Thursday, May 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Flight Attendant' - Cassie Feels Powerless Against the Assassin Invading Her Life in 'Thrill Rides'

HBO Max's The Flight Attendant - Episode 2.07 "Thrill Rides"

With Shane's help, Cassie runs down a lead in the string of murders - which inexplicably points to her as the main suspect. After encountering a mysterious man with ties to the North Koreans, Megan grows increasingly concerned about her family's safety, and asks Cassie to broker a meeting with the CIA. Max decodes another cryptic clue, leading to a risky cat-and-mouse chase at the Santa Monica Pier.

"Thrill Rides" was written by Jess Meyer and directed by Silver Tree

Cassie is absolutely powerless. That's the lesson she has to accept in order to live her life more honestly. She can't dictate how others feel towards her. Their opinions are informed by their history and what Cassie is like right now. Plenty of people offer their support. She has a number of allies willing to stop the imposter. However, Cassie's life continues to spiral out of control because she carries the burden of feeling responsible for everything that happens. She isn't to blame for countless murders. She didn't pull the trigger. She didn't order the hits. Because her image is being evoked, she carries ownership over this mission. She was meant to prevent these inevitable and dire outcomes. She simply had to be smart enough to decode the various images from the view master. And yet, this entire story is about teasing Cassie. She endured an international murder mystery already. She has been thrown into that drama anew. She can't even rely on the protection of the CIA to present as a steady ally. Instead, she has to count on the people who have always been there. They want to believe she is better now. And yet, she can't find her footing in sobriety. Nor can she silence the many voices in her head. At the start of the season, her mental palace was full of different variations of her. They were each trying to push her into a certain direction. They all form the collective identity of who she is though. As the season has developed, the distinctions have gotten less important. Instead, it's simply the ongoing dialogue she has in her head. It helps present the dark headspace she is in. She is struggling after her latest relapse and being rejected by her mother. Lisa absolutely hates her. It's not for anything she did as a child. Instead, it's all about her actions as an adult. Cassie wants to separate the two. Everything can be traced to what happened in her youth. Choices were made that were outside her control. That continues to be the case too. She is constantly thrown into a lot of drama. It just naturally finds her. She buys into that inherent narrative too. Shane deduces that Cassie is meant to be the final victim. It will all happen at the Santa Monica Pier. That's where Cassie decides she wants to be. She can't avoid this fate. In fact, she believes the world may be better off if she was dead. Then, all this tragedy may end. Of course, that wouldn't solve things for Megan. That wouldn't stop the threats against Max and Annie. It's Cassie continuing to be self-involved. She's incapable of seeing beyond herself. She builds up these threats to such an extreme. It's paralyzing. She continues to survive. That's endearing and rewarding too even though she's not the one making the active decisions.

All of this is a delicate narrative balance. Everything has to be central to Cassie. She has to be the one to dictate the terms of the narrative. And yet, she isn't in control. She's at the complete mercy of both her disease and the people around her. She can't trust any information given to her. She was warned to stay away from Benjamin. He's probably the CIA agent working against her. In reality, her first instinct to distrust Grace was correct. That's not the end of the story either. It showcases how she should trust her instincts moving forward. She didn't have the skills to fully pursue this threat. As such, everything was allowed to escalate to such an extreme. Cassie creates some of those complications inside her own mind. That includes seeing the danger she's in as well as the torment symbolized by a giant teddy bear coming out of the ocean. It's daunting. However, Cassie's subconscious also provides her with the ways to get out of this tragic spiral. The conversation in her head with her mother isn't real. It's not how Lisa truly feels. Cassie understands that. She accepts the fantasy. It's still a moment of reassurance. One meant to inspire confidence while being brutally honest with what Cassie needs to do. She has betrayed several friendships. Nothing can ever be easy. That includes the answers to the season's mystery. Grace was simply following orders. They saw the only way out of this arrangement was to kill themselves. The trigger is pulled. Cassie can't breathe easy though. Her friends are still in danger. So much of this scheme continues to lurk in the shadows. She doesn't know who to trust. That remains the most consistent storyline of the season. With regards to the supporting ensemble, it's more difficult to see the developments on the same level as the chaos with Cassie. The protagonist takes up so much space and attention. Meanwhile, Annie thinks it's painfully obvious and forced to see what she has to accomplish just in order to accept Max's proposal. She still makes a decision. That showcases progress. That's a declarative statement. Elsewhere, Shane and Benjamin are simply stabbed. They need medical attention because Grace was more than willing to harm them. With Cassie, it was more complicated because the friendship was real. Those emotions did grew despite how toxic the connection was always meant to be. And finally, Megan scrambles to find a way back to her family when her former handler presents her with a life of continued service to the North Koreans. People desperately want to break free of these patterns. It's so much easier to say than to do. Megan provides the same manic energy as Cassie. However, the audience simply has more insight to the ongoing development with Cassie. That makes her story earned while Megan's grows repetitive and exhausting.