Imagine there was a magic form of therapy that cured soldiers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder within a matter of weeks. It could signify a medical breakthrough for mental health, or, as is often the case with experimental treatments — at least on TV — it could be an incredibly dangerous tool. Amazon's new thriller, Homecoming, ponders just that, centering around an exploratory program for soldiers returning from deployment. And though the Homecoming facility isn't a real place, that only makes the mystery behind it more intriguing. (Light spoilers for the Homecoming podcast ahead.)
The series is based on Gimlet Media's Homecoming podcast, which marked the company's first fictional endeavor. Its voice cast featured a celebrity-packed roster including Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer, and the Amazon adaptation is no different: Julia Roberts' starring turn marks her first big TV role.
The show similarly follows the experimental efforts of the Homecoming facility, and if it stays true to its source material, it won't take long before the the program's motives come into question. The story primarily focuses on Homecoming's head therapist, Heidi Bergman (Roberts), and one of her patients, Walter Cruz (Stephan James), to whom she becomes close throughout his treatment. Homecoming also picks up four years after Heidi has left the Homecoming... and she curiously has very little memory of her time working there.
It's unclear whether the Amazon series will follow the podcast to a T, but if the trailer is any indication, the sinister essence of Homecoming will remain intact. And as the show progresses, the stakes will only get bigger.
As far as translating Homecoming to screen, however, there will be at least some subtle differences — namely, the visual element allows the podcast's team to craft a broader, more dimensional world. "We learned all these great lessons by doing this in audio about really focusing on the characters; letting the scenes and the conversation create the action instead of describing the action. So the focus and compression and density that audio requires, I think we can bring to television,” co-creator Eli Horowitz told IndieWire. “Audio is essentially all foreground, at least in the way we presented it. But then television obviously brings so many more tools that we can use. The idea of going deeper into the setting, the idea that there’s more space in the frame.”
Adapting the show for TV also gives Horowtiz and co. the opportunity to flesh out what the Homecoming facility looks like, from small yet crucial details like the fish tank to the sprawling, futuristic feel of Homecoming's cafeteria and laboratory. Fans of the podcast will be delighted to see the notorious center come to life, while those new to the story of Heidi and Walter will be entranced by the rich and eerie cinematography. But as the Homecoming facility takes shape on screen, viewers will soon learn there's ample reason to hope it that it will never come to existence in reality.
Homecoming premieres on Amazon Nov. 2.