The argument about limited series receiving dubious second seasons gets two more pretty sharp examples for the column “Finish While You’re Ahead” this week, where “The Flight Attendant” experiences an uneven start on HBO Max and “Russian Doll,” which reveals a strange new template on Netflix.
Both shows probably have enough admirers to justify recurring engagements, commercially speaking. Creativity could be another matter, though the critics who loved these shows generally seem to be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, so maybe viewers will too.
After waking up next to a dead body that fueled the hectic actions of its first season, “The Flight Attendant” brings Kaley Cuoco’s Cassie back, who now turns into moonlight as a CIA asset. She lives in LA, celebrates a year of sobriety and has a dreamy new boyfriend (Santiago Cabrera) before witnessing a murder involving a woman who from a distance looks eerie to look like her.
If it sounds like a fruitful story, it does not work that way in the early episodes, which use the dubious way to get Cassie to talk to himself, where Cuoco portrays several versions of the character in what amounts to an entire metaverse that unfolds. inside her head. And even though everything was new to Cassie for the first time – making her a sort of classic Hitchcockian Everywoman, far above her head in this world of espionage – the mystery here turns out to be more intricate and difficult to track.
“You’re not kidding,” the happy-go-lucky version of Cassie tells her current self. It’s a little hard, but it seems fair to say that “The Flight Attendant” is a lot less fun than it used to be.
More than three years after its renewal, “Russian Doll” also faces the challenge of what a series that keeps playing reality can do for an extra number at all. The show retains its skewed tone, but takes a different angle by letting Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia board a subway train that keeps taking her into the past, including interaction with a young version of her mother, played by Chloe Sevigny, while revealing unpleasant details about her. family history.
If the time-loop phenomenon was a little strange the first time around, this time-portal-metro ride feels even more arbitrary, while creating a parallel plot around Alan (Charlie Barnett), which involves a historical detour that is perhaps even more unexpected. end Nadias. experience.
Lyonne continues to stroll through this metaphysical wonderland with a mixture of confusion and pleasure, but although “Russian Doll” did not fully explain the “Groundhog Day” -like aspects of what happened in its first round, it finally reached a logical conclusion . In contrast, the changed character of Nadia and Alan’s predicament mostly feels just like, “Well, we were picked for another season, so why not?”
In a way, the more creative a concept is, the harder it becomes to replicate the formula or find a way to expand it to new directions.
If it’s a compliment to season one of these streaming series, these sequels to “The Flight Attendant” and “Russian Doll” are both a pretty compelling case that when faced with the challenge of trying to keep the party going, Sometimes the bravest decision is to know when to leave.
“Russian Doll” and “The Flight Attendant” premiere April 20 and April 21 on Netflix and HBO Max, respectively. Like CNN, HBO Max is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.