HBO Max Hit “The Flight Attendant” Has a Surprise North Korea Angle
This was something that fans and critics of the show were not expecting.
Editor's Note: This story contains some spoilers for The Flight Attendant.
“The Flight Attendant,” which a limited series which debuted the week of Thanksgiving and wrapped up last week on HBO Max, was a significant word of mouth hit, and the first breakout original series since the launch of that streaming service this spring. The show starred Kaley Cuoco, best known for her role in “The Big Bang Theory,” as the titular flight attendant, an alcoholic party girl who finds herself at the center of an international murder conspiracy. The show was so well-received, and featured an ending so satisfying, that it was given a second season, despite its original pitch as a limited series.
The plot of the “The Flight Attendant” was full of twists and turns, with characters seeming to be good guys turning out bad and vice versa, and the story also entails Cuoco’s character, Cassie, coming to terms with childhood trauma as well as her alcoholism.
But in its final hours, the eight-episode season took a surprise turn, into intrigue involving North Korea.
Throughout the early episodes, there are hints that the character of Megan (played by Rosie Perez), a colleague of Cassie’s, is up to something mysterious. We later learn that her husband, a businessman, is under suspicion once spyware is found on his computer. But later in the show, the twist is that Megan herself had become an unwitting spy for the North Korean regime.
She had been approached by a man at a work conference, she says, asking her to take some pictures and download some files, under the impression that he was working for a rival company, rather than for a hostile foreign government.
The plot didn’t really have anything to do with the main plot of the show, although since the finale indicated strongly that “The Flight Attendant” will take a turn towards spy plots in season 2, perhaps the plot lines will intersect.
“She’s the star of her own movie and because this is a show about complex female characters, let’s let the connection be emotional rather than plot,” Steve Yockey, the series’ showrunner, said in an interview with Thrillist. “When they have that come to Jesus confessional moment when they are both sitting on the bed in Rome, that is a hugely important thing for both women.”
The plot doesn’t appear to be based on any real-life story about an American flight attendant having been co-opted by the North Korean government. However, North Korean flight attendants have occasionally made news. A Twitter account called @misskimpyongya1, which purported to come from an attendant from North Korea’s national airline Air Koryo, and remains active, although there is some skepticism over whether the account is legitimate.
The recent documentary “Assassins” takes a look at another recent case of North Korean intrigue, of the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.