Homecoming

3 out of 5

Created by: Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg

I was all set to let loose my fingers ‘pon the keyboard with a lower rating, but I paused to consider that I watched all of Homecoming’s ten episodes easily enough; that I dug the performances by Julia Roberts, Shea Wingham, and Bobby Cannavale; that I’m finding director Sam Esmail’s style indulgent but that it added visual interest to the telling; and that I appreciated that it told its story in 30-minute increments, even if that was still stretching it a bit.  Meaning: for most intents and purposes, I didn’t mind Homecoming, and could even be said to have been ‘entertained’ in that time passed without directly incited frustration.  I’m just disappointed.

Esmail’s purposeful visual style switch between two time settings – one in which Julia Roberts, a Heidi Bergman, is a type of on-site psychologist for Homecoming, an agency purported to help soldiers ease their way back into civilian life, and one some time after that, in which Heidi is now a living-at-home waitress, seemingly in denial of that job – and the show’s artful dodging around what, exactly, Homecoming may or may not be for, sets us up for a show of intrigue; a puzzle box that we’ll unlock episode by episode…

Or, uh, not at all.  There are some things to be explained along the way, as a DoD agent (Wingham), in the ‘present’ timeline, investigates a complaint against Heidi stemming back to her time at the agency, but on the whole, through Bergman’s interactions with soldier Walter Cruz (Stephan James) are her slimy all-business-speak boss, Colin (Cannavale) we get the gist very, very early on.  And this, to me, ended up being the puzzle: am I missing something?  Is there more to this than I’m supposing?  I wasn’t; there isn’t; and some of the blame to that surely lies on the structure and presentation.  This setup also short-changes a lot of potential impact: emotional mining that could have been done if we had more time to dip into the difference between Then and Now without treating it as a reveal.  But, as I cycle back around through my memories of the show, if I strip out that teeter-tottering expectation, I still get a very well-performed drama, and one with an interesting central concept that withstands being questionably twisted into a thriller.

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