‘Homecoming’ returns to Amazon without Julia Roberts, but with plenty of intrigue
Janelle Monae joins the second season of “Homecoming” as Jackie, a mysterious woman who wakes up without her memories.(Ali Goldstein/Amazon Studios)
Julia Roberts is gone as “Homecoming” returns to Amazon for Season 2, but the central question remains: Can you relieve trauma by forgetting it?
The psychological thriller lost its marquee leading lady, but Stephan James, who played hero Walter Cruz, is back. In addition, Janelle Monáe and Chris Cooper lend some star power to the new chapter, which premieres Friday.
And the series returns to the scene of the crime at Geist, a seemingly malevolent corporation that wipes the war memories of soldiers returning home before sending them back into society.
But for the showrunners, it’s not that simple.
“I think we do want to push back against this cartoonish view of institutions, whether it’s corporations or the government, as these monolithic, all-powerful masterminds and illuminate the humans within,” Eli Horowitz, who created the show alongside Micah Bloomberg, told the Daily News. “Our main goal is to make a compelling story while also including lots of very human moments.”
“Homecoming” expands the world of Geist this year, introducing Cooper as founder Leonard Geist, an eccentric botanist who seems more interested in protecting his crops than anything. Monáe is Jackie, a mysterious character who wakes up in a boat in the middle of a lake with no idea how she got there.
Jackie’s back story is tied to both Geist and Walter Cruz.
In Season 1, Roberts — who chose not to return to the series — played a character who helped Walter return from war without his memories. But he is left with the pain anyway.
“It’s one thing to get back and to have to deal with your family and your friends getting used to you, but what happens when you go outside the comfort of your own home, when you’re not with your family and friends who are supposed to be so understanding of you?” James told The News.
For research, James spoke to veterans about their own processes, about how they survived war and then came back to normalcy, to grocery shopping and an office job.
Walter doesn’t get that. Not yet at least. In James’ words, he’s on a mission to “take back his control a little bit.”
“I think, ultimately, he wants to be able to move on and live life normally,” James told The News. “But he can’t with this monkey on his back and so it’s either everything is wiped out completely or I get down to the bottom of it myself and do everything I can do to make sure this never happens again.”
Where the first season of “Homecoming” was adapted from the Gimlet podcast of the same name, Horowitz and Bloomberg had almost free rein for the second. They started with an endpoint, Bloomberg said, and worked backward from there.
But there was always an overarching question: Who’s the hero?
“A huge goal for us is to have all of our characters have this nutty idea of how they’re the good guy in this story,” Bloomberg told The News.
“And so for season 2, we hope to fill the stage with characters who are equally as ambiguous and equally as fraught and confused. We love to take people that you relate to and connect to and put them in these impossible situations and then watch them make decisions that you’re like, ‘Oh, God, that’s not going to work out, that’s not a great idea,’ or watch the sort of chaos become a cascade.
“People get overwhelmed with what’s going on and lose track of themselves.”