After the success of Mr Robot, creator Sam Esmail set his sights on a new venture – a noir thriller called Homecoming. The peculiar choice to shoot 30 minute episodes play into the unique way the series is shot and with some impressive acting at its helm, Homecoming is one of the best Amazon Prime exclusives to come out in quote some time. The score is excellent too, with a blend of Alfred Hitchcock instrumentals and deliberately chosen rock songs. The bittersweet ending may leave some uncomfortable, especially with the tease of a happier outcome, but Homecoming leaves a lasting impression when the credits do roll making it a really enjoyable show from start to finish.
The dual focus between past and present is surprisingly effective as Homecoming splits its focus between four key characters. Main protagonist Heidi (Julia Roberts) works as a waitress in present day America but at a company called Homecoming in the past. This company, run by sleazy boss Colin (Bobby Cannavale) via satellite phone while he holds up at HQ, aims to rehabilitate damaged soldiers back into civilian life through an experimental, privately funded program. One of the stars of this program is damaged veteran Walter (Stephan James) who has all the makings to be the perfect test subject. With a significant chunk of Heidi’s memory mysteriously missing during this time, Investigator Carrasco (Shea Whigham) pieces together what happened in the present day timeline. Homecoming builds both past and present toward a significant incident, with plenty of twists and turns along the way before its final episode that answers many of the questions raised through the 10 episodes.
For anyone familiar with Sam Esmail’s work on Mr Robot or even earlier ventures, there’s a really distinct way the man shoots his scenes and this influence can be felt everywhere. Numerous overhead shots and long, sweeping cameras show off his distinct mark on the show. This of course plays into the actual framing of the series too which pulls out all the tricks to show off the very impressive technicality on display. Split screens during phone calls, aspect ratio switches during specific scenes and even a breathtaking montage during the last episode really reinforce how well shot and unique the show is throughout.
It helps too that the acting and characterisation is top notch. While there are some seemingly nonsensical dialogues early on including a recurring theme of a Titanic sequel, all of this makes sense as you stick with the show. Julia Roberts and Bobby Cannavale are the stars here and both portray their roles to perfection. Bobby does what Bobby does best; portraying a suave but slimy businessman that’s easy to dislike. Julia’s character is a lot more complex and between her fractured, humbled mindset in present day to the more reassured and confident past portrayal, both personas feel realistically depicted. There’s an aura of innocence about her character with fiery bursts of determination that really makes her fascinating to watch as the story plays out.
With such an emphasis on the way the series is shot and the technical achievements on display, some may well interpret this as pretentious; a ploy to gain more awards and bolster out the story. While there are of course arguments for this, for the most part Homecoming’s story does well to weave a mixture of mystery, intrigue and thrills during its 5 hour run time. The short episode length is a little jarring and takes some getting used to but this only plays into the uniqueness on display here. Homecoming may not be as polished and refined as Mr. Robot but its self contained story and flair make it a very good series nonetheless and one well worth checking out.
Verdict - 8/10