DAVID BIANCULLI

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JONATHAN STORM

 
 
 
 
 
Revisit Amazon Prime to Binge on 'Homecoming'
November 2, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

Amazon Prime has pulled together a fine cast to tell a fine story in the new psycho-thriller Homecoming.

Homecoming, whose 10 episodes launch Friday on the streaming service, rotates around Julia Roberts’s Heidi Bergman, whose brief time counseling troubled war veterans has left her with her own version of PTSD.

Heidi works as a waitress – bringing Roberts (top) back to her Mystic Pizza roots – and seems to spend the rest of her time either with her demanding mother Ellen (Sissy Spacek, top) or her not-very-interesting sort-of boyfriend Anthony (Dermot Mulroney).

She’s drifting and aimless, as this suggests, though she seems to feel comfortable in her small cocoon. Heidi’s current life, frankly, wouldn’t make for much of a drama, even though each episode of Homecoming, in a break from traditional TV practice, runs only half an hour.

Then one day she gets a visit at the restaurant from Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham), an investigator from the Department of Defense. He’s following up on a complaint that Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a Middle East war veteran, was held against his will four years earlier at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, where Heidi worked.

Walter was one of her clients, but she tells investigator Carrasco she doesn’t remember him. Whatever she knows from Homecoming, or thinks she knows, she clearly wants to keep tucked in her past.

This dance immediately intrigues us, not just because we want to know why Heidi is being evasive, but because we’ve seen a couple of flashbacks to her early sessions with Walter. He seems calm, polite, and rational. They establish a comfortable personal rapport, bonding over a couple of small matters like the fish tank in her office. We get no hints why Heidi brusquely tells Carrasco the job just wasn’t “a good fit.”

We also see no hints in the first episodes why a complaint would have been filed. Carrasco tells Heidi only that she isn’t a target of whatever he ends up investigating – an investigation that his boss Pam (Brooke Bloom) considers a minor nuisance she would like him to wrap up quickly and quietly.  

Further piquing our interest, several other flashbacks show Heidi talking with her own boss at Homecoming, Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale). He works for Geist Industries, which runs the Homecoming program, and we don’t like him at all. He’s a bully, for starters, and he’s also clearly a slick hustler for whom this whole “help the veterans” program looks to be just an angle from which he hopes to make money.

At least that’s what everything about him seems designed to tell us.

We’re further engaged in these early moments because Walter’s anecdotes about serving in the military sound like things that could have happened, and probably did happen. When he’s around other veterans who are also at this center for treatment, the aftereffects of combat experience feel visceral.

Nor do things get less intense as we slowly start to learn what Heidi wants to forget, or didn’t know.

Homecoming has an unusual pedigree. It began as a podcast by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, and Amazon outbid several suitors, including George Clooney’s movie company, for the video rights. Sam Esmail, whose recent work includes USA’s Mr. Robot, created and directs the Amazon series.

Homecoming also has a two-season order, so these first 10 episodes won’t wrap everything up. Which is fine. Watching this cast for another round is not exactly stressful.

 
 
 
 
 
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