The Flight Attendant boss breaks down the finale, talks potential season 2
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the finale of HBO Max's The Flight Attendant.
After realizing that Buckley (Colin Woodell) is actually Felix, Alex's (Michiel Huisman) sociopathic murderer, Cassie heads to Rome for work, intent on luring him into a trap with Miranda's (Michelle Gomez) help. Unfortunately, Buckley/Felix gets the jump on Miranda, leaving Cassie to fend for herself when he attacks in her hotel room. Luckily, Cassie procured a gun from her Italian friend-with-benefits Enrico (Alberto Frezza) and manages to fire off one shot. And then, in a totally surprising turn of events, Cassie's coworker Shane (Griffin Matthews) heroically bursts into the room with his own gun and takes Buckley down with two more shots like a pro.
Why did Shane have a gun? Well, it turns out he works for the CIA and was tasked with keeping an eye on Megan (Rosie Perez), who committed treason and is now on the run. Not only that, but after the dust settles, Shane tells the newly sober Cassie to consider applying for the agency's civilian asset program because his supervisors were so impressed by her. In other words, the door left open for more adventures with Cassie should HBO Max order another season — and those involved are definitely open to it.
"I hope it doesn’t sound too cocky, but we have always had a vision for a season 2,” Cuoco, who executive produced the darkly comedic thriller, told EW back in October. “We have had a very clear path for what a season 2 would look like and we know exactly what it’ll look like, and we hope we’ll get the opportunity to do that.”
That hope for another season was written into the script, too. "At the very end of episode 8, instead of 'End of episode,' I wrote, 'End of Chapter 1,'" co-showrunner Steve Yockey told EW in October. "So, I think that's kind of how we're thinking of it."
After watching Thursday's finale, EW caught with Yockey to break down the episode — part of which was filmed under COVID-19 safety protocols, the Shane twist, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last time we spoke, you were on set finishing up the final episodes of the season. How long has this finale been locked at this point?
STEVE YOCKEY: It’s been locked for a little bit, but it was delivered to the network, I think, three weeks ago. The pandemic kind of threw off all of our scheduling and we ended up in more of a network model where we, production, could feel those air dates approaching.
Did you have to make any substantial changes to the finale because of COVID-19 safety protocols?
There were some changes to [episodes] 6, 7, and 8 because of the pandemic, but they were sort of minor. In a really good way, our two directors for these last three episodes — Batan Silva and Marcos Siega — both did a really incredible job. You can’t see the safety protocols on-screen, which I think is brilliant work on their part because there was a small mountain of safety protocols that Bonnie Muñoz, our [unit production manager], came up with. The biggest adjustment we had to make was in the number of extras we could use and locations. HBO Max provided us with an additional stage space in Astoria and we basically populated that with the hospital, the jail cell, Megan’s house. All of these places that we couldn’t go film at, we built these locations [there]. That was one of the biggest changes. And then the other one was the number extras we could use in like the airport scenes, for example. It was about [moving] the 20 people we were allowed to have around on both sides of the camera so that it looked populated.
Before the show premiered, you and Kaley talked about how you had ideas for a season 2. I was impressed by how you left some things on the table for a second season, but didn’t do that at the expense of giving this season’s story a satisfying conclusion, which seems like a hard thing to do. How did you balance those two goals while writing the finale?
It was always the creative team’s intent to create a story that had a beginning, middle, and an end across eight episodes so that Cassie would have a complete and satisfying emotional arc, and so that her story could end with episode, at least in regards to Alex Sokolov and the mystery of the season. Those things still exist in this limited series place. And then there’s this idea of, if we were going to do a second season of it, if that opportunity presented itself, it would probably another adventure with Cassie Bowden, flight attendant. So that makes it really important that if we do only have this one season that people can leave it feeling satisfied; they went on the ride and it was fun, engaging, and grounded. There were pieces obviously in the air that are not like, “Oh but I have to know.” There are a pieces that exist in a way that if we were to do another one of these adventures, we could certainly pick some things up.
One of the biggest surprises in the finale is that Shane is a CIA agent. Were you hoping the audience would pick up that there was something going on with him, or was that supposed to be a real surprise?
It wasn’t just me. It was a creative decision by our entire producing team, Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin, the co-showrunners, and I. After hearing feedback from everybody, we decided that we wanted to have it be as much of a surprise as possible. We have the Buckley thing that kind of runs through the entire series, so that reveal is planted and built; he’s in all those locations when we shot there and all of that stuff. But, there are little clues into the Shane stuff, but they wouldn’t feel like clues. It’s just one of those things that if you were to go back and watch it again, you would be like, “Oh, he just randomly knows how to speak Russian and is asking questions of the FBI agents instead of them asking him questions in the first episode.” Or in the third episode when they’re in Rome and Megan is like, “Oh, I just need to visit a friend and I’m free for the night,” and Shane’s like, “You have a friend in Rome, excuse me?” kind of just following up on the fact that he was basically keeping an eye on Megan. So, we wanted it to be a surprise. It’s not as built as the Felix reveal, but we hoped people would have fun with it.
What conversations did you have with Griffin about playing Shane? Did you purposefully have him play it as if Shane is just a normal flight attendant?
He was aware. Griffin and I had several conversations just [about] how he wanted to portray Shane so that when we got to the end, people could be like, “Oh that guy was so fun, but yes, I believe he’s a CIA agent.” And I think he plays the turn at the end really well.
After watching the finale, I realized that the show had a relatively low body count in terms of the main cast, outside of Alex obviously. Even Max [Deniz Akdeniz] and Miranda survived! Did you intentionally try to keep the body count low?
I don’t think it was intentional so much as that we’re dealing with something where we do have our big surprise death [at] midseason, and that was Sabrina [Stephanie Koenig]. That serves to push Cassie over the edge to this more manic place because no one believes her. But I think for us — and for people watching the show at home, I’m sure they’re going to laugh at this — it’s still has to live in a sort of grounded and believable place for us. If we’re like dropping tons of bodies, then that becomes more like, “Get this woman off the streets right now!” It becomes less of an adventure. And the whole thing takes place over, I think, 12 or 13 days. Erika [Sanz Corbacho], our script supervisor, would be very angry I don’t know the exact number of days it takes place over, but it’s a compressed amount of time. So yeah, we didn’t want to go crazy with it.
What did you find satisfying about Cassie’s arc in these eight episodes and how you wrapped it up?
What I’m most excited about is that we were writing about someone who wasn’t prepared to recognize the behavior in her life — what was driving it, what was causing it — and that it wasn’t something sustainable, her alcoholism [and] the way she was treating herself. It’s funny because you can’t think of it as a journey of recovery; it’s a journey to recovery. Basically what Cassie goes through in these eight episodes is this whirlwind and kind of this journey to the bottom of the barrel where she realizes, “Okay, I need to take responsibility for these things. I need to let go of this responsibility I’m carrying for some of these things. I need to try and live my life in a different way.” At the very end of the finale, we get to see our first little taste of what that looks like. Hopefully, in a way that makes people hopeful for how Cassie is going to move forward in the future. That’s exciting to me because I like arcs where characters just get ripped down, ripped down, ripped down, and then just start to climb back up, and we leave them [laughs].
Cassie and Annie's (Zosia Mamet) friendship survived this ordeal. What did you find interesting about their dynamic?
Cassie is definitely someone who is desperately trying to get control of her life, and Annie is someone who is slowly, over the course of the show, losing control of her life. I feel like both of the actresses delivered in spades. Together, they’re electric. They have very different styles and on-screen it just works so well. So, the more that we saw them together, the more that the writers wanted to put them in more stuff, so we did that. Annie is the friend in the way that Davey is the family in the show for Cassie. They’re really touchpoint characters who really kind of give you an idea of what her entire world is like, right? As an embodiment of "here are Cassie’s friends," her really only close friend on the show is Annie. Even that is put to the test in terms of what does it really mean to be close friends with people who don’t tell each other everything. But I think they come through it in a way where their friendship feels like it has matured to the next level. The fact that there could be growth there for both women, that’s exciting for me.
What was the most challenging beat or scene to write in the finale?
It was not the elevator fight [laughs]. That was the one I was most excited about, though. I guess it would have to be the final reckoning that Cassie has with her younger self. I knew what it needed to be but I was just like, “This is a lot to hang on these actors.” But I think that moment is so beautiful in the finale and both Audrey [Grace Marshall] and Kaley handle it beautifully. Then the other thing I guess I was most nervous about was that final sequence when Cassie turns off the lights in the mind palace, the hotel suite in her mind, because I just really hoped it would play on-screen in the way that I imagined it. Marcos Siega and the entire team kind of brought it to life, and I think it’s really beautiful. I’m tremendously happy with the way that the series came out, so I’m glad that people are having such a positive response.
Do you already know in your mind what’s next for Megan should you get the greenlight
It’s a little cart before the horse because as far as I know there is not a season 2. But yes, we have ideas for Megan.
The Flight Attendant is available to stream on HBO Max now.