Newly sober Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) celebrated one year of sobriety to kick off the new season of the HBO Max thriller, but while it appeared she was on the up and up -- relocating to sunny California, dating a hot new guy, regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, moonlighting as a covert CIA asset and working her day job as a flight attendant -- it quickly became clear that the demons she thought she put away were just waiting for their moment to pounce.
Soon after Cassie made the unsettling discovery that someone was pretending to be her and possibly framingher, her BFF, Annie (Zosia Mamet), and maybe-fiance, Max (Deniz Akdeniz), were brought into the chaos as the trio of amateur sleuths attempted to put the puzzle pieces together. This, coupled with the fact that Cassie witnessed uber-suspicious activity while in Berlin -- which resulted in a car explosion just feet away from her and triggering a return to the mind palace, where she's now confronted with not one but multiple versions of herself. Not to mention the shady "new neighbors," Esteban (JJ Soria) and Gabrielle (Callie Hernandez), setting up shop across from Cassie's place. And then there's the ordeal of Megan (Rosie Perez) being MIA as she's on the run from North Korea.
"Season 1 was about honesty. Season 2 is about self-acceptance. And so it really is. We are seeing her struggle with the dark parts of herself personified in the mind palace, and she spends a good chunk of the season being like, 'F**k you. No, get away from me,' and not doing the work of dealing with other women who are not going anywhere," co-showrunner Steve Yockey tells ET of Cassie's chaotic journey. "It's only when she realizes late in season, 'Oh, this is all a part of me,' and let's go of the idea that she got rid of that old her and now she's a brand new shiny her, and really realizes, 'No, I really need to just pull all of this together. This is all me,' that she can get to the end of the season."
That's where the idea of expressing the struggles Cassie faces this season through various iterations of herself was born, meaning numerous scenes featuring more than one Cuoco in the same scene at any given time. "The best way for us to personify that was to have a whole bunch of Cassies," he explains. "In a lot of ways, it's a lot of fun. We hope it's fun for the audience and surprising. In a lot of ways, it was really technically challenging and Kaley had to work really, really hard, but she signed up for it. She signed on and she did it. I think she did it really well."
Within the first two episodes, viewers are reintroduced to "gold dress Cassie," aka the party girl from season 1, and "black hole of joy Cassie," aka the soul-sucking happiness void.
"It came organically from story," Yockey says of the different Cassies featured throughout, adding that "it was a given" to bring back "gold dress Cassie" as "that's the fun Cassie that she used to be." (More versions of Cassie spring up as the season unravels.)
"But after Cassie meets [fellow flight attendant] Grace and becomes fixated on, 'Oh, Grace is the fun one. Grace is who I used to be,' then all of a sudden black sweater Cassie appears as depressed and sad. She's like, 'Yeah, but you were also this.' And then after Annie reveals that she's engaged, future perfect Cassie shows up. In the same way that when Cassie would run into things about Alex in the real world [in season 1], it would all of a sudden show up in the mind palace. When she runs to these situations that directly reflect changes she's made in her life, they then show up as other Cassies in the mind palace. In that respect, it became really easy to know who these Cassies needed to be."
Co-showrunner Natalie Chaidez, who joined in season 2, broke down the complexities of filming those intricate mind palace scenes when involving more than one Cassie.
"It is not seamless when you're shooting it because basically what you're doing is you're taking multiple performances and blending them. So there's two parts that are tricky," she says. "There's the technical part with a motion-capture machine and VFX. But then there's also Kaley who has to do this incredibly difficult performance of matching her body position, matching her face, talking to either a double or a piece of air or a tennis ball that's hanging. And while doing all this technical stuff, keeping her performance. What she did this season is really, really remarkable."
"I wish you could have been a fly on the wall when Cassie high-fives gold dress Cassie [in a future episode] because that was a project," Yockey says with a laugh.
As for the ticking clock that's been put on Cassie (and now her friends), there's ample reason to think disaster is just around the corner if she makes one wrong move.
"Be worried," Yockey warns. "We want you to care about the characters. It should feel like they're in jeopardy because they are. But I can tell you that you do get all the answers you're looking for are in episodes 7 and 8."
The first two episodes ofThe Flight Attendant are now streaming on HBO Max. Subsequent episodes drop weekly.
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