!), and they’re all so excited to be reunited again that it’s simply adorable. Of course, Cassie immediately begins to lie to her friends, and the lies intensify when the CIA shows up at her door.

A trio of agents scoops Cassie up for a chat with CIA bigwig Dot Karlson (Cheryl Hines). Dot is immediately suspect when she dismisses Cassie’s observation about a woman who looks exactly like her, but then she drops a bit of eternal wisdom, saying, “What passes for boldness in men here is often seen as reckless in women.” Truth, yes. But you’re still sus, Dot.

In addition to the doppelgänger mystery, Cassie is dealing with the missing Megan (Rosie Perez). Earlier in the episode, Cassie received a random key with a cute penguin key chain, then Megan calls from a hidey-hole in a random bar to make sure Cassie got it. It appears as if Megan is spying on the Korean man who used to meet her for drops, but other than that, we’re in the dark about what’s up with her. Ten bucks says that whatever’s going on with Megan will eventually cross over with Cassie’s predicament in a spectacular way.

Finally, Cassie rejoins her friends and agrees to head to the mecca of West Coast fast-food joints: In-N-Out Burger. But first, her missing bag gets delivered. It’s been tampered with. It contains a bloody wig and a weird viewfinder. And as Cassie starts to freak out, her friends are there to scream with her.

We’ve made our final descent into the end of the recap, so please make sure your tray tables and seats are in the upright position. Until next time …

Checked Baggage

• The way that newbie Grace (Mae Martin) and Cassie hold the cocktail glass for 4A with a thumb grasping the rim is so very yuck, especially in a post-COVID world.

• Annie’s eyeliner game is still on point. I need her to do a tutorial, stat.

• That impressive graffiti tower that Cassie tracks her mystery man to in Berlin? It’s a real place with a very rich history. Check it out here.

• Miranda-watch: No Miranda (Michelle Gomez) yet, but I’m praying to the TV gods and goddesses for her return.

• Last but not least, Cassie’s hot new boy toy Marco is definitely a spy, right? A dude with the profession of “brand photographer” sounds very suspect to me.

The Flight Attendant Season-Premiere Recap: Lady in Red