Entertainment

The 'Homecoming' Twists to Remember Before Watching Season 2

A quick refresher about what went down in the Amazon show's first season.

homecoming
Hong Chau as Audrey | Amazon
Hong Chau as Audrey | Amazon

A woman wakes up on a boat with no idea who she is or how she got there. That's how the second season of Amazon Prime's Homecoming opens, and it's disorienting. At first, it seems largely disconnected from the Season 1 plot but soon you realize how it fits with what happened in the first batch of episodes, which dropped in 2018 and starred Julia Roberts.

Based on the Gimlet podcast of the same name, Homecoming found the actress playing Heidi Bergman, a therapist helping soldiers transition back to their civilian life by administering a PTSD treatment plan for a mysterious government contractor called the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, whose parent company, the Geist Group, otherwise sells only household products. As she developed an intense relationship with young veteran Walter Cruz (Stephan James), the action played out in two timelines: in 2018, when Heidi worked at Homecoming, and in 2022, when she worked as a waitress with little memory of her previous job, which frustrated the Department of Defense agent investigating the secretive program.

So how does that connect to the woman on the boat, played by Janelle Monáe? To get into specifics would reveal too much, but here's a refresher for what went down in Homecoming Season 1 in case you want to drive back in.

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Stephan James as Walter | Amazon

How did Homecoming Season 1 end?

I understand — it's been a while. Why didn't Heidi remember her time at Homecoming? What became of Walter? As we eventually learned, Homecoming was dosing its patients through their meals with a drug derived from a fruit. The treatment was not in fact designed to help them get over their mental battle scars in order to live more peaceful lives, but instead to make them forget their trauma so that they'd be willing to go back into war. In the 2018 timeline, Heidi, realizing that Walter was going to be redeployed soon, made a drastic move by having him eat an extra meal and also took some of the drug herself. The extra dose incapacitated Walter, rendering him ineligible to return to active duty, and her dose also caused her to experience memory loss, but not before she purged the files she kept on patients. (She sent Walter's records to his mom.)

In the final moments of Season 1, set in 2022, Heidi and Walter had one more interaction. With her memories refreshed thanks to the Department of Defense investigation, she located Walter in a small California town and they chatted in a diner, but it was left unclear whether he remembered her. The one clue? The placement of a fork that may or may not be a callback to an earlier scene. In an interview with us, executive producer Sam Esmail would not reveal whether Walter's fork-moving indicated that he recognized Heidi.

hong chau, bobby cannavale
Hong Chau and Bobby Cannavale | Amazon

What else should I know? Who is Audrey Temple again? 

As Season 1 followed the trajectory of Heidi and Walter's relationship, it also tracked the higher-ups at Geist, notably Colin Belfast, Heidi's boss (played by Bobby Cannavale). Colin was just trying to turn the project into a money-making endeavor, but in the finale it seemed that the jig was up when Colin got accosted in a meeting room by Audrey Temple (Hong Chau), who we'd seen previously playing an assistant. In a major twist, she forced her apparent boss to sign a confession, acknowledging Homecoming's misdeeds. So what's Audrey's deal? Learning about her trajectory at Geist and why she's staring down Colin is a huge part of Season 2.

What about the medication? 

Not much is revealed about the strange, berry-like fruit that is used in the Homecoming medication, but a clue into what to expect in season two is revealed in a brief scene after the Season 1 finale's end credits. Audrey, sitting by herself, takes out a roller pen and puts some of the red substance onto her wrists. It's the same color produced by the plant that makes people forget all about their issues.

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Janelle Monae as Jackie | Amazon

Is Julia Roberts in Season 2? 

No! Season 1 is the end of Heidi's storyline, unless Season 3 brings her back for some reason. Roberts remains an executive producer but she is no longer in the show. 

So, what can I expect? 

Season 2 answers some of the questions posed by the series' initial outing, and in other cases seems to deliberately avoid digging too much into the previously established lore. From the outset, we know that Monáe's character "Jackie" has been dosed with the Homecoming drug, and the initial episodes follow her piecing together who she is in a Bourne-esque plot. But then the narrative jumps back in time to show how it's all interconnected. The continuation of the series is less concerned with the military industrial complex and the nuances of trauma, and more invested in how people achieve success at the expense of others. Monáe and Chau are wonderful in the series, both asked to slyly subvert expectations set by the script's subtle deceptions, and the series is an easily digestible seven, half-hour episodes. Now that we know its cinematic tricks and glossy noir style, Homecoming is a little less intriguing, but it's still some of the most well-crafted TV there is. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.