Homecoming: Season 1 created by Micah Bloomberg, Eli Horowitz, Sam Esmail (Amazon Studios, Anonymous Content, Esmail Corp.)
Starring Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, Stephan James, Shea Whigham, Alex Karpovsky, and Sissy Spacek.
Blame it on studying philosophy in college, but I try my darnedest to avoid falling into conspiracy thinking. Logically, the simplest explanation for any event makes a conspiracy highly unlikely. And, the amount of people required to deliver a wide-ranging conspiracy makes it all the more difficult to keep under wraps.
And yet, the back half of this decade feels like an endless exposition of conspiracy. I’m not budging on my general conspiracy take, but I’m starting to see how smaller decisions can make large dents on our society.
Recently, Enemy of the State was on television. I often enjoy re-watching a film after 10-20 years of distance. I remember upon first watch how implausible and undesirable a surveillance state might be. Now, post-Snowden and with the Internet of Things connecting our entire world, Enemy of the State feels plausible. Does that mean our government is out to get us? Probably not. Can one person or a few people in concert wreak untold havoc? Unquestionably yes.
And so, with the rise of technology and with the ease of access, harmful results feel more conceivable, even if the institutions themselves aren’t authoring these malevolent tasks.
Our Modern Fears and Anxieties
And within this milieu, Homecoming feels current, well-defined for our modern fears and anxieties.
Focusing on Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), Homecoming tells the story of a social worker over her head doing the bidding of corporate and government suits.
Working in a facility outside Tampa, Heidi rehabilitates veterans before they re-enter the civilian world. A halfway house of sorts, the Homecoming facilities harbor veterans and train then on “normal” interactions and how to get over PTSD.
Even though it’s a dream job, Heidi receives constant pressure from her abusive and manipulative boss, Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale). And the more micro managing and bullying Colin becomes, the more Heidi begins to question the nature of the operation, especially when she becomes smitten with one of the veterans, Walter Cruz (Stephan James).
Questions of Institutional Malfeasance
As Homecoming moves to its emotional pinnacle, questions of conspiracy and institutional malfeasance take center stage.
Compellingly shot, true to Sam Esmail’s oeuvre, Homecoming tells stories on multiple timelines, differentiating each by aspect ratio, the standard widescreen for the past and a 1:1 aspect ratio in the present, both decisions playing nicely with the deeper themes. Additionally, Esmail adds a slight tilt shift, keeping the edges of each shot barely out of focus.
Additionally, Esmail draws compelling work from his main actors. Julia Roberts shoulders every ounce of doubt about her character’s faculties. Cannivalle plays the gaslighting asshole with the confidence of a gaslighting asshole. And, contrary to form, Shea Whigham portrays quiet strength with every indignity received as he plays the agent inspecting this conspiracy.
Homecoming surprises in its depth and its conspiracy holds weight given our current societal trends. I’m still not going to dive down the conspiracy theory wormhole, but it sure makes for an entertaining story.
Verdict: 4 out of 5