'Homecoming' Season 2 cleverly uses viewers’ expectations against them, especially with Alex reveal
By playing with audience expectations of who they think the victims are, season 2 cleverly keeps the shocks and surprises coming, right till the end
Spoiler alert for 'Homecoming' Season 2
If you were a fan of the show's first season, chances are that you have been 'indoctrinated' about the Geist company and how its memory-erasing drug is used. Everyone working for Geist Group and its "Homecoming Initiative" like Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale), his boss Ron (Fran Kranz), and even the therapist Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) were shown as morally compromised for testing the drug on unsuspecting military vets.
In contrast, military vets, especially Walter Cruz (Stephan James), were shown as the victims, who were given no choice about their future, especially after they are given the memory-erasing drug. So when the show opens with Janelle Monae's character waking up in a boat with no memory, you instinctively sympathize with her. You think she is another Walter Cruz, stripped of her memory and choices. The veteran medical card in her pocket states she is "Jacqueline Callico" aka Jackie. She also has the keys to a car belonging to "Alex Eastern" in the motel parking adjoining Skins, a restaurant, whose napkin she happens to have in her pocket.
In a bit of foreshadowing, her hospital friend "Buddy" hits her on the head and disappears with the cash they find in Alex's motel room. Before he leaves, he excuses his behavior saying that "people", including him, did things like that. He is referring to his earlier monologue about people usually being driven by pure self-interest over anything else.
Little do we know how true that is for "Jackie", who by the end of episode 2 is revealed to be the mysterious "Alex Eastern" -- a crisis manager who does whatever it takes -- including fabricating fake sob stories to emotionally manipulate a corporate employee to drop a sexual harassment lawsuit, for instance.
She is the one who had attacked Walter Cruz to "take care of him", hoping to inject him with the memory-erasing Geist drug to help her girlfriend, Audrey Temple. Only, in the scuffle, she is the one who gets injected instead. As someone who believes that you must "protect yourself because no one else will", Alex is also the mastermind behind the successful albeit unethical climb up the corporate ladder by Audrey Temple.
Temple too is shown to be a victim at first in episode 3, 'Previously'. She is often humiliated by Ron, while Wendy, another top Geist executive steals her best ideas. Then she gets a call that alerts her that Geist is going to be the subject of a Department of Defence investigation.
As the sole person in the company with this information, she is coached by Alex to take advantage of this to become the "new Ron", while tricking Colin and Ron to leave the company. She does this to feel secure, hiding her ruthless ambitions under the guise of wanting to protect her place (and ideas) in the company.
But the biggest surprise of all is Leonard Geist (Chris Cooper), the CEO of the Geist company. Season 1's ending lead viewers to believe that he was the mysterious Big Bad, the mastermind behind the 'Homecoming Initiative'. In reality, he is a reclusive farmer who has no idea that his company's executives have been misusing his berry extract. It is revealed that he had created the extract to be used topically to relieve anxiety and that it was never meant to be ingested.
Leonard is horrified to learn of the Geist facility where veterans were being mind-wiped using the extract. He is so horrified that he wants to destroy the crop entirely and stop using the extract in any form -- even as a topical stress reliever.
Temple is aghast when she hears this, seeing her ideas for the extract going to waste. But soon she teams up with Francine Bunda (Joan Cusack), the military official who takes an interest in the extract, to suppress Leonard Geist and, for all practical purposes, take over his company, leaving him as a mere figurehead.
Francine even toasts her, saying that she too was ignored and suppressed when she first joined the army but she ended up running her unit. She sees Temple as a kindred spirit, who will facilitate the smooth delivery of the extract to the Pentagon for military use. Again, women who are ignored, oppressed, and are usually the victims in workplace politics become the true 'bad guys' in season 2. On the other hand, powerful men like Leonard, Colin, and Ron, become the "victims", instead.
Finally, Walter Cruz, the ultimate victim, also turns the tables in a stunning finale that sees him take back his power and deal out some payback. By playing with audience expectations of who they think the victims are, season 2 cleverly keeps the shocks and surprises coming, right till the end.
'Homecoming' Season 2 premiered on May 22 on Amazon Prime Video.