Sam Esmail has done it again. After the success of Mr Robot – arguably the best show on TV – he has stepped into the director’s chair for all ten of these brilliantly-constructed episodes and proven himself to be one of the most creative individuals working in the entertainment industry. The look of Homecoming is truly stunning and some of the visual tricks (including one stroke of genius involving the aspect ratio that compliments the storytelling beautifully) are truly the best thing about Prime’s brilliant new original. It’s a show you simply can’t take your eyes off, made with intense care and paying attention to even the smallest details, elevating it above its competitors in television’s most oversaturated era by the science of marginal differences. It’s a show that understands that less is more – with refreshingly short thirty-minute episodes and inch-perfect pacing making it a joy to binge or savour. And it’s a show with something to say, musing thoughtful on governmental and societal treatment of military veterans all whilst unpacking a compelling central mystery. It’s TV at its absolute finest – a must-watch and must-talk about series that will go down as one of the finest televisual achievements of 2018.
“There is never a moment that feels wasted, with every scene contributing to the central narrative that builds and builds throughout the season”
The performances here are as superb as the technical talent guiding them, with Julia Roberts’s first foray onto the small screen producing one of her most compelling performances in years. Her understated portrayal of Heidi keeps the audience on their toes as the mystery unravels and we are left desperately seek the truth behind this broadly sympathetic character who appears to be hiding something of great significance; a nuance brought to life by Roberts’ subtle facial mannerisms. The rest of the talent is similarly first-rate with Stephen James continuing to establish himself as a break-out star, following his stellar work in Race and Selma. James has a natural confidence and charm and his chemistry with Roberts – combined with their highly personal dialogue – create a series of conversations that never fail to engage. The highly underrated duo of Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham play the roles of manipulative, aggressive, corporate stooge and tenacious, underappreciated, caring detective magnificently; each offering a commanding screen presence in performances worthy of leading-man status. Sissy Spacek – playing Heidi’s mother – is yet another aspect of the show worthy of the highest praise, and a testament to the quantity and quality of talent on display.
The excellence of the characters ensures our interest in the plot – and fortunately, it proves just as captivating. There is never a moment that feels wasted, with every scene contributing to the central narrative that builds and builds throughout the season before reaching its surprising and perfectly bittersweet climax. The ending is highly affecting; indeed, it’s so satisfying that my only question mark is the necessity of the post-credit tease and already-confirmed second season. There are a few secondary questions that remain unanswered, but our main character-arcs feel completed and I for one would be happy if this were our only visit to the Homecoming Transitional Support Centre. Regardless of what comes next, Homecoming Season 1 is a remarkable stand-alone achievement and a show I will remember for years to come. From the brilliance of Esmail’s direction to the top-tier level of acting from all of the core cast, this is exactly the kind of show we need more of.