Tag Archives: Homecoming

Amazon’s Homecoming: Season 2

I did not expect the creators of Amazon Prime’s Homecoming to craft something as compelling for their second season as they did the first time around but here we are. Season one is a brilliant, tense, meticulously mounted piece of suspense drama storytelling and is one of those perfectly bookended items that never even needed a continuation, which is why I am so surprised at how much I loved this second iteration, which is just close enough to the heels of its predecessor to be considered a new chapter of the same story and just independent enough to be kind of anthology as well.

From this point forward it gets a bit spoiler heavy for season one, so there that is. As we open a young woman (Janelle Monáe) awakens in a canoe on the middle of a lake with complete amnesia, her mind wiped clean. This keeps up the paranoid Bourne and Hitchcock stylistics that have been a staple since season one. When we left this story it was becoming clear that the shadowy Geist corporation is doing some shady pharmaceutical research on unknowing veterans with PTSD, and as we enter into this new chapter we see that this is even unbeknownst to their own CEO, a salt of the earth entrepreneur played by the great Chris Cooper, who I haven’t seen in a while. Monaé’s character along with others must get to the bottom of what Geist is up to while dealing with season one’s disgruntled vet Walter Cruz (Stephan James, an extraordinary talent), crafty Geist fixer Audrey Temple (Hong Chau, always excellent) and a spectacularly corrupt Department of Defence bitch played by Joan Cusack in a towering pillar of ham fisted lunacy.

This season is quite the departure from the first, mainly for the fact that Julia Roberts’ Heidi Bergman is no longer around, she was the rock, moral centre and sympathy bank for that chapter and the others who absorb that position here are considerably less innocuous. That provides lots of terrain for moral ambiguities, complexities and psychological rifts especially with Monáe’s character who is played wonderfully. Chris Cooper was the highlight of this one for me though, as the aging founder of Geist, a profane horticultural guru who feels ill matched to the tide of corrupt bureaucracy and mutinied against by his own employees. He lives in a rusticated farmhouse on the edge of vast crops of mysterious foliage while the Geist headquarters loom clandestine on the horizon, built of hard metals, stark angles and gloom. He’s an earthy element amongst all this new age Pharma innovation and I loved his cranky, compassionate performance, an obstinate old salt who watches Airwolf on a tiny analog tv to get him ‘fired up’ and rebels haughtily at the malevolent forced trying to privateer his inventions. One way this differs from the first season is in use of music, there are no more direct lifts from classic film scores but rather beautiful new compositions from Emile Mosseri. The themes are all still intact though, probing the same moral ground and complicated character profiles using terrific camera work and burnished colour timing to bring this story to life, a scintillating tale that takes a while to get to the heart of, kind of like the frequent images of spiralled architecture we see that serves as visual cue for what this story wants to explore in structure and content. A bit shorter and less dense than season one but no less mesmerizing, well written, flawlessly acted and beautifully produced.

-Nate Hill

Amazon’s Homecoming

Amazon Prime hits it out of the park yet again with Homecoming, a tightly structured, noir laced conspiracy thriller that’s so contemporary yet so unbelievably retro I couldn’t fathom how well they pulled off the mixture.

Julia Roberts gives her best performance in years as Heidi Bergman, a low level mental health worker who has been left in charge of the mysterious Homecoming facility, which on the outside is an integration program to help veterans with PTSD transition into civilian life. This is a privately funded deal though, and Heidi begins to suspect that the powers that be don’t have these guys’ best interests at heart, especially after observing the shady avoidance behaviour of her slippery boss Colin (Bobby Cannavle, also the best he’s been in some time). Years later, Heidi waitresses in a marina fish joint, the events and apparent scandal of Homecoming in her rearview, until a dogged Department Of Defence investigator (Shea Wigham, pretty much incapable of hitting a false note) tracks her down and asks questions, forcing her to look at the past in a new light.

This isn’t just your average spook thriller with Manchurian Candidate undertones, but it certainly achieves that as well. At the core is Heidi’s emotional relationship with Walter (Stephen James, a revelation), one of the vets she’s treating, and how that affects her perception of what’s going on around her, their dynamic is the constant and the catalyst for things to get out of hand. To say more would be to spoil an incredibly subtle, slow burn paranoia piece that unspools one thread at a time and is an utter delight to unpack as the viewer. Roberts is sensational, usually we get a character from her on feature film terms, for two or so hours and then the arc is capped, but there are ten half hour episodes here and she’s allowed to room to breathe in her work, drawing us in and earning sympathy beat by beat. Cannavle is a pithy portrait of corporate greed and casual apathy run amok, not necessarily a bad dude but certainly an amoral, selfish schmuck who realizes the consequences of his actions too little too late, it’s fantastic work from the him. Wigham is always brilliant and plays this guy in the guise of a robotic company man, but as the story progresses we see that he cares far more than his tucked shirt demeanour lets on. Other stellar work comes from Rafi Gavron, Jeremy Allen White, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sydney Tanmiia Poitier, Dermot Mulroney, Sissy Spacek and Hong Chau.

I was floored by the camera work here, the overhead angles, meticulous lighting, tracking shots and general symmetry in frame are so immersive and well done, this thing visually feels like noir to its roots while still being very of this era, thematically speaking. It also cleverly plays around with aspect ratio in order to put us in Heidi’s psychological state and accent the passage of time, a tactic I’ve never seen before but am now obsessed with.

It took me a bit to clue in that creator Sam Esmail literally lifted hordes of original score from classic 60’s, 70’s and 80’s horror thrillers and used them here, but by the time I heard cues from John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Fog I had an ‘aha’ moment and had to go look up just how many themes are sampled, and trust me there’s a lot. That could have been a lazy choice from a lesser production to just *entirely* recycle old music, but it’s used to such effect here and works splendidly for this story. This is brilliant stuff and I can’t think of a single criticism really. Stick around for a provocative post credits scene that pretty much begs for a second season.

-Nate Hill