Season One of Amazons Homecoming was the thing that solidified director Sam Esmail as more than just a one show wonder. The writing and mystery elements along with the central performances from Julia Roberts and Stephen James were strong but it was Esmails confident and experimental direction there really made that season leap off the screen and for my money it was the best new TV show of 2018.That said season one was a complete story and if there hadn’t been any more it would have served well as a limited series. Season Two was an intriguing prospect but it remained to be seen how well the show would get on without Esmail behind the camera (he was busy crafting one of the best final seasons of all time on Mr Robot.) New director Kyle Patrick Alvarez does not have a long list of credits to his name beyond some indie features, and shorts but there was a worrying sign in that he was involved and directed the season two finale of 13 Reasons Why (as well as directing three episodes of season one.) Even as someone who will defend the first season the infamous “broom handle” moment in this finale is one of the worst and most misjudged TV moments in recent history and a real indicator that the show only existed at that point to provoke reactions. That said if Esmail trusts Alvarez to continue his previous work there’s no reason to doubt him. With Janelle Mo in the lead returning cast including Stephen James, Hong Chow and new players including Chris Cooper and Joan Cusack this season was set up to be a potentially intriguing affair. So how is it?
Honestly while it’s hard to call this season a disappointment as a second season for this show was always such an unknown commodity but if you need the perfect example of excellent versus average TV season quality on pretty much every level the difference between Homecoming season one and two is a prime example. Every element of the season outside of the central performances (which remain solid throughout) feels stuck operating at are perfectly acceptable six out of ten but the flare that Esmail was in large part responsible for has gone. The central mystery is compelling enough without setting the world on fire or having anything as experimental or intriguing as the shifting aspect ratios from the first outing. Alvarezs direction is good enough and there’s cues taken from Esmail in implementing his trademark headroom in the short composition but often feels like very standard TV direction (which is the opposite of what Esmail at his best can accomplish across both his shows.) This season is short enough at seven half hour episodes is short enough to not seem like a chore but it’s unlikely to spark any emotion in viewers beyond the unavoidable fact thast it is a step down from season one. There are no massive missteps which is definitely something to note given the director is partly responsible for that “broom handle” scene but nothing that will make viewers salivate for the prospect of future seasons.
Homecoming Season 2 is a perfectly solid if unavoidably weaker follow up two a wonderfully experimental and terrifically engaging first effort. The lack of a strong directorial voice really shines through even if the majority of the elements in this season are still perfectly well executed but nothing exceptional. There’s nothing here to sully the memory of the first season but also nothing to explicitly recommend (beyond some solid performances) to anyone outside of the curiosity factor from fans of the first season. Overall, it’s nowhere near as terrible but not as great as it might have been.