TV review: Homecoming is creepy, compulsive viewing

Julia Roberts is quietly terrific in Amazon Prime Video's clever, complex series about strange goings-on at a veteran's rehabilitation centre

HOMECOMING (Sam Esmail). All 10 episodes available Friday (November 2) on Amazon Prime. Rating: NNNN

Amazon Prime Video’s second series spun out of a podcast, joining Aaron Mahnke’s Lore, Homecoming expands the Gimlet Media series about strange goings-on at a veteran’s rehabilitation centre into clever, complex television. It’s smart, it’s creepy, it’s unexpectedly moving. I did not see it coming.

Adapting Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz’s audio drama into a minor-key version of his paranoid symphony Mr. Robot, director/producer Sam Esmail employs varying aspect ratios and parallel narrative tracks to expand upon the original plot about the complex interactions between Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), a case worker at the Homecoming facility somewhere outside of Tampa, and Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a soldier dealing with PTSD who becomes one of her first clients.

Heidi and Walter’s relationship still sits at the core of Homecoming, but now the narrative slides back and forth between their time together in the present and the events of four years later, when Heidi is roused out of her routine as a server in a Florida diner by an investigator from the Department of Defense (Shea Whigham), who’s looking for information about a violent incident that ended her time at the facility – an incident she doesn’t even remember.

Roberts is quietly terrific as the various versions of her character, conjuring a lovely connection with James (who, as always, takes a complex part and makes every moment feel totally natural), while Bobby Cannavale, as Heidi’s swaggering dick of a boss, is just as solid a scene partner. (The roles were originated by Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer, respectively.) Whigham’s dogged decency works to ground the 2022 segments nicely, and Sissy Spacek, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hong Chau and Dermot Mulroney all pop up in smaller roles.

Running just over five hours in total, with a predatory visual aesthetic that echoes the found-audio aspect of the podcast without calling too much attention to it, this iteration of Homecoming is creepy, compulsive viewing. Nice work, everyone.

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