WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Homecoming, now available on Amazon Prime Video.
As the originators of the podcast on which Amazon Prime’s Homecoming is based, co-creators and co-showrunners Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz are the masterminds of the mystery. However, the show’s second season offered a new challenge: moving the first season’s story forward while focusing on a new lead character and introducing a fresh mystery. The seeds of the season were planted in the final episode of Season 1 when previously overlooked receptionist Audrey Temple (Hong Chau) came out of nowhere to take the reins of the Homecoming project from Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale).
With their way into Season 2 clear, Bloomberg and Horowitz went about crafting a suspenseful story that explores memory, identity, and intention. During a virtual event, the pair spoke to CBR and others about the themes they wanted to tackle in Season 2, how new star Janelle Monae got involved with the show and the challenges of telling a new story in an existing world.
Before Bloomberg and Horowitz delved into the new season, they cleared up a burning question about the end of Season 1: Did Walter Cruz (returning star Stephan James), who lost his memories over the course of the season, recognize his social worker Heidi (Julia Roberts), when he saw her at the diner in the season finale? If the show had stopped after one season, the answer would continue to be ambiguous, but going into Season 2, Bloomberg said he and Horowitz had to make a decision about that moment in order to move the story forward. And, according to Bloomberg, they came to the conclusion the scene “did not [mean Walter recognized Heidi]….
“As we started putting together the story for Season 2, it kind of forced us to pick a direction for that. So, I think you’ll see as the story comes together as you’re watching Season 2, that Walter understands some things and he’s right and other things and he’s wrong. And so a big part of Walter’s arc for Season 2 is understanding his psychology as the pieces of [the] Homecoming [program] sort of start to occur to him in his life, and also start to bubble up inside of him.”
In addition to Walter Cruz, there were a number of things from Season 1 that Bloomberg and Horowitz wanted to include in Season 2. “I would say we had a few elements we wanted to carry over and then part of the process was trying to find a way to integrate all these things,” Horowitz shared. “We knew pretty early on that we wanted this [Audrey] Temple connection. She emerged at the end of Season 1 and seemed like someone who would be so overlooked but so compelling, and having her be sort of the entry point or the link into Season 2, we knew that early on.
“But then we also loved this image of this woman waking up in a boat and not knowing how she got there or why. And then… the idea of a character falling for her own fake identity seemed like a compelling kind of classic, pulpy twist. So we had kind of those two elements. And then finally, we knew we wanted to investigate the world of [the corporation,] Geist more and have it be somewhat different than the sort of monolithic corporation you might expect. So those were, I think, the three main elements and we were just looking for different ways for those pieces to link up. And, for us, it’s all about approaching things on a character level or an individual story-beat level, and then hopefully, as a result, coming up with something that sort of surprises even us…”
The ongoing presence of Geist also enabled the pair to use the second season to continue to explore some of the themes that emerged in the first season. “I think one of the things we wanted to explore was, similarly to Season 1, …the story involves these large institutions — corporations and governments — but we tried to treat them not as these monolithic all-knowing powers, but rather as just a collection of individuals with their own fears and insecurities and ambitions,” Horowitz explained. “And so, we did that with Leonard Geist, with Colin Belfast, with all the characters.”
“Thematically what we talk a lot about is intentions and the use of intention,” Bloomberg added. “Like what we’re really fascinated by is someone thinks they understand what’s going on, they think they know the results of what they’re going to do, they have a goal, they’re trying to accomplish it. And then all these terrible things happen without them even realizing what was actually going on. Season 2, I think, is a great example of that. Janelle [Monae]’s character just wants to help her girlfriend. That’s her motivation, really, is to be of use to her and to assuage these fears that she has. And she sets into motion this cascade of weird events.”
Bloomberg and Horowitz were especially excited to cast Monae to lead the show in its second season. “Actually, we had wanted to get Janelle for Season 1 in some part — we weren’t sure, we had a couple of different ideas — but it didn’t end up working out,” Bloomberg revealed. “And so when we went to do the character of Jackie, she was always on our list, was always somebody that we thought would be such a great asset and I think because, for us, the character of Jackie is sort of made up of parts of different roles that this person plays. So… the reason that Janelle is so perfect for that is because she can so effortlessly inhabit these different modes and these different looks and these different sort of approaches between her music and acting and all the different forms that she takes in our media landscape. So for us it was a perfect fit.”
Despite that, however, Bloomberg continued, “Like with everything else with our show, we didn’t start off with a mandate to have the season center around strong female characters. We sort of just kick the story around until the characters start to appear to us. And in the case of Jackie I think she just ended up being a woman because of various other story pressures that we felt for other reasons needed to exist and… it sort of led us down a path that we were really excited about in terms of her relationships with other members of the cast.”
In fact, the pair found a variety of unique challenges in telling a new story in the already-established world of Homecoming. Horowitz observed, “In the beginning, we saw that there’s one archetype of the Game of Thrones-style [series] where for eight years you’re waiting for this one battle, or there’s sort of Fargo-style anthology where each season’s basically re-started with maybe two Easter eggs. And those can both be great, but there’s this huge space between those. And so we tried to have fun with that, where you don’t even know which of those models you’re in [in Season 2], and it slowly reveals itself episode by episode.”
Keeping viewers off guard was part of what drove the creation of the show’s second season. “The only general point that we knew is that we wanted to tell a complete story that focused on a new central character,” Bloomberg said. “And then, for us, everything else was up for grabs…. And so, for us, the challenge was to start the season in a place where you’d be like, ‘Wait what show is this?’ for one second because it feels so far removed and like you started in a completely different place, and then to follow that central character, Janelle’s character, back to the world that we know.
“And then, for us, a secondary thing was using the same characters and the same world, but to sort of put the camera in a different part of the room, and show things that we saw in Season 1 from a different perspective to kind of shed light on different characters. And for us, the character of [Audrey] Temple is probably the best example of that. You sort of glimpse her in Season 1, and then when you get to Season 2, you get this whole crazy inner life that this person has been having, and also the piece that you saw, there’s a lot more to it when she’s in there talking to Colin at the end of Season 1.
“So those are the things that were sort of exciting. And then as far as the challenges for us it was, we wanted to take the season out into the open. You know, Season 1 spent so much time in these quiet rooms in the [Homecoming] facility. We wanted to have a season that was a little more propulsive and kinetic, and that meant taking our gear and our crew outside into the woods and into some more open spaces that we’ve been in.”
Yet, in the end, Horowitz declared, “I would say all those challenges were exciting ones for us….”
Starring Janelle Monae, Hong Chau, Joan Cusack, Chris Cooper and Stephan James, the seven-episode second season of Homecoming is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Homecoming showrunners Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz spoke about the challenges of moving the show forward with a new lead character in Season 2.