There are so many mysteries and thrillers out there. What sets Julia Roberts starrer Homecoming apart? The narrative, the direction, the environment the show is set in.
Music floats in as a beautiful pelican sits still. Fishes in an aquarium, a quiet building and a warm and welcoming Julia Roberts. That is your first introduction to Amazon Prime Video’s latest offering The Homecoming. From the promos, one expected a thriller with an ominous silence about it. But the pilot of the show called ‘Mandatory’ is far from that. Nearly the whole episode–except the bit towards the end–is suffused with a warmth that is immediately identifiable with the word ‘Homecoming.’ Homecoming literally means returning home and the show evokes that sense of friendship and familiarity.
The ten-part series revolves around a woman called Heidi Bergman (played by Julia Roberts) who is a counsellor at Homecoming, a place where former military men are ‘trained’ to return to civilian life successfully. However, things go awry in the middle which forces Heidi to leave her job and start working at a restaurant. What happened in between forms the crux of the narrative.
In the first sequence of the first episode, Heidi and Walter Cruz (a 26-year-old former military person) are interacting. Heidi informs Walter about the Homecoming and its purpose and he seems enthusiastic about getting back to the grind of daily life, saying that he wants to be in “full compliance” to whatever is expected of him at the centre. Heidi expresses surprise at the word and there is your first tip-off. Why compliance? Is it because Walter was an army man who is used to following instructions, or does he want to make an agreeable impression on Julia’s character? You ignore the sign and so does Heidi.The show does not follow a linear narrative and moves back and forth to tie together the two ends of Heidi’s life. The first episode ends on an intriguing note wherein Julia is interrogated by a man about her past at the Homecoming. She, in turn, however, refuses to divulge any details about it, stating that she doesn’t remember anything.
Coming back to ‘compliance,’ were the men at the Homecoming held against their wishes? Doesn’t look that way, but the building, despite its noble interiors, is reminiscent of a neatly-kept prison. Questions, and more questions. So far, so good.