I’ve never listened to the podcast that Homecoming is based on, but I was curious to try an experiment with this episode. I watched the episode twice, the second time not looking at the screen at all, just listening to the dialogue. What struck me is how much it sounds like a podcast, especially the hushed intimate tones whenever Heidi and Walter are speaking. Julia Roberts is especially phenomenal in these scenes, but I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that Stephan James is the show’s MVP. He can convey pent-up trauma, simmering anger and easy charm all through his delivery alone. As much as I love Oscar Isaac and as curious as I am to hear what he did with the role on the podcast, I have a hard time imagining that it’s better than James’s work.
Close your eyes and you can pretty much follow an entire episode of Homecoming. But seeing as the podcast already exists, that would make the TV show a little redundant, so Sam Esmail has to repeatedly justify the show’s existence beyond just redoing the same story with a different bunch of actors. It helps that Homecoming is so bewitching to look at. Esmail and regular DOP Tod Campbell (the two worked together on Mr Robot) set out a clearly defined palette and aesthetic from episode one and they have a habit of throwing in virtuoso camera moves, breathtakingly composed shots and mesmerising symmetry, ensuring Homecoming is as lovely to look at as it is to listen to. Rewatch that pharmaceutical montage that kicked off this episode and tell me that you didn’t think of Vince Gilligan’s finest work. And that’s no faint praise.
Plot-wise, there’s nothing here to convince me that I was wrong last week when I refused to believe that Heidi and Walter’s leaving dates are what they first appear. What we can be sure of is Carrasco appearance at Geist, followed by Heidi’s phone-call from the blue add up to skeletons Colin would rather stayed in the closet. You didn’t even need to see his face to know that.