Your weekly streaming pick is another Amazon Prime original. Homecoming is a psychological thriller with some unique elements. More unique than the aspects are the show are the shows origins. This series is based on a fictional scripted podcast series on Gimlet media.
Heidi (Julia Roberts) is a social worker who accepts a job at a very high class support center for US troops. The center is said to help troops transition from military life to life back at home. Heidi works with a variety of ex-military but makes a deeper connection with Walter Cruz (Stephan James). Heidi legitimately wants to help these young men, namely Cruz, but her somewhat mysterious supervisor Colin (Bobby Cannavale) is all about numbers and being dodgy.
The series follows a second timeline, one that takes place after Heidi’s time at Homecoming. Thomas Carrasco (She Whigham) is investigating Homecoming and some strange reports when he starts questioning Heidi. Heidi isn’t much help to the investigation because her memories aren’t all there. She’s either remembering wrong to protect herself or things were not at all what they seemed to be.
The uniqueness in the series comes through its presentation. It’s a very deliberate show. It almost feels like a play in the way that things are laid out, unfold, and feel other worldly. Nothing is wrong with the presentation, just the opposite. The way the show is presented keeps you hooked despite some of the shortcomings. The surreal nature that makes the show feel like it’s being put on doesn’t take you out of the setting at all. It does the opposite. It drives you deeper into the mystery.
Homecoming is currently streaming on Amazon Prime
Julia Roberts is a fine actress who had a strong career. Without having finished the series I may be wrong about this next statement but I don’t think she quite fits in with the rest of the cast. Maybe subconsciously audiences are too familiar with her previous work or maybe her feeling out of place is the entire point. Time will tell as Homecoming got a two season order from the start. Roberts not feeling quite right might also come from the fact that Catherine Keener plays Heidi on the podcast. Keener would be exceptional in the series. Odd choice on recasting.
The rest of the cast is on point in every last scene. Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham are HBO series favorites so you know they’re strong. Stephan James is the stand out star. He may not be a household name just yet but he’s done a great job in powerful movies like Selma, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Race. Keep an eye on him.
While I’m all in on Homecoming until I get some much needed answers I did mention some shortcomings. The episodes are short. Under 30 minutes. That’s not a problem in itself but the amount of time the directors waste on getting going and winding down makes every episode feel like 15 minutes or so. When you’re telling a story as a mystery cutting it up in this way makes it feel like the writers don’t have enough material for the episode order. There is one event per episode and that’s the only little nibble you get. This is truly a show created for the binging TV age.
All things considered Homecoming is another high quality project courtesy of Amazon studios. The acting is strong and the direction is good, if not a little choppy.