The thriller “Homecoming”, produced by Sam Esmail (“Mr Robot”), is back on Amazon for a season 2 centered on new heroine played by Janelle Monáe, who succeeds Julia Roberts. Is this second salvo up to the first?

Ali Goldstein

More than a year and a half after its launch on Amazon Prime Video, the Homecoming series, produced by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) and created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg from their eponymous podcast, made its comeback yesterday, Friday, May 22, on the streaming platform for a second season which is part of the semi-continuity of the first since it takes up the universe and the central mystery but relies on new characters. Including Jackie, a troubled heroine embodied by the actress and singer Janelle Monáe (The Shadow Figures) who succeeds Julia Roberts, now with absent subscribers (although she retains her executive producer cap).

But by never really managing to maintain the brilliance of season 1, which imposed itself like a real slap at all times, as much on the substance as on the form, this second foray into the paranoid web of the Homecoming Initiative turns out to be a little disappointment.

A more rhythmic but also more classic psychological thriller

From its opening sequence, which sees a young woman waking up amnesiac on a boat in the middle of a lake, unable to remember who she is or what brought her here, season 2 of Homecoming however installs a effective story. And this even if this beginning of the plot does not breathe originality, as the spring of the total memory loss is seen and seen again on television as in the cinema (hello, Jason Bourne). But whatever. Tightened over 7 episodes (against 10), the story gains in rhythm and clarity, by choosing the explanation and the deepening of the themes tackled before in the series. Last season, it was the loss of bearings from Heidi Bergman, a psychiatrist employed by a center aimed at erasing the memories of soldiers traumatized during the war in order to send them back to the field, which we followed in parallel over two eras separate. Here, the creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg have decided to go back to the origins of the Homecoming experiment and take us inside the mysterious and harmful group Geist, where it all started. And everything will end?

Director of all the episodes of the first season, Sam Esmail hands over to Kyle Patrick Alvarez (13 Reasons Why, Counterpart) and we can only deplore this choice, as Alvarez does not have the virtuosity of its predecessor. The “paw” Esmail and the paranoid atmosphere so special of the first 10 episodes, which referred as much to Hitchcock’s cinema as to that of De Palma, with a great reflex of bewitching soundtrack, worked filters, enigmatic characters, and changes of frameworks and temporality, have given way to a more classic realization, which struggles to provoke fascination. The storytelling has also been simplified (probably in an effort to captivate those whom season 1, more convoluted, could have lost) but the desire to discover the answers provided by the writers and the still solid performances of a very well chosen cast (Janelle Monáe, Chris Cooper, and Joan Cusack at the head) urge us to go after these 7 episodes of 30 minutes which are almost like the 3:30 movie.

Ali Goldstein

A suite that lacks soul

Beyond the lack of stylistic ambition of this “sequel”, compared to the brilliance of season 1, the other problem of this season 2 is to be found on the side of the narrative construction which, past the attraction of novelty linked to Jackie and to his own past, ends up showing his limits after a few episodes. We understand quickly enough that despite a new framework (the Geist group) and new characters, the writers have decided to repeat many of the springs already used the previous season. Too mechanical, the story therefore struggles to convince and we have to face the facts: all that lacks too much soul and depth. Because by betting almost everything on its thriller aspect, this new variation around the theme of memory forgets that the pulsating heart of season 1 ultimately resided more in the love story between Heidi (Julia Roberts) and Walter Cruz ( Stephan James) only in the mystery linked to the actions of the Homecoming center.

If the character of Jackie has the merit of allowing the series to talk about post-traumatic stress in military women – a subject too often reserved for men – the shadow of Heidi and Roberts therefore continues to hover over the series and we come to regret a little that the series did not stop after a single season (Amazon had immediately ordered two seasons from producers). Because by not reaching the height of the episodes that we loved so much, this season 2, which finds its justification in the answers it provides to the questions left open at the end of the previous batch, comes some just spoil the power of the series. Or at least what made it so unique. By its fascinating universe, Homecoming obviously remains above a good number of current thrillers, even in its predictable or less inspired moments. But that is not enough.

The Homecoming Season 2 trailer, available on Amazon Prime:

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