‘Homecoming’ Season 2 Review: Janelle Monáe Leads Amazon’s Mystery Down Some Bad Paths

There’s very little that can be said about “Homecoming” Season 2 without venturing into spoiler territory, so let’s start with this: Anyone who loved the ambiguous ending of Amazon Prime’s first season, especially if you were taken by the profound connection between Walter Cruz (Stephan James) and Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), should enter into Season 2 with caution. It’s not that podcast creators and series showrunners Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg provide a definitive answer as to what or who Walter remembers after his “treatment” at the Homecoming facility (though they kinda do), or even that they’re dismissive toward that poignant final moment so beautifully composed by Season 1 director Sam Esmail — far from it.

Everyone involved in crafting Season 2, including new full-time director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (“The Stanford Prison Experiment”), seems hellbent on telling a story that exists on the periphery of what came before. That helps distance the new episodes from a set that already nailed its ending, but the remaining ties create nagging questions that threaten pristine memories of the O.G. “H.C.” Worse still, too many aspects of Season 2 suffer by comparison, leaving audiences with as many questions about why this new story had to be told as what the story itself has to say.

“Homecoming” Season 2 opens with Janelle Monáe in a boat — so far so good! Confused, alone, and too overwhelmed to keep her phone from falling in the water, Monáe’s unnamed character (that’s a spoiler!) looks around and sees a man on the shore. But when she yells for help, instead of saying anything back, he flees. From there, Monáe has to hand-paddle her way to shore, then hike to a remote road, and finally hitch a ride to the “People” who inspire the episode’s title. After a stop at the hospital can’t explain why she lost her memories, Monáe befriends a divorcee named Buddy (John Billingsley) who helps her follow what few clues she has to a bar, a hotel room, and a car.

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Episode 1 spends its full 30 minutes with Monáe, and not knowing who she is or how she ended up stranded in a canoe makes for an engaging early mystery. Still, this is the second season of “Homecoming,” and considering the first season focused on a drug that erased people’s memories, it’s a bit silly to spend any time questioning why Monáe doesn’t know her name. Episode 2 starts to expose similar flaws as it shifts perspective to Audrey (Hong Chau), who you may remember from Season 1’s post-credits scene when she fired Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale), the man behind the Homecoming initiative. Now, she appears to be running things at The Geist Corporation, alongside company founder and avid gardener Leonard Geist (Chris Cooper). While there’s a nice surprise at the end of the second half-hour, the weakening structure foretells problems before Episode 3 jumps back in time to explain exactly who everyone is.

Here’s where spoilers become necessary to discuss what goes wrong with Season 2, so if you haven’t yet watched or don’t want to know what happens anyway, here are a few last broad thoughts on what’s lost in “Homecoming” Season 2: The direction mirrors the moody contrast between hazy mysteries and sharp revelations, but minus the stylistic flourishes in movement, blocking, and homage; the writing invites questions with concrete answers, but there are lots of problems with where things end up; and the performances are solid, but boxed in by a story that limits any intensity, let alone affinity, for these new characters. So just remember: Not having answers isn’t the same as needing them.


Stephan James and Janelle Monáe in “Homecoming”

Ali Goldstein/Amazon Studios

[Editor’s Note: The following portion of the review contains spoilers for “Homecoming” Season 2, including the ending.]

OK, answer time: So it turns out Monáe is a fixer named Alex. When we’re introduced to her pre-amnesia life at the start of Episode 3, a few days before she ends up on the boat, Alex is listening to an employee’s sexual harassment complaint and secretly dissuading her from pressing charges. That’s right: She’s basically fighting the #MeToo movement, helping companies cover up any bad behavior that could prove costly or embarrassing, and that’s her full-time job: When a company gets in trouble, she steps in to protect the company and get rid of the victim, even if her methods aren’t 100 percent legal.

Alex is also living with Audrey, and though they refer to each other as girlfriends, they’re serious enough to be talking about kids and serious enough for Alex to use her skills to help Audrey at work. You see, Audrey didn’t exactly earn her promotion; following Alex’s guidance, she took it — first, by conning Colin into signing that confession, then getting him ousted for what he confessed to, then sliding in to take over his leadership position after starting as the company secretary. She did this, in part, because she’s been overlooked for too long, as evidenced by a scene when she asks a colleague if she can pitch ideas in the morning meeting, only to be shut down and see her ideas stolen.

But after Audrey takes control, she soon encounters a problem: The Homecoming program, which she just tried to bury, has a loose end in Walter Cruz. Following his diner conversation with Heidi, Walter suffers some upsetting flashbacks and gets into a car accident. When he tries to pass off the memory attack as an after-effect of his brain surgery, the doctor tells Walter he never had surgery. So Walter goes hunting for his medical records, which leads him back to Geist, which leads Audrey to worry, which leads Alex to step in and say she’ll “fix” things with Walter.

These kind of cover-ups and connections are exactly what conspiracy thrillers depend on, and they’re part of what made Season 1 so compelling. But the initial “Homecoming” focused on Heidi and Walter, the latter an innocent veteran who was experimented on by a greedy corporation as well as an uncaring government, and the former a woman who’s trying to make up for past mistakes she can’t even remember. Relying on empathetic, engaging characters (who also happen to have great chemistry) to unravel a horrifying mystery is one thing, but Season 2 relies on Alex and Audrey to usurp expectations before revealing their noxious backstories. Alex can’t remember her past mistakes, but she’s not exactly trying to make up for them. Audrey knows full well what she’s doing, and she doesn’t care. Both of them are effectively antiheroes, and they suck up a lot of the narrative, even though Walter remains at the core of Season 2’s arc.


Chris Cooper and Hong Chau in “Homecoming”

Ali Goldstein/Amazon

“Homecoming” ends with Walter and Mr. Geist conspiring to drug everyone at The Geist Corporation so the government can’t use its special berries for nefarious purposes. Mr. Geist concocts a big dose of memory-wiping drugs, and Walter spikes the punch at a company party with it. Their plan works, and everyone from General Bunda (Joan Cusack, who seems ported over from a completely different show) and Audrey, to the mail room workers and supply clerks, will have a hard time staying in business without any memory of what their business does.

Once Alex puts all the pieces together and reaches the end of the season, she’s become, at best, a slightly more compassionate person. Where once stood a woman who would throw victims under the bus for a quick buck stands someone who will sit with her manipulative ex-girlfriend so she doesn’t have to wake up alone. Is that reason enough to devote three hours to her story? And what about Audrey? Her last words before losing her memory express regret over not committing to having a baby with Alex — so she learned to put people first and pay attention to what’s so special about what’s already in front of her… right before she loses it forever. Even Monáe and Chau, two talented actors, are hamstrung by the limitations of their characters; Monáe spends most of the season either blank-faced and baffled, or blank-faced and hellbent on stopping Walter. Chau can only exude any real emotion when she leans into Audrey’s vindictive side, and yet this is the couple we’re meant to care about.

The ending doesn’t work on a number of levels — how do Walter and Mr. Geist know everyone who knew about the berries had their memories wiped? There are definitely people not in the office who knew, from Colin to the D.O.D. to everyone working for General Bunda — but what really irks me is its conflicting messages: If Season 2 is about identity, recognizing the humanity all around us, and making people take stock of how their actions effect others (especially anyone “beneath” them), why is it OK for Walter to overlook the innocent Geist employees he drugs for “the greater good”?

Similar oversights hamper other interpretations of Season 2, like when we’re asked to forgive The Geist Corporation and be satisfied with their downfall. It’s made clear Mr. Geist didn’t know about the Homecoming program, and he’s soon turned into a benevolent savior who helps Walter when no one else will. Seeing Chris Cooper watch “Airwolf” and kick butt is always a pleasure, but it’s a bit odd in today’s day-and-age, when private billionaires are profiting off a global pandemic, to believe a corporate boss whose underlings conducted illicit experiments on veterans was completely in the dark about any bad behavior. “Homecoming” points the finger at the government instead of Geist, but in Season 1, it felt like both parties were in cahoots for the wrong reasons, so why is it just the government who’s the bad guy now? (Also, not for nothing, but why did an again, white, rich guy have to be the hero of a season led by two women of color? Was Amazon getting skittish about its originals painting corporations in a suspicious light?)

The last shot of “Homecoming” sees Walter looking over his personal file from the war, rediscovering the memories that were taken from him as well as the men and women with whom he served. Looking over a list of his fellow soldiers, he closes the file and drives off, leaving the Geist corporation and all its drugged employees behind — presumably to go help any survivors who are facing the same fuzzy past he once did. But right at the top of that list is Heidi’s name. So, she either wrote the list or had access to it, which means either way, she could’ve given him that file. It could’ve been waiting in his truck when he left the diner at the end of Season 1, and he could have drove off to help those soldiers right there and then — maybe with Heidi by his side. Alex could’ve stopped General Bunda and Audrey, as well as any other misguided Geist employees, and there would’ve been a new hero to this new story. Instead, “Homecoming” Season 2 created two bad women, one white savior, and turned its innocent hero into someone willing to sacrifice innocents. What a weird way to go.

Grade: C-

“Homecoming” Season 2 is streaming now via Amazon Prime.

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Paradigm CEO Backs Down After Music Agents Object to 50% Pay Cut

Why NBCU Is Still Optimistic About Peacock Despite Mid-Pandemic, Olympics-Free Launch

Being a music star has its perks: not only do you have millions of adoring fans and can go to any event or restaurant you like, but you can also make a ton of money while doing it. 

That’s especially clear on Friday after Forbes released its annual rankings of the highest-earning musicians in the world.

There are plenty of familiar faces on its list, including pop stars, aging rock icons, and a power couple who tied each other in the rankings (you can probably guess who they are). 

Let’s take a quick look at the biggest earners in music in 2019, courtesy of Forbes’ calculations: 

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  • Taylor Swift, who released her latest album, “Lover,” in August, made $185 million this year and grabbed the top spot overall. This was the second time in five years that Swift was named Forbes’ highest-earning musician. 

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  • Looks like Kanye West’s pivot towards religion — a la Bob Dylan in the late ’70s — didn’t hurt business. West brought in $150 million in 2019, according to Forbes. The veteran rapper, as usual, had several projects in the works: a new album, his “Sunday Service” religious gatherings, and his shoe deal with Adidas to name just a few.

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  • The red-haired Englishman released his fourth studio album this year, which included his chart-topping single, “I Don’t Care,” which featured Justin Bieber. Sheeran also had a cameo in “Yesterday,” The Beatles-inspired film directed by Danny Boyle. He raked in $110 million overall. 

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  • So what if The Eagles haven’t put out a new album in more than a decade? They’re still able to draw huge crowds, which they did while touring in 2019 — helping push them to a cool $100 million in earnings. 

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  • Elton John made $84 million, and it’s easy to see why: Sir Elton is not only working on his seemingly-never-ending finale tour, “Rocketman,” a biopic on his life came out in May and his autobiography “Me,” which was released this fall. 

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  • Beyonce had another massive year, earning $81 million in 2019. That tied her with someone she know’s pretty well as the sixth highest-paid artist of the year… 

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  • Who else could it be? Jay-Z just turned 50, but he’s not slowing down, apparently, matching his wife with an $81 million payday this year. 

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  • Like most years this decade, 2019 went pretty well for Drake. He earned $75 million, Spotify said he was the most-streamed artist of the decade, and his Toronto Raptors won the NBA title. 

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  • Rapper-turned-media-mogul Diddy, who now runs Revolt TV, can afford to get his friends and family nice holiday gifts: he pulled in $70 million, per Forbes, this year. 

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  • “Fade to Black” was more like “Fade to Green” in 2019 for Metallica, with the longtime metal icons earning $68.5 million. 

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  • The “Lover” singer-songwriter just grabbed the top spot on Forbes’ rankings for the second time in five years

    Being a music star has its perks: not only do you have millions of adoring fans and can go to any event or restaurant you like, but you can also make a ton of money while doing it. 

    That’s especially clear on Friday after Forbes released its annual rankings of the highest-earning musicians in the world.

    There are plenty of familiar faces on its list, including pop stars, aging rock icons, and a power couple who tied each other in the rankings (you can probably guess who they are). 

    Let’s take a quick look at the biggest earners in music in 2019, courtesy of Forbes’ calculations: 

    Sharon WaxmanAuthor mediabestPosted on Categories CelebritiesTags , ,

    JANE FRYER details what the vast Super Moon might mean for us all

    The moon is a pink balloon! At 3.35am on Wednesday a vast Super Moon will light up our skies. JANE FRYER details what it might mean for us all

    Dust off your binoculars, earmark a comfortable perch next to an east-facing window, set your alarm clock and prepare for a front row seat to witness a true natural wonder of the world.

    Because at exactly 3.35am on Wednesday morning, the vast Pink Super Moon will sit high aloft, lighting our skies in all its magnificent lunar glory.

    Every April, sandwiched between the Worm Moon of March and the Flower Moon of May, the Pink Moon rises to hang like a great glowing orb in the sky, almost impossibly large, bright and full.

    Yet for all those thousands of stars, mankind has always retained a special, fervent connection with moon. And if the Moon — known as our ‘eighth continent’ — seems inextricably linked to everything here on earth, that’s because it is

    But this year, meteorologists expect it to be bigger and brighter than ever — thanks in part to its proximity to the earth, but in particular because of the clear skies forecast this week and reduced air pollution caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

    For in the early hours of tomorrow morning, the moon, whose orbit is not circular around the earth, will be at its closest possible point to our planet (its ‘perigee’) — just 225,623 miles away, compared to the average Moon-Earth distance of 252,088 miles. As a result, it will appear 14 per cent bigger and a third brighter than usual.

    All of which means that those with a telescope, a pair of binoculars, or even particularly beady eyes, will be able to make out some of its vast plains, jagged mountains, ancient volcanoes and the brutal scars from endless meteorite bombardment.

    The skies are clear — not just of pollution, but also planes and helicopters roaring over. The air quality over our cities is the best it has been in decades

    Not, however, that any of the above will be actually pink.

    Because the name, which originates from Native Americans, comes not from the moon’s colour, but from the spring blossom of ‘moss pink’ or phlox flowers — one of the early blooms that coincide with the April super moon in the US.

    (It has plenty of other names too — the Egg Moon, Full Sprouting Grass Moon, Growing Moon and Full Fish Moon — all reflecting different seasonal markers from around the world.)

    As it rises tomorrow, the ‘Pink’ Moon will initially appear more orange than anything else.

    When a Full Moon is seen low in the sky and close to the horizon, it is viewed through a greater thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, the oxygen and nitrogen-rich mixture filters out, or refracts, the bluer wavelengths of white moonlight — which is just light reflected from the sun — leaving more of the red component of the moonlight to meet the eye.

    Of course now, in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, is the perfect time to start looking up. The skies are clear — not just of pollution, but also planes and helicopters roaring over. The air quality over our cities is the best it has been in decades.

    Dust off your binoculars, earmark a comfortable perch next to an east-facing window, set your alarm clock and prepare for a front row seat to witness a true natural wonder of the world. A pink full moon is pictured above in Rome in 2013

    Even better, we actually have the time to pause, to look up, to notice the canvas of wonders above us.

    For as well as the majestic luminous moon, we can now witness all the cosmos has to offer.

    Not just the odd twinkling star (it’s easy to tell them from planets because the latter, much closer, barely twinkle) but whole constellations — to the north; Ursa Minor and Major, the Plough, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga. And to the south, Taurus, Cancer, Canis Minor and Major. The list goes on and on.

    In fact, on a clear night in a good location, up to 3,000 stars can be spotted in the sky. And all you need to see most of them is a window, a strong neck to look up, or a warm coat and a blanket to lie on if you’re out in your garden.

    Yet for all those thousands of stars, mankind has always retained a special, fervent connection with moon.

    And if the Moon — known as our ‘eighth continent’ — seems inextricably linked to everything here on earth, that’s because it is.

    More than four billion years ago, it was actually part of our planet. That is, until a very young Earth, then rather smaller than it is today, was hit by another planet about the size of Mars.

    The impact — one of the biggest explosions ever seen in the solar system and the most dramatic even in the Earth’s history — resulted in the two planets coagulating in a seething molten mass that took centuries to cool down. At some point during the process, a vast glob of material was hurled off into space and became the Moon.

    Time to rise to the Super Moon challenge . . .

    By Oscar Cainer, Daily Mail astrologer

    The Supermoon defines the peak of a cycle that began at the New Moon. It suggests the fulfilment of a promise, the illumination of hidden information and the ability to turn concepts into tangible reality.

    It suggests the fulfilment of a promise, the illumination of hidden information and the ability to turn concepts into tangible reality, writes Oscar Cainer, Daily Mail astrologer

    It sounds rather wonderful doesn’t it? Yet when matters come to a head, we realise that our solutions aren’t quite as perfect as we might have hoped. This is an ideal time to negotiate and rework ideas. 

    As the Super Moon arrives, it connects with Jupiter and Pluto. These two celestial powerhouses converged recently and have been stirring up trouble for a while.

    The last time they met like this was as we headed into 2008, the year of the financial crash. 

    The good news is that, this time, the Libran SuperMoon focuses its energy towards fighting for what is right rather than fighting for power.

    It’s time to celebrate fairness and decency by showing kindness despite our difficult circumstances. 

    This Super Moon calls us to show who we are and what we really stand for. It offers a challenge which I think (and hope) we are ready to rise to.

    Tomorrow, it will take the form of a Pink Super Moon, changing, as it ascends, from it’s slightly pale orange, to a bright, silvery white — too bright to look at for long when it is high in the sky, but utterly beautiful.

    As Emily Drabek-Maunder, an astronomer at the UK’s Royal Observatory Greenwich, puts it: ‘It’s going to be spectacular. The Super Moon is a great opportunity for everyone to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.’

    Certainly it will be beautiful and awesome and, for those with binoculars and telescopes, there will be an awful lot to see. For starters, Copernicus, a 60-mile wide crater about 800 million years old.

    Then there’s the selection of the moon’s various seas; the Seas of Vapours, Serenity, Tranquillity, Crises and Fertility (not actual seas, but dark plains formed by volcanic eruptions). 

    And let’s not forget the meteor scar of Aristarchus, to the left of Copernicus, and the vast Tycho crater at the very bottom. All from your bedroom window.

    But if, somehow, your alarm doesn’t go off, or you just can’t get out of bed, don’t panic.

    The Flower Super Moon will be along next month in all its glory to kickstart May, albeit not quite as bright and beautiful and breathtakingly close as this one.

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