What to Remember About Homecoming

Janelle Monáe’s character may be new to Homecoming season two, but she’s part of a larger mystery that was seeded in season one. Photo: Ali Goldstein/Amazon Studios

It’s been a year and a half since Amazon Prime’s Homecoming premiered — leading to a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama and multiple citations on lists of 2018’s best television (including ours) — and for most of that time it’s been an open question how the show would continue into a second season given the relatively contained narrative of year one. Would season two of Homecoming find a way to continue the story of Walter Cruz (Stephan James) and the mysterious Geist corporation, or would it branch out to tell a whole new sort of story? Well, the second installment of the series based on the Gimlet Media podcast does a little bit of both: introducing viewers to new characters while also returning to old ones and, most of all, deepening the overall mythology of the first year.

Yes, there’s a new protagonist, played by Janelle Monáe, and a new type of mystery at its center, but year two of Homecoming continues a great number of the narrative threads of the last, including the return of one of its central characters — he’s in the trailer and credits, so it’s not too much of a spoiler. Fittingly for a show about lost memories, Homecoming season two relies on its viewers recalling a few things about what happened back in 2018. But given that a lot — like, a whole lot — has gone on in the world between then and now, you’re forgiven for not recalling some specifics. We’re here to help get you back up to speed.

What was the first season about?

Julia Roberts, who only returns as an executive producer in season two, starred as Heidi Bergman, a caseworker at something called the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a facility designed to ease the transition for returning veterans trying to find their way back into society. Sam Esmail directed all ten episodes (there are only seven this time, helmed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez) as the story jumped back and forth between what exactly happened at Homecoming and an investigation into it led by Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham) of the Department of Defense. As the super-slimy Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale) tried to sweep everything under the rug, the story of vet Walter Cruz took center stage. Heidi’s favorite patient, Walter became the tragic central figure of Homecoming, a compassionate soldier destroyed by the military-industrial complex.

What exactly did they do at Homecoming?

While Heidi worked on behavioral therapy with her patients, Homecoming was really just a horrific experimental drug program. A company called Geist developed a drug that allowed soldiers to forget their time in combat. In the present-day narrative, Heidi pieces together what happened to Walter there, and the role she played in it. Most insidiously, the drug being developed wasn’t just to ease the pain of PTSD and help returning soldiers acclimate to life at home again, it was basically meant to create super-soldiers. Imagine what a young man can do when he can just pop a pill and forget what happened to him the day before. After completing Homecoming, Walter would have been back on the other side of the world in a foreign war — if he hadn’t been given an extra dose.

Where did we leave Walter Cruz?

It’s important to remember the final scenes of season one, including the one that happened after the credits. After an extra dose of the drug back in 2018, Walter was released from the program, and everyone involved just hoped he wouldn’t remember anything about what happened. Records were falsified about why he was let go, and his history was scrubbed. However, Heidi found him in a small town in California, remembering that he liked to go there as a child. When she finds him, Walter seems to have no memory of who she is, but he arranges his silverware just like he used to when he was in the program, implying that his memory hasn’t been completely wiped, or possibly he’s just replicating some kind of muscle memory. Whether Walter remembers anything was the biggest thread left dangling in the first season.

Who is Audrey Temple?

Homecoming season two really kicked off after those final credits in season one. In the finale, Colin, knowing that the hammer of the Department of Defense is about to come down on him, scrambles to figure a way out of a mess that he largely created. He requests a meeting with the powers that be at Geist, but he ends up in a lonely boardroom with Audrey Temple (Hong Chau), who used to be Colin’s assistant. She informs Colin that she is now his superior and that the only way out of this is for Colin himself to take the fall for all of it. She name-drops Geist and “the farm” as ways to prove she’s more inner circle than Colin, bullying him into being the scapegoat for everything Homecoming. When Colin leaves, she pulls out a roller and applies some of the memory-wiping drug to her wrist, implying that the drug that was used to create super-soldiers may be useful for those looking to alleviate stress. Audrey’s arc and the future of the drug are central to season two.

Are there any other familiar faces?

Heidi and Carrasco may be gone, but season two of Homecoming contains a couple other people from the supporting cast of season one that you may want to remember. There’s Craig, played by Alex Karpovsky, an employee in the Homecoming operation. And do you remember Ron? Fran Kranz played a mysterious character who was obviously Colin’s superior in every way at Geist and appeared in episode five when Colin was looking for a lifeline. They both return in season two.

So who do Janelle Monáe and Chris Cooper play?

While the narrative and mythology of season one definitely continue, season two of Homecoming also opens the world to new faces, the most prominent ones played by musician-actress Monáe and the Oscar winner Chris Cooper. Monáe leads the first part of the season as a mysterious woman named Alex who wakes up in a rowboat in the middle of a lake with no idea who she is or how she got there, but her arc will eventually tie back in with everything viewers need to remember about season one of Homecoming. Chris Cooper plays a revolutionary inventor who lives in an old-fashioned farmhouse on the edge of the massive compound that once housed the Homecoming program. His name? Leonard Geist. Yes, that Geist. Remember that name.

What to Remember About Homecoming