Heidi (Julia Roberts) is a counselor and administrator at a new facility called Homecoming that was built on the premise of helping soldiers adjust to civilian life. While the program appears to be doing just that during the first episode, hints of ulterior motives are dropped every few minutes. The most alarming of these hints came during a phone call with her business partner Colin (Bobby Cannavale), who immediately shut down Heidi’s idea of building relationships with the soldiers, claiming that they were just there to collect information from them. At the close of this phone call, Colin is shown, for the first time on screen, yelling at a group of workers as they hose down a lab in an unknown country.
There are a couple times during this first episode where the camera narrows and jumps to about four or more years into the future, where Heidi now works as a waitress in a diner a long ways away from her old job. During the day of this time jump, a representative from the Department of Defense shows up to ask her a few questions about Homecoming as a follow up for a complaint by Walter Cruz (Stephan James). This is eerie because the first episode of the show centered on Cruz’s first few days at Homecoming, and thus the reason for the complaint is sure to be depicted in episodes to come.
What’s more terrifying though, is that Heidi doesn’t remember anything about her time working at Homecoming, or even why she left.
Besides the complex plot, the show is mainly creepy due to its Hitchcockian approach to filming. The first episode opens with beautiful shots from the inside of a fish tank paired with tranquil music, which oddly puts the viewer on edge. This edge only grows as artistic camera angles, hazy lighting and increasingly eerie instrumental background music persists throughout the entire show. The combination of these three techniques draws memories of the most suspenseful scenes from “Psycho” and “Rear Window” and grows so intense that you’ll be spending half the show with your finger lingering over the pause button in case of emergency.
Despite, or maybe because of, no real action or terrifying scene happening in the first episode, there is no relief from the mounting suspense by the time the credits roll. With every scene set up like the calm before the storm in a horror movie, it becomes hard not to imagine the worst-case scenario of every scene. She can’t just be eating dinner; it must be poisoned. He can’t just be talking to her; someone’s about to shoot him. But without any means of release from the suspense, the music and set up for the second episode is almost unbearable when played back-to-back.
The cast, plot and camera-work for this TV-show are absolutely stunning. And while it may not be the ideal show for fans of Julia Roberts’ romcoms, it is, without a doubt, perfect for anyone who likes Hitchcock or shows like “Stranger Things.”
Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.