Homecoming: Season 1

Amazon Prime

Nov 01, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Julia Roberts is the latest A-list star to enter the world of television with Amazon's Homecoming, a smart and steady thriller.

Roberts stars as Heidi Bergman, a counselor at a company called Homecoming. The establishment's mission is to integrate soldiers back into civilian life, housing and caring for them over a set period until they are ready to return to their life before deployment. Heidi's job is to interview the men, assess their mental state, and help them prepare for life outside of the battlefield or Homecoming. She is in constant contact with her demanding boss Colin (Bobby Cannavale), who manages via his Bluetooth from a distance, and wants instant updates on Heidi's findings.

What keeps Homecoming so engaging is its structure, which bounces between two timelines. First, we meet Heidi as a dutiful Homecoming employee, balancing her demanding job and her relationship with Anthony (Dermot Mulroney, making for a little My Best Friend's Wedding reunion). The second timeline is her no longer a part of the company, working at a bayside restaurant as a waitress and living with her mother, Ellen (Sissy Spacek). She's eager to never speak about Homecoming again, which is upended with the appearance of Department of Defense agent Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham), looking to Heidi for answers about her time at Homecoming.

Ostensibly, Homecoming might appear uneventful and slow but it's deliberately and skillfully languid, ratcheting up tension with purpose and ease. Each of episodes is directed by Sam Esmail (who created Mr. Robot) and scripted by Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, who revel in the visual mystery of it all. Scenes set at the Homecoming facility are bathed in a golden yellow, creating Stepford-like serenity, which seems more unsettling than calming. In the second timeline, scenes have a more condensed framing, shooting in close-ups. Esmail keeps things interesting and invigorating behind the camera, which contributes to the series' rising tension.

Of course, anything is instantly a smidge better when Roberts is involved. She picked such an interesting project to bring her movie star bona fides to and her performance as Heidi isn't a flashy one but it's complicated and layered. She is essentially playing two characters in one and part of Homecoming's success is watching Roberts stitch the two together. Homecoming is as much of a character piece as it is a taut, economical thriller.

Over the course of 10 episodes, ranging from 24-to-37 minutes apiece, Homecoming doesn't waste a single moment. Each episode is perfectly paced, finding itself in the rare position of not being an hour-long drama, that it will make for a quick binge on Amazon Prime. (www.amazon.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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