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Homecoming - Season Two - Review

Homecoming season one is a whirlwind of strange, seemingly never-ending plot-twists. While Homecoming season two tries to reach this same level of excitement and intensity as season one, it never quite gets there. However, what it lacks in excitement, it makes up for in other aspects: it’s a bit calmer, a bit more serene, with much more interesting characters, and to top it all off, there is a visit from The Pentagon. Season two doesn’t need the plot-twists that season one needed, because, as stated, their characters are more compelling, and frankly, just all-around better.

Let’s first meet our main cast of season two: Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures) playing Alex / Jackie, Hong Chau (Watchmen), and Stephan James (Race) returning as Audrey Temple and Walter Cruz respectfully, and Chris Cooper (Adaptation.) playing Leonard Geist. The actors are phenomenal. This cast is amazing. They all clearly give it 100% in every single scene they do, and that shines through in each episode this season.

Audrey and Alex/Jackie are in a constant dilemma of do I like or do I tolerate this person, though. Walter is as wonderful as ever, but Leonard is not even expanded on enough to give us a good enough reading on how much we could love him if given the chance. Which, personally, was fine with me. It was nice that, for once, the older white, male character was pushed to the side so the female, LGBTQ+, characters of color could get their time. I just wish they would’ve made Audrey and Alex/Jackie (we’re going to just go with Alex, okay?) more generally likable.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We’re not rooting for them. We’re not supposed to like them. We don’t have to like Audrey and Alex, and we don’t even have to like Leonard, although he puts on one hell of a performance as the weepy business owner who gets in over his head and everything becomes too much too quickly.

Here’s the kicker: despite all of this, I did like all of the characters. I was rooting for all of them, except maybe Audrey towards the end, and definitely not Bunda (Joan Cusack - In & Out), who spends half of her time on screen treating the soldiers of the Homecoming initiative like they were necessary cogs in a machine that just had to happen, and not PTSD victims of a memory-stunting treatment who didn’t know what they were getting into when they started it. These deeply flawed, somewhat convoluted characters ended up making me want them to make it through this on top: to become better, more than what they were when we started. Obviously, everyone except Leonard, Alex, and Walter will completely forget what happened due to unwillingly taking the serum, so that doesn’t exactly happen, but, you know, semantics.

Look, here’s where I could criticize the show and talk about how it feels lazy compared to season one, and I could go on and on about how I feel like even the shortened season felt too long, or I could talk about how I think dropping the season in one go was a huge mistake on Amazon’s part, but instead, I want to talk about the things I loved.

Too often I feel like we, as reviewers, myself included, spend a lot of time talking about what we think was wrong about the show, and a lot less time talking about what we think was right. On one hand, yes, I think putting our constructive criticism into the world is good, and letting our opinions be heard offers a starting point for the opening of good dialogue; on the other hand, are we too harsh sometimes? Are we spending too much time talking about that one shot that was bad, too dark, too bright, too jumpy, too slow, and not enough time talking about how great the lead actor’s performance was?

So instead of digging deep into the flaws of the show, which, yes, as stated above, there are a few, I’ll say this: I had a great time watching this show. I had fun watching this show. It kept me on the edge of my seat and it still surprised me even though I’m sure some people out there saw it coming.

Not to endorse Amazon, but you’re telling me that by paying $13/month, I can have three and a half hours of Janelle Monáe and Hong Chau in a relationship, Stephan James acting his butt off, and cat litter at my door in 48 hours free shipping? I mean, yeah, sign me up. Monáe and Chau had such great chemistry, they worked off of each other so well whenever they were together, but Monáe and James? Fireworks. Sparks. Electrical currents running across the surface of the earth.

The anger and confusion in Alex throughout the beginning of the season reflecting off of the anger and confusion in Walter at the end should’ve been like looking in a bathroom mirror, but instead was like looking in a funhouse mirror. They’d both undergone this horrible thing, they’d both unwillingly taken this drug that would forever change them with almost no answers to back it up, and instead of joining in solidarity, Alex feels a strange loyalty to Audrey, and Walter realizes that he must find answers on his own.

Something that left me wanting more was Walter’s storyline. We know the basics, of course, and I understand logically because of how the show was done why we couldn’t expand on his background, learn more about what happened to him at Geist or during the Homecoming program, but now he’s left with a hundred questions, and we only know some of the answers. We know what happened to him, but he’s now left with this nagging sensation, on top of telling Leonard he wanted it all gone, which was such a heartbreaking scene, and how much longer can he really do this? I just wish we could’ve known more, but hopefully, if it’s brought back for season three, it can be a season all about Walter.

For the most part, though, the second season, while yes, a bit lackluster, is honestly a pretty good time. It might not be up to snub with Emmy Nominated Season One, but I really enjoyed myself, and for what it’s worth, I personally, wouldn’t have nominated season one for an Emmy, but I guess that’s why I’m not an Emmy voter, right? If I ever recommended it to a friend, I would probably suggest skipping season one. I would tell them to just watch the quick recap it gives before the new season and enjoy season two as a standalone season because it would be much better like that.

Side note: holy crap, I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention the score! The score for this show is absolutely bonkers and if that doesn’t win an Emmy I will go absolutely insane. Emile Mosseri knows just how to get under your skin with his music -- he can lift the hairs on the back of your neck or he can ease the tension in seconds, and it never failed to awe me. It’s rare that you find a TV show with a noticeable score; usually, they come in movies or shorts, but TV shows are often more generic, not really ear-grabbing, but this… This was truly astounding.

Now, instead of one singular favorite quote or scene, because this is a season review, I’m going to give you my favorite scene or quote from each episode.

2x01 -- People 

My favorite scene from this episode was when Alex was standing outside of the Motel room with Buddy (John Billingsley - The Man From Earth) and you can see the person in the motel room next to theirs in the window. They’re sitting right in front of the closed shade that might as well not even be there because you can clearly see them still subtly trying to listen to what’s happening outside. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t end up mattering, but I thought it was an interesting glance of “people are always watching, so you’d better be careful, no matter what you think you know.”

2x02 -- Giant 

Ha! This one is a quote. When Jackie/Alex still doesn’t realize she’s Alex, she decides to go to the address on Alex’s license, and before she goes she decides she’s going to need a weapon. She gets a hammer before deciding, instead, on something behind the counter: A taser.

The Cashier: “Ever used one of these before?”
Alex: “Probably.”
Very convincing. Very casual.

2x03 -- Previously 

My favorite scene from this episode is definitely my favorite scene from the entire show. There’s a montage of Audrey and Alex working together to decide how they’re going to take down Colin Belfast -- how they’re going to run him out of his own company. It’s an amazing scene. There’s back and forth of them planning it, then Audrey putting it in motion, and guys I cannot talk enough about how much I loved this scene. I watched it three times. I just kept going back!

2x04 -- Soap 

Come on, we got a soft date night between Audrey Temple and Alex Eastman and we’re expecting me to say something other than this scene? That’s absolutely not happening in a million years. It was nice to see a different side to these characters when all we’ve seen of them so far is their spiky exteriors because that’s all that their jobs will allow us to see. Now, though, we’re getting them partially off the job, talking about having kids, building a life together, and it’s really nice. I enjoyed it, and I wish we’d gotten more, but I understand why we couldn’t.

2x05 -- Meters 

Guys. Come on. I had a hard time choosing between two scenes for this one (Leonard pulling up the roots himself was so close, but alas) but I had to go with the scene in the bar between Alex and Walter. When he asks her how long her buddy’s longest sniper shot was, and she says, “1,100 meters,” and you could see the realization in his face that she's lying to him? I gasped out loud. This moment was pivotal to Walter’s entire character, but especially because you could almost physically see his guard go back up. He’d just opened himself up to this woman, he’d trusted her, told her about his mother, his struggles in the war, the things he didn’t know anything about, and then she betrays him without even knowing that he knows that she betrayed him? It’s ridiculous -- it’s amazing. Monáe and James are superb in this scene.

2x06 -- Needle 

This one is a favorite quote again, and it comes from Walter when he and Alex are in the car on their way up to go fishing. Or so he says. Really, he wants to get her up there because he knows she’s not who she says he is, and he wants to know why, but first, he wants to interrogate her. He wants to know more about her, to break down her shields, to make her feel vulnerable the way she made him feel. So he asks about her personal life, and they get on the subject of Audrey. At the end of the drive, after Alex has told him about the reason she and Audrey have been putting off having children, he parks the car, turns to her, and says, “what if it’s not the baby she’s [Audrey’s] not sure about? What if it’s you?”

2x07 -- Again 

I could go cliche and say that my favorite scene was the one where we find out that Walter is the caterer Wendy (Mary Holland - Blunt Talk) had to deal with earlier at the party. I could say that I was genuinely shocked and I let out a near scream when we saw the empty jugs of serum Walter was wheeling out of the building and into a dumpster, knowing everyone was about to ingest the serum that would make them forget everything that has happened, that was about to happen. Instead, I’d like to go with a quote from a conversation between Bunda and Leonard. Bunda decides to take her rest out in the berry field, and Leonard walks past her as he’s leaving. They chat a bit about what a terrible idea this was, this is, this will be, and then as Leonard is leaving, he chastises Bunda one more time. 

Leonard: “You’re gonna get sunburned laying out here.”
Bunda: “Then give me your f---ing hat [He does.] My hero.”

What did you guys think of Homecoming season two? Do you think (or hope) it’ll get renewed? If it does, what are you hoping to see, or not see, in season three? What were your favorite episodes? Did you also want to jump through your TV and wring Colin’s neck when he referred to himself as Icarus? Let me know in the comments below!

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