Sunday, November 4, 2018

REVIEW: 'Homecoming' - Heidi Struggles to Find the Answers About Her Traumatic Past in 'Protocol'

Amazon's Homecoming - Episode 1.08 "Protocol"

Homecoming is a safe space for you to reflect on your service and think about what comes next. We can't wait to hear your stories.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Amazon's Homecoming.

"Protocol" was written by Eli Horowitz and directed by Sam Esmail

The premise for Homecoming is completely obliterated here. The aspect ratio flourish has long been a stylistic choice by director Sam Esmail to distinguish what's the present and what's the future. And now, "Protocol" spends the majority of its running time in the future as Heidi embarks on this journey to discover the Homecoming facility in Tampa. The aspect ratio has also served as a physical reminder of what Heidi has lost. There has always felt like a piece missing from her story. She is living her life through tunnel vision. She didn't believe that she was missing anything. This was just the life that she chose to have. And now, she is discovering that she had this completely separate life that was taken away from her. As soon as those memories come rushing back in, her world immediately opens up. That's such an inspiring moment that comes only out of the audience being patient and understanding with that visual touch. It's absolutely brilliant. The audience was long been wondering what would be the reminder that would get Heidi to recall the life that she had at Homecoming. It wasn't Colin. Neither his face nor his voice were enough to jog those memories. That also makes sense because he explains that he has never been at the Homecoming facility before today. Even now, he doesn't step in the portion of the building where this experiment was taking place. Instead, he and Heidi travel through the newly renovated area that serves as a wellness center open to the public. That's also why Heidi doesn't remember her life here. She is back in this building. But she's not in the office were she recorded all of these conversations with the soldiers. Instead, she is in an environment that the audience hasn't seen before either. It proves just how large this facility really is. Geist really had big plans for this program that it was already carrying out long before it got the approval from the Department of Defense for more money and support. As such, it all feels like this is going to be nothing but a vague dream for Heidi. She understands that this place should be important. She just can't find anything that connects to her past. And yet, the show destroys that notion with the one thing that hasn't changed. The birds still lurk outside the windows and make unusual noises. It's that sound that makes her remember. In that instant, she is immediately horrified and confused about Colin. She knows who he is. She is trying to run away from him and he continues to manipulate her by saying that she was the one truly responsible for everything that happened at Homecoming.

And yes, that is a very damning accusation. It's one probably based in reality as well. The audience has seen how belittling Colin can be over the phone to Heidi. That's the same exact energy he applies to Thomas as well in order to continue roaming around the world as a free man. He makes people believe that they are powerless to stop him because he has done an excellent job in backing them into a corner. But the present also shows that Heidi still goes back into the facility and continues her work. Sure, she breaks down and needs to be comforted by the objects on her desk. But she still puts them back into their specific places as well. Moreover, she still welcomes a new group of soldiers to the facility by reciting the welcome speech that she wrote for this program. As such, she remains very committed to this place. That stands in such stark contrast to the emotionally devastated woman in Thomas' car in the future. Right now, she also understands the horrors that Colin has committed. And yet, all that she can do is push him into the fountain. Thomas can't arrest him. He doesn't have that power. In fact, this episode highlights how he isn't even doing his job. He was just suppose to get the basic information and move it up the chain of command. The audience knows that he's right to continue pursuing this investigation. And yet, he also doesn't see all the ways that this program has damaged people either. He still doesn't totally understand why Colin and Heidi came back to this facility in the first place. There is the sense that Heidi will tell him everything on the drive back home. But there is also the potential of it not making any sense at all. There is hope that all of the damage done at the Homecoming facility can be undone. That's true for Heidi. But can it also be true for Walter and Shrier? That seems unlikely because they were the ones being experimented on in the first place in the hopes that they could serve in the military again. Their fates seem destined to be set in stone no matter what Heidi and Thomas are able to do together against Geist. And that's absolutely tragic.