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The Way Home - Season One Overview: Hallmark's Successful Gamble

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Warning: This overview contains spoilers.

Movies and series on the Hallmark Channel are known for telling stories that tug on the heartstrings and conclude with a happy ending. Their new hit series The Way Home has that and so much more. It is a unique approach that melds several genres together to create something unlike anything on the network before, and fans love it. Now that the series' first season has ended on a jaw-dropping cliffhanger, this article looks at what makes this show so unique and why fans have eagerly responded.

The Way Home builds on what Hallmark has done before (a little bit of genre, a little bit of period drama) but takes those elements deeper. Generally, the emotions in Hallmark shows are more dampened, especially regarding grief or family conflict. That's not the case with this show. It more richly explores the lows and highs of raw emotions than most shows this writer has seen on Hallmark.

So many plusses add up that make the show exceptional. First, a bit of history in that the show was initially slated for Netflix but brought to Hallmark by new executive Lisa Hamilton Daly when she joined the network. Then she convinced the network to take a chance on the multi-generational family drama with an unusual time-traveling twist from proven showrunners Alexandra Clarke, Heather Conkie, and Marly Reed. That gamble has paid off, and then some, and the network has wisely renewed The Way Homefor a second intriguing season of adventures of the Landry women.
Without question, the writing this first season has been exceptional and unafraid of tackling tough subjects like death, sickness, and divorce with heart-breaking honesty. The fact that the show leans into heavier issues but also builds them into an exciting time travel story makes it very appealing. Just when you think you can predict the story’s direction, these adept writers throw in a well-crafted and unexpected curve ball. While some elements weren't handled well, storylines they thought would work but ultimately dropped, or characters that seem inconsequential (hello Byron or town vet Dr. Andy), overall, the writing has been successful. Some key unexpected revelations or moments, such as the fact that both Kat (Chyler Leigh) and Alice (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) can time travel, Kat's interaction with both her missing little brother, Jacob (Remy Smith) and her late father, Colton (Jefferson Brown) and the revelation of the 1814 "White Witch" seen in the opening moments of the series, have kept fans on the edge of their seats.
As good as the writing is, none of it might not work were it not for the superb cast headed by Andie MacDowell as Del, the matriarch of the Landry family; and Chyler Leigh as Kat, a woman with a history of having her world around her collapse yet strong and resilient enough to keep fighting. Holding her own with these powerful actresses is Sadie Laflamme-Snow as Kat's teenage daughter Alice. In her first series, she shows remarkable poise and skill in navigating Alice's complicated character growth from a sullen teen to a compassionate young woman. Obviously, these three are the beating heart of the show. And they are all so lucky to have someone like Evan Williams as Elliot, who supports the Landrys as an anchor and guide during difficult times.
The chemistry between the leads and the show's supporting cast has been superb and is the best-cast chemistry for the first season of a Hallmark show. Alex Hook as teenaged Kat and David Webster as teen Elliot are eerily similar to their adult counterparts Leigh and Williams. Siddarth as teen Brady and Jefferson Brown as Landry family patriarch Colton are all standouts. They all work so well together as a team with genuine affection for one another that shows both on screen and in their social media interactions with fans.
There is an excellent balance among the three main themes of The Way Home . The family drama aspect is exquisitely addressed and performed. All of the Landry women are in pain, most of it centered on how their lives were shattered following Jacob's disappearance and Colton's death all those years ago. Watching how they all cope and start on the road to healing is the series' emotional core. Andie MacDowell literally and figuratively brings Del to life in 1999 and the present. Her character seemed resigned to being alone until her estranged daughter returned home with her never seen granddaughter. MacDowell's little touches to Del, her wicked sense of teasing and humor, her overwhelming grief, and her generous heart make the character strong but vulnerable, and the actress the perfect person to play this part.
Chyler Leigh is doing some of her best work ever as Kat Landry. Her ability to tap into Kat's raw pain and emotion has the audience crying every moment she cries. Kat is perhaps the most vulnerable of all the Landry women; she is overcome by the guilt she still feels at her brother disappearing on her watch, losing not one but two jobs, seeing her marriage has come to an end, and struggling to connect with both her estranged mother and teenage daughter. It's obvious Kat craves and is starved for genuine love and affection, but her resilience and grasp of the family motto of never giving up keep her going. This is Leigh's first role as a mother, and she nails it partly thanks to her incredible chemistry with Laflamme-Snow and her own acting instincts.
The most significant character growth of the main characters belongs to Laflamme-Snow's Alice. Diving into that pond could be the best thing that ever happened to Alice. Being with her mother and grandparents in 1999 has given her insight into what has caused all the pain and rift in her present-day family, and she wisely is using it and Elliot's guidance to help them all heal.
Speaking of Elliot, many kudos to Williams for being the anchor that helps all the Landry women. He is essential to all their lives, both past and present. Poor Elliot, his life changed the day he met Alice in 1999, and instead of walking away to seek his own path, he chose to stick around and help the Landry family. Every family should be so lucky to have an Elliot in their lives.
As far as the time-travel aspect of the show, it is not the typical take on the genre. Instead of a more science fiction approach, the time-traveling in The Way Home is in more of a Somewhere in Time vein relying more on the emotional complications of time travel than the magic and mystery. It's also brought us another cast member that must be mentioned…that mysterious Landry Pond, which takes only specific Landrys through time but only to places and times they need. Alice needed to be in 1999 to become best friends with her teenage mom and help her during her devastating losses. She also needed to be in early 2023 to mail that fateful letter that brought her and her mom back to the Landry farm. and, as we learn in that shocking finale twist, somehow Kat’s needs led to her becoming the White Witch from 1814.
The time-traveling aspect has alsobrought the show's most heart-breaking moments, particularly in episode 9, where adult Kat got the rare opportunity to spend a few stolen hours with her late father and hear the things she needed to hear from him that could help her heal. The work between Leigh and Brown in those scenes was touching and award-worthy. And Leigh's work in realizing she could have been the cause of the accident that cost her father his life, theguttural emotion and pain she brings to those scenes, hits a level of devastating payoff few shows have reached.
Then there's the romance aspect of the show that pleases so many. First, there's the beautifully depicted relationship between Del and Colton. There's such an ease and beauty between MacDowell and Jefferson Brown that you have no trouble believing one would mourn the loss of the other so deeply. Next, there's the bittersweet first love between Alice and her 1999 boyfriend, Nick (Samuel Braun). Alice finds her first love but painfully realizes there is no hope because they are from two different times. Laflamme's pain when she comes face to face with present-day Nick (Kerry James) who doesn't seem to recognize or remember her is palpable.
Then there's the sweet and tender romance between Kat and Elliot. The show writers/producers take full advantage of the amazing chemistry between Leigh and Williams to tell this story of unrequited love, where the boy finally gets the girl. It's not until she's time-traveled and seen young Elliot that she realizes he is the one who has always been there for her and who has always loved her. However, her desperation to change the past regarding her brother ultimately drives a wedge between them. Elliot realizes that to keep Kat, he has to walk away from her now. Their separation is not likely to be permanent or long; Elliot's love for Kat is so strong that he will find his way home (pun intended) to her. And for the record, Kat and Elliot's first kiss has to go down as one of the sweetest and most beautifully filmed first kisses ever!
There is far more to the Landry family story to be told, and a good part of the show's well-deserved second season will take place in 1814. However, there are still several questions that need to be answered. For example, what is Bryon's (Nigel Whitmey) real identity and connection to the Landry family? How did Colton know to call Kat his daughter as he lay dying in her arms? How is Kat supporting her family now that she's been fired from her second job since the series began? Does the grown-up version of Jacob's friend Danny (Peyson Rock) know more than he is telling? And most importantly, does Del know about and has she used the Landry Pond to do some time-traveling of her own?
Fans need these answers and more in season 2 of The Way Home . We also need more of Kat's friendship with Monica (Samora Smallwood). And we certainly need more of the wonderful music that was a significant part of season 1, that took great advantage of the musical skills of Brown, Laflamme-Snow, Leigh, and Williams. A mother-daughter duet between Kat and Alice surely must be in the works. Given the production quality and storytelling in the first season, next season will surely be another winner. If the reception of this show and cast is any indication, Hallmark needs to take more chances with shows like The Way Home soon.

The first season of The Way Home is available to watch or stream on Peacock, Hallmark TV and is available for rent or purchase on Itunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu.

What are your thoughts on the first season of The Way Home? What would you like to see happen in Season 2? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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