Loses steam
60%Overall Score

Homecoming is a psychological thriller adapted from an eponymous podcast by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg. Singer and actor Janelle Monáe takes over from actor Julia Roberts in the second season of Amazon’s mystery drama.

A quick recap of season one

Season one ended with Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) finally putting together the puzzle pieces of her former life as a caseworker at Geist Emergent Group’s Homecoming Transitional Support Centre. (Spoiler alert: The facility was testing experimental drugs on soldiers to erase their PTSD and send them back to serve. The veterans were being given excessive amounts of medication, manufactured by Geist, which destroyed their memories.) One of them involved her patient, Walter Cruz (Stephan James), who later settled into a new life in rural northern California. The biggest difference between the two seasons of Homecoming, aside from the main cast, is how they function as thrillers. Season one was about getting to the bottom of the mystery about the treatment of soldiers sent to the Homecoming facility. Season two, which operates on the premise that the truth is known, is more of a psychological thriller.

The show starts out strong but loses steam midway

Season two opens with a woman (Janelle Monáe) regaining consciousness in a rowboat, adrift in a lake. She can’t recall her name or how she came to be in her current predicament. A military ID in her pocket suggests her name is Jacqueline Calico. The central plot is dedicated to retracing her steps, how she ended up where she did, and her connection to the Geist Emergent Group. Frankly, that’s about as much as you can say about the plot of Homecoming season two without giving away the whole story. Instead of introducing a new story for the second season, the narrative builds on previous events. We know at the end of season one, Bergman’s supervisor Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale) signs papers to take the blame in any possible investigations of the Homecoming facility by the Department of Defence. Following this, his assistant, Audrey Temple (Hong Chau) is appointed his new boss. In season two, we’re shown in explicit detail, how Temple manipulates Belfast, who is most certainly guilty, into signing the dotted line. She then exposes him and the Homecoming facility to Leonard Geist (Chris Cooper), the owner of Geist Emergent Group. Cruz also returns, to try to fill memory gaps that he attributes to brain injury. While Homecoming connects the different plots adroitly, it never really keeps you invested in any of them enough to care when they come together. Sure, it’s more straightforward than season one, but misses the edgy provocativeness of it because the revelations, when they come, aren’t shocking or interesting.

More style than substance

Homecoming is a stylish show, right from the stage-like framing of shots to the final scene which plays out in front of a static camera with no music, just credits rolling. While the storytelling might be less than lively, some of the performances are worth noting. Monáe is blessed with a face that can flicker through varying emotions in an instant. Chau plays the doormat turned stone-cold corporate Temple like a pro, her aforementioned scene with Cannavale and Cooper being one of the highlights of season two. And Joan Cusack adds fascinating energy and presence as Francine Bunda from the Department of Defence.

Julia Roberts with her author-backed role of Heidi Bergman and on-screen charisma is sorely missed in season two. Janelle Monáe does a lot of heavy-hitting but is ultimately let down by an underwhelming role and tepid storytelling.

Creators: Micah Bloomberg, Eli Horowitz, Sam Esmail
Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Cast: Janelle Monáe, Hong Chau, Stephan James, Chris Cooper, Joan Cusack
Streaming on: Amazon Prime