Editor’s Note: Since this was written, the show has been renewed for Season 2, huzzah!
At some point the word “miniseries” went out of fashion, and the “limited series” was born. Ostensibly it meant the same thing, but how studios and networks chose to actually define it became “limited unless we say otherwise.” If a limited series—often a short run of episodes that features movie stars or other A-list types who don’t want to be tied down by endless network seasons ahead of them—proved popular enough, it would continue. Sometimes as an anthology (with a new story or a new cast) or sometimes creating a reason to get the gang all back together, for better or worse (like Big Little Lies Season 2, which is an example of “for worse”).
So every time a great limited series ends on a high note, as most do (as they were designed to do, as many are adapted from novels) there is an immediate call for more. Mostly, it’s a bad idea. Would I like to see more of The Queen’s Gambit? Of course I would. But it’s perfect the way it is—please don’t touch it. TV fans shouldn’t always be given what we ask for, yet it makes sense that if something actually manages to break through the deluge of Peak TV and cause a clamor for more, networks would hurry to oblige.
In the case of The Flight Attendant’s “limited” status though, its finale (“Arrivals and Departures”) actually sets up a second season pretty obviously. The series, which was meant to be a launch title for HBO Max’s streaming service, may have come late but it still made a (much needed) splash. As Amy Amatangelo noted in her review of the first episodes, the series was a consistently riveting romp that proves Kaley Cuoco is a bonafide star. Had the series just been focused on the salacious murder that kicks things off, it would have been just fine. But the fact that it was actually, sneakily, about her character Cassie’s alcoholism and denial of her traumatic past made it fantastically compelling.
“Arrivals and Departures” gave us some sense of closure for both threads, with Cassie being exonerated by the FBI for Alex’s death and starting meetings to help her quit drinking. I really cannot praise the show enough for glossing over all of the government agency and worldwide conspiracy mumbo jumbo with essentially a wave of a hand (“blah blah laundering money blah blah smuggling guns”) and making space instead to really lay the groundwork for Cassie hitting a personal rock bottom and climbing her way out of it. Cuoco made us completely understand why people love and are hugely frustrated by Cassie simultaneously; she’s as vibrant and charming as she is a drunken mess. The way The Flight Attendant showed us both the fun and tragic sides of this character in ways that felt real was an unexpected boon—that it also followed her believably clawing her way back to forgiveness (from others and for herself) was something of a master stroke.
The Flight Attendant isn’t high art nor does it likely have any pretension of being such, but Cassie’s very real struggle with alcoholism elevated it from being just a glossy international thriller. However, even though the lights went out in the Bangkok hotel room in her mind and she said goodbye to Alex (for real this time), and Alex’s real murderer was captured (in the show’s best twist reveal), the finale set up plenty of places for a second season to go. Megan’s story, for one, really didn’t get any resolution (where is she going? What are the consequences of her actions?), and Shane mentioned that the CIA would be calling Cassie up to potentially work for them. We also never see the end of things with Buckley (who somehow did not die in that hotel room), or with poor Enrico (besides a thumbs up), or that smug FBI agent who really needed to get his comeuppance. And what of the now uber-rich Miranda? Plus, now that Annie is unemployed and Max is still working his hacker magic, could they team up with Cassie to create a detective group? Could they find and maybe even exonerate Megan?
Granted, a second season would lose the emotional heft of the first when it comes to Cassie’s personal demons: she conquered her lies about the past, saw her father for who he really was, and reconciled with her brother. That’s big! Sure, a second season could (and should) see her struggling with her sobriety, but that so crucially worked in concert with the mystery of her past and forgiving herself. Then again, perhaps there are other pasts to explore and heal—Annie, perhaps? She really seems like a piece of work, right?
Regardless of whether Season 2 materializes or not, it’s a testament to how good the show was, and how well it worked, that the clamor has begun for its continuation—at least from this TV editor. Frankly, The Flight Attendant had no right to excel as much as it did. It was a late-2020 delight that encapsulated all of the things we had to stop doing (or should have stopped doing) in 2020, a fantasy of international flights and flights of fancy with strangers, and just breathing near other people.
But if we can’t follow Cassie’s further adventures, I’m excited at least to see where the uber-talented Cuoco lands next.
The Flight Attendant is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.