The first season of the HBO Max mystery thriller series "balanced elements of soap opera, thriller, and screwball comedy, hinging that alchemy on a revelatory performance from Kaley Cuoco," says Kevin Fallon. "While it’s generally accepted that Cuoco was the underrated secret weapon of The Big Bang Theory’s massive success, I’m not sure many people were braced for the kind of explosive performance that she pulls off in The Flight Attendant, where sardonic, millennial-brand kookiness and tragic, deeply human flaws combine in a fascinating powder keg. That’s why Season 2 of The Flight Attendant soars. It knows when to isolate the different elements of Cassie and Cuoco’s performance—the warmth that makes her friendships so meaningful, the sense of humor that the show needs to stay light, and the demons that nearly destroy her—and how they all work in harmony."
Season 2 of The Flight Attendant has demonstrated it understands how to build up to an inevitable emotional crash: The HBO Max series manages to successfully pull off Season 2 "to a surprising and comforting extent," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "Kaley Cuoco returns as flight-attendant-and-now-also-a-spy Cassie, who relocated to Los Angeles and is nearly a year into sobriety. Cuoco’s screwball, half-manic, overdramatic performance remains key to making this show work; whatever is the opposite of unflappable, that is Cuoco’s Cassie, and the characterization makes for another hilarious and highly flappable experience. The new season adds Mae Martin, Cheryl Hines, Margaret Cho, and Shohreh Aghdashloo to the cast, all of whom could be friends or villains — it’s hard to say. Cassie’s friend Annie (Zosia Mamet) is back, as is her colleague Megan (Rosie Perez), whose season-two introduction finds her crouched in a freezing European forest, wearing a ridiculous hat, frantically sawing away at the roots of bright-red poisonous mushrooms. This is the mood of The Flight Attendant at its most essential: absurd setting + absurd circumstances + real emotional grounding + fun costuming + plot??????? = profit."
It takes 1.5 episodes to remind you of the stressfulness of watching The Flight Attendant: "It had been long enough since its November 2020 premiere that my memory of the show had almost become a facsimile of its slick Saul Bass-ian credits, in which a tiny blonde flight attendant runs away from shady spies and enormous bunnies," says Caroline Framke. "I knew I loved Kaley Cuoco’s screwball energy, Michiel Huisman’s arched eyebrow, Michelle Gomez’s exasperated sigh, and the dueling pleasures of a skittish Rosie Perez and a ruthless Zosia Mamet. Diving into the second season, though, provides a forceful reminder of just how good this show is at getting you inside the head of someone constantly on the edge of a panic attack."
Season 2 works overtime to avoid the sophomore slump: "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," says LaToya Ferguson. "And in The Flight Attendant Season 2, a lot is happening."
Season 2 struggles with its attention to detail, editing and music: "The massive success of the first season bought writers who came up with a fresh new take on self-examination: Cassie experiences visions a la the titular character on Disney’s That’s So Raven," says Nandini Balial. "The camera zooms in on Cassie’s eyes and she flashes to an empty hotel lobby, in which she converses with three Cassies: a teenage version, the season one version in that sequined dress, and a Cassie we haven’t met, dressed in black. Issa Rae used a simplified version of this trope on Insecure for five seasons and killed it every single time. But on The Flight Attendant, there is no such attention to detail, nor usage of Cuoco’s considerable charm. HBO money can buy chic draped coats and red leather gloves for its stars but it mustn’t be used on examining interior conflicts in an innovative way. That same money can’t buy decent editing, because every single frame of The Flight Attendant is cut into two or more squares or rectangles, because that means the show is fashionable and sleek. It also can’t buy decent music, because every single frame of The Flight Attendant is backed by what sounds like a Catch Me If You Can/John Williams tribute band, complete with, inexplicably, beatboxing. When the series could benefit from dropping background music altogether, it persists, diluting the impact of its most important scenes."
There is a more serious, introspective tone to The Flight Attendant in Season 2: "Although the plot mechanics that return Cassie to the international crime scene are a bit silly (she's a CIA asset now because why not?), Cuoco and the writers make the show click by mirroring the structure of the first season without directly copying any of it," says Kelly Lawler. "Once again, Cassie finds herself in over her head and falls into a self-destructive streak trying to fix it all."
Season 2 makes clear that both Cuoco and her character are better than the show, which keeps getting bogged down in convoluted espionage plots: "t’s difficult not to notice that the overstuffed season — which adds Sharon Stone, Cheryl Hines, Margaret Cho and Mo McRae to the cast — is missing some of the series’s signature propulsiveness," says Inkoo Kang. "Along with most of the Season 1 players, Rosie Perez returns to continue her character’s storyline as a fellow airborne spy, though she’s been forced to flee after realizing the gravity of her actions. But The Flight Attendant is Cuoco’s show and drags accordingly when she’s not on screen. Thankfully, we get more than one Cassie: the hallucinatory conversations with the original murder victim that her subconscious once forced her into at inopportune moments now take place with versions of herself."
The Flight Attendant still manages to be thrilling in Season 2: "At the end of The Flight Attendant‘s first season, the series seemed in danger of becoming a victim of its own success," says Angie Han. "The show’s addictive, crowd-pleasing qualities made a renewal feel like a no-brainer, and yet the season had also been so satisfying that a follow-up hardly seemed necessary, or even advisable — its odds of hitting the same highs seemed dubious at best. But the most impressive trick the show pulls off is the same in both seasons. Even as Cassie loses her grip, her series never does."
Cuoco still plies the zany comedic side with aplomb, playing to strengths that have served her so well in other shows: "But this season's harsh gaze allows her to differentiate each version of Cassie with confident dexterity, escalating her party girl-self's vicious undermining to bringing out Cassie's mopey depressive and her inner dejected teenager," says Melanie McFarland. "All of them magnify the character's profound self-loathing, a bitter and degenerating feeling that slowly pulls apart her outward self over the course of the six episodes made available for review. And this unraveling also amplifies the unease permeating the scenes she shares with McRae, or her co-worker Grace (Mae Martin) or, much later into the season, a long-avoided confrontation with her mother (played by Sharon Stone)."
Co-showrunner and creator Steve Yockey says Cuoco was very clear about wanting one thing in Season 2: “Cassie to still be able to make mistakes," says Yockey. "She didn’t want us to say, ‘Oh, Cassie’s sober, and therefore she’s trying really hard,’ says Yockey. “She wanted to still have Cassie be flawed. And a huge part of the show’s success, in my estimation, is that Kaley is so warm and charismatic on-camera, yet (she makes viewers) want to wring her neck.” Yockey is quick to assure fans that even without the alcohol, they will definitely still reach near breaking points with Cassie.
The Flight Attendant went with doubles thanks to new co-showrunner Natalie Chaidez: "Natalie's new this season, so she was fresh eyes," says Yockey. "I knew right off the bat when they said they wanted another eight episodes that we'd do what we'd always planned to do, which is another story with a beginning, middle, and an end. I was particularly obsessed with the idea of maintaining the mind palace in some form and continuing the emotional journeys for our characters because you're going to have a whole new mystery, but those emotional journeys are the grounding force of the show. I was really interested in exploring the idea of Cassie in recovery and what a rocky road that can be. And then Natalie came in and had this idea for doubles." Chaidez adds: "So doubles really came about from thinking about what made season 1 work, and that was really that it was a psychological mystery at the heart of it. I was thinking about Cassie's character and her discovery and admission of this other part of herself, this alcoholic part. That led to the idea of doubles, which then of course became a theme this season as well as part of the plot, and Steve took and made into this crazy multiverse in the mind-verse."