Following a solid, suspenseful first season starring Julia Roberts back in 2018, Amazon Studios and co-creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg are back with a seven-part second instalment. Initially based on their hit scripted podcast series, the first season centred on the Homecoming center, a privately run facility which tested out experimental drugs on veterans suffering with PTSD. Picking up in the fallout of the Department of Defence investigation, the second season switches up Heidi Bergman’s story for Jackie Calico’s, with Hidden Figures star Janelle Monáe picking up the reigns.
Waking up on a rowboat in the middle of a lake with no memory of how she got there, army veteran Jackie (Janelle Monáe) has no idea who she is. Piecing together the puzzle of her identity with the help of a few random items, she’s lead to the heart of the mysterious wellness company, the Geist Group. Meanwhile, Walter Cruz (Stephan James) is attempting to build a new life following his traumatic experiences in the Homecoming Initiative, but soon discovers that a more dangerous version of the programme is underway.
Opening much like Memento, the second season’s central mystery revolves around uncovering the intriguing identity of Jackie, and just how she fits into the bigger picture of the Geist Group. Choosing an unreliable narrator as the POV for the audience results in an interesting way to step outside the Geist facility, with solid opening episodes which quickly hook you in. However, this changes rather quickly as the creators subvert expectations by throwing a typical linear narrative out of the window.
Shifting from the first season’s psychological thriller to a conspiracy centering around ethics and corporate greed, the second season feels far more in the vein of Esmail’s Mr Robot. Yes there are more twists and turns, but it’s just not quite as gripping or impactful as Heidi’s tale, perhaps due to the interwoven story feeling like its merely filling in gaps left from the first season. Questions such as just who is Hong Chau’s Audrey Temple and who’s really behind the Geist Group are indeed explored, as the narrative shifts from the mystery of Jackie’s identity to delving into how the main players got to where they are now. All in all, it feels like a very stylish set up for a third season which is a little disappointing, but with seven episodes clocking in at between 20 and 30 minutes, the series proves to be very bingeable.
The payoff really does hinge on the stellar cast, lead by newcomer Janelle Monáe who shines as the mysterious Jackie, bringing a subtly layered performance full of depth to the show. Returning from the first season is the excellent Hong Chau who continues her fantastic run following Watchmen, undergoing possibly the biggest and most compelling transformation throughout as Audrey. Stephen James also returns as Walter Cruz, who undoubtedly should have been the true focus of this series, along with Bobby Cannaval’s brilliantly awful Colin Belfast. Supporting cast include Oscar-winner Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the company’s stubborn founder, along with Emmy-winner Joan Cusack’s bonkers turn as Francine Bunda.
With The Stanford Prison Experiment director Kyle Patrick Alvarez behind the camera this time around, there’s a definite change in style for the sophomore season. Gone are the different aspect ratios and colours, replaced with multiple split screens and unsettling camera pans. The intriguing musical choices are also missing, with The Last Black Man in San Francisco composer Emile Mosseri crafting an entirely new score, resulting in a more chilling accompaniment.
Homecoming season two is a stylish and smart sophomore outing, but unfortunately just not as compelling and gripping as the outstanding first season. Horowitz and Bloomberg set up an intriguing tale for a potential third season, I just wish they would have incorporated it into this story.